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Social Contract Theory Basics

Social Contract Theory based on the thinking of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jaques Rousseau.

chad watkins

on 22 March 2012

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Transcript of Social Contract Theory Basics

Social Contract Theory Why do we need rules and laws?

What would life be like without them?
Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679)

Presented an idea about what life would be like before laws & government.

The stronger or smarter can hurt, kill, or trick others and take their property. They can force others to do what they want.

People don't want to always fight and worry about being stolen from, hurt, or killed. Maybe they can make a contract / deal! e.g. I won't kill you if you won't kill me. e.g. I'll give you these bananas if you'll give me that bread. Contract? Bananas Ha ha! Fool. No bread for you! People who want to live without fear of stronger people, agree to create a sovereign! Sovereign means having ultimate power like a King. Sovereign Angry stick man breaks the contract! Happy stick man can seek help from the sovereign Sovereign can enforce the contract by punishing or even killing the angry stick man! People give up some of their natural rights to the King. For example, the right to hurt or kill others. Now people can cooperate in society happily, knowing that any cheaters / free riders will be punished.

In return for giving up some of our rights to the sovereign, he/she guarantees order, peace, and security. Hobbes was a very smart man, but no one is perfect.

Can you see a flaw (problem) in his theory? But what if the sovereign breaks the contract?

She/he has ultimate power, so why can't the sovereign steal and cheat and kill to gain advantage?! Social Contract The Sovereign The People We would need a second sovereign to enforce the social contract, but this leads to an endless cycle! Sovereign 2 Sovereign 3, etc John Locke (1632 - 1704) Locke starts with a different idea about human nature and the state of nature. -People get along
-People cooperate
-People obey rules in the state of nature But not perfect. Strong can still break the rules, take property and life.

In the state of nature, there's no one to stop them! Therefore we still need an authority to guarantee us life, property, and freedom. government People entrust rights to the government, but don't give them up 100%.

Contract between government and people is ONLY valid if the government keeps its side. If the government doesn't behave properly, then the people have the right to resist;

b/c if gov't doesnt behave properly, then contract isn't valid! protest
civil disobediance
rebelling / revolting If necessary, people have the right to remove the government, and put a new one in its place. Locke also believed:

- People are sovereign
- Gov't is our servant Strong gov't can ignore the people,

so we make sure it's not too strong to do this. Using division of powers:

-Administrative American Revolution:

Locke had a big influence on the creators of the American democratic system.
-right to rebel
-sovereignty of the people
-gov't as servant of the people
-division of powers Locke's ideas important for democracy: Hint: Hobbes' State of Nature: People:
-are selfish
-have right to take whatever they can, by any means
-can steal and kill to get stuff / survive Environment:
-no institutions (schools, hospitals, religions, governments, police, military, economic, welfare, etc.
-no limits on behaviour
- scarce resources Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) Rousseau had a different way of thinking about human nature and the state of nature. He thought people lived peacefully, simply, honestly, and naively. And that the rich tricked people into making them King.This made the social contract a fake.

Therefore we should try to "return to the state of nature" by creating social structures that mirror it. At the time: Humans (e.g. the King) Humans (subjects) Rule Very unequal,
lack of freedom Revolution: What can replace King/ruler if we remove them? Rousseau thought the "General Will" could.

= what people want. Rule of Law: Law rules Humans Allows people to be:

equal b/c law reflects people's will (general will) b/c all are equal before the law The rule of law is an extreemly important concept for our democracies today! Summary Hobbes - why we need gov't - to escape the state of nature. Locke - Ideas of gov't as public servant, the right to resist gov't, and the division of powers;
How to solve the flaw in Hobbes' theory Rousseau - the general will, and bringing freedom and equality through rule of law http://prezi.com/qsc-b1xyt1hr/social-contract-theory/ Thomas Hobbes
John Locke
Jean-Jacques Rousseau Can you summarize what these men contributed to social contract theory? Can someone explain Hobbes' version of Social Contract Theory? Review: Out of Hobbes, Locke's and Rousseau's conceptions of Human Nature and the State of Nature, which do you feel is most accurate?

Which do you believe more? Why? *Provide REAL LIFE examples to support your position.* Hobbes - we give up rights to sovereign
Locke - we entrust or LEND rights to sovereign A social contract is an agreement between
people in order to live peacefully.
England England Switzerland/France The “general will” can replace the King general will = what people want

Everyone voted to express the general will and to make the laws.
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