An Essay on Social Contract Theory

3139 Words Jan 31st, 2013 13 Pages
SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY

Social contract theory (or contractarianism) is a concept used in philosophy, political science and sociology to denote an implicit agreement within a state regarding the rights and responsibilities of the state and its citizens, or more generally a similar concord between a group and its members, or between individuals. All members within a society are assumed to agree to the terms of the social contract by their choice to stay within the society without violating the contract; such violation would signify a problematic attempt to return to the state of nature. It has been often noted, indeed, that social contract theories relied on a specific anthropological conception of man as either "good" or "evil". Thomas
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Indeed, Foucault criticized the concept of "criminal" ("délinquant", meaning professional outlaw), and pointed out the relationship between crime, class struggle and insanity which, as in crimes of passion, can burst out suddenly — thus explaining the motto "we are all virtual criminals".
Some rights are defined in term of the negative obligation they impose on others. For example, your basic property rights entail that everyone else refrain from taking what is yours. Rights can also involve positive obligations, such as the right to have stolen property returned to you, which obligates others to give you back what's yours when they find it in the hands of others (or, in modern society, to send the police in to do it). Theorists argue that a combination of positive and negative rights is necessary to create an enforceable contract that protects our interests.

History

Classical thought

Social contract ideas go back to the Greeks; Plato has Socrates make a case for social contract ideas in Crito but criticizes them in The Republic. Epicurus explicitly endorsed social contract ideas; the last fourth of his Principal Doctrines state that justice comes from agreement not to harm each other, and in laws being made for mutual advantage (pleasure, happiness), and that laws which are no longer advantageous are no longer just.
Most European
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