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Social Contract Theory of John Locke

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The Social Contract Theory of John Locke

The society humans have come to know has been established throughout history. Government of the people has developed through the ideas of the people. Theorists have argued the need for structure in order for a society to function safely and as a whole. The development of the Social Contract Theory allowed a new beginning for society. The introduction of the Social Contract Theory opened a new chapter in the history of government. The following paper will discuss social contract theories, some of the founders of the social contract theory, John Locke, and varying principles of the Social Contract Theory.

Social Contract Theory in Definition

When a child is born the ability to reason and behave in a socially acceptable manner has yet to be developed. Through the growth of the brain and careful teachings from parents the child begins to learn morals and ethics. Once the child is of age, he or she then enters into school to learn the lessons needed to function such as reading, writing, history and so forth. The lack of such learning from parents, peers and teachers causes the child to lack in societal understanding.

The development of the social contract theory opened the door for the above child to be able to receive the knowledge needed as well as a safe environment as possible in which to grow. The social contract theory is an agreement made by a group of individuals which provides the individuals protection from harm, whether personal, property or rights. "A social contract is a voluntary agreement in which mutual benefit occurs between and for individuals, groups, government or a community as a whole," (Dillbeck, n.d., p 1). Before the introduction of the social contract theory communities would be ruled by those with the most power. There was a sense of structure but with one ruler who would determine the rights of the community.

Founders of the Social Contract Theory

Some may argue the history of the social contract theory origin. The origin of a social contract can be traced to historical times. Native Americans elected a Chief to help protect the tribe from harm. The Chief would have knowledge of seasonal territories, other tribes, tribe customs, and strategic planning abilities. The difference with such social contracts and the social contract theory is the right of people to make decisions about the community.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) introduced an expansion on original social contract ideas through his book Leviathan. Hobbes determined that man followed a sense of "human nature", that in all actuality humans could be good as long as they were guided and given a structure. Hobbes concluded that humans would be willing to turn over some freedom in order to obtain a society with order and protection. Man would prefer to maintain a civil lifestyle over a chaotic and lawless thus dangerous lifestyle. "To escape this anarchy and seek a contented life men come together as a civil society and agree to form a contract, a covenant with each other," (Ryan, 2008, p 3).

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) continued on the ideas of philosophers from before in reference to the social contract theory. Rousseau took the original ideas even further by establishing the need of the community. It is human nature to be valued, loved, and appreciated. The development of communities allowed individuals to place a value on each other. This need for unity continued into the government as well. "In Rousseau's social contract theory, there exists a reciprocal relationship between the sovereign, responsible for the good of the individuals, and individuals committed to the common good," (Dillbeck, n.d., p 9).

John Locke

John Locke (1632-1704) took Hobbes ideas to another level as well. Locke established that humans had the right to remain free while receiving the protection of a government. In Locke's theory individuals had certain rights that were prohibited from being given in exchange for the protection of a community. These rights included the right to live, liberty, and the right to property. In Locke's social contract theory individuals were allowed an amount of freedom. For example, an individual could build a purple house on his property as long as that purple house did not bring harm to themselves or others.

John Locke proclaimed that the rights of government only extended into mediating disputes. Individuals had the right to prosper as long as his rise did not harm others. Locke believed in liberalism, in other words a less complicated government. The people had the right to determine the government and the individuals in which it held. Many of Locke's ideas and beliefs traveled to the Western World. "Building on Locke's concept of liberalism, many of his lofty principles were incorporated in the Declaration of Independence, and a s a result the



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