What Is the Social Contract Theory of John Locke

The first modern philosopher to articulate a detailed theory of contracts was Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). According to Hobbes, the life of individuals in the state of nature was “lonely, poor, evil, brutal and short,” a state in which self-interest and the absence of rights and contracts prevented the “social” or society. Life was “anarchic” (without leadership or concept of sovereignty). Individuals in their natural state were apolitical and antisocial. This state of nature is followed by the social contract. The fundamental difference in this alternative approach to an international social contract lies in the nature of the contracting parties. While for Rousseau, Kant and Rawls the parties to the international social contract would be states or peoples, for Nussbaum, Pogge and Beitz the theory of the social contract makes the most sense at the international level if the parties to the social contract are imagined as individual human beings. Only if we imagine it this way, these authors argue, will the social contract be interpreted in such a way as to correspond to the liberal basic principles of justice. For this reason, the two-tier model favored by Rawls is replaced by a single original position in which individuals reduce themselves to a set of human rights that are not limited by the contingencies of a particular conception of the state.

Thus, the individual retained the natural rights to life, liberty and property, for they were the natural and inalienable rights of man. The purpose of government and the law is to uphold and protect natural rights. As long as the government fulfills its purpose, the laws it gives are valid and binding, but if it stops doing so, its law has no validity and the people have the right to revolt against the government and overthrow it. The state of nature that precedes the social contract was not a state of anarchy, as Hobbes had imagined, but was “a state of freedom, not license.” Locke advocated a state for the good of the people; The subject gives his conditional release to the sovereign. It can be argued that Locke`s idea of the social contract was based on a new secular approach to natural law, in which the power of the government was transferred to the rulers over the trust of the people and any violation of the behavior by the rulers was treated as a violation of the basic natural rights of the people, which justified a revolt against the government. Locke argued for constitutionally limited government. The doctrine of laissez-faire of the nineteenth century was the result of individual freedom in matters related to economic activities supported by Locke`s theory. Unlike Hobbes, who supported state power, Locke advocated for individual freedom.

John Locke argued that sovereignty belongs to the people, for whom governments are trustees, and that such a government can legitimately be overthrown if it does not add its functions to the people. It sought to establish effective safeguards against violations of natural law by the government. Locke said that the sovereign had not taken away all the rights; The main rights remained in the hands of the people. Locke`s social contract was dedicated to sovereignty and law. Sovereignty resulting from the will of the people. It will remain in the hands of the people. He argued that sovereignty does not reside in the state, but with the people, and that the state comes first, but only if it is bound by civil and natural law. Locke believed in the governed as the basis of sovereignty and in the state as the guarantor of the individual`s freedom.

For Locke, power under the social contract was not vested in the sovereign, but in the community. The term community, as used by John Locke above, means the government of the people by the people for the people, so the rights of the community should take precedence over individual rights and rights are given to the community because the sovereign is the people and comes only from the people. Thus, the hands of the community designate the governor who governs according to the will of the people. As for the reasons and content of the natural law, Locke is not entirely clear. On the one hand, there are many cases in which he makes statements that seem voluntary that the law requires an authoritative legislator (Essay 1.3.6, 4.10.7). Locke also repeatedly insists in essays on natural law that created beings have an obligation to obey their Creator (Political Essays 116-120). On the other hand, there are statements that seem to imply an external moral norm to which God must conform (Two Treaties 2,195; Works 7:6). Locke clearly wants to avoid the implication that the content of natural law is arbitrary. Several solutions have been proposed. A solution proposed by Herzog (1985) makes Locke an intellectualist by basing our obligation to obey God on a prior duty of gratitude that exists independently of God. A second option proposed by Simmons (1992) is to consider Locke simply as a volunteer, as this indicates the preponderance of his statements. A third option proposed by Tuckness (1999) (and implied by Grant in 1987 and confirmed by Israelson in 2013) is to address the issue of voluntarism in such a way that it has two distinct parts, reasons and content.

From this point of view, Locke was indeed a voluntarist in the question: “Why should we obey the natural law?” Locke believed that reason, apart from the will of a superior, could only be consultative. In terms of content, divine reason and human reason must be so analogous that people can think of what God is likely to want. Locke takes it for granted that since God rightly created us to follow God`s will, human reason and divine reason are so similar that natural law will not seem arbitrary to us. Locke`s epistemological positions in the essay Concerning Human Understanding lead him to consider education to be extremely important to his political philosophy. His attack on innate ideas increases the importance of giving children the right kind of education to help them get the right ideas. He also notes in the essay that people govern themselves through a variety of different laws, of which the “law of opinion or reputation” is practically the most effective. (Article 2.28.10) Because people are often highly motivated to be well thought out by others, the moral standards that are effective in a society for attributing praise and guilt are powerful and important. Ideally, these social norms reinforce natural law and thus contribute to the stabilization of political society. Locke`s educational writings suggest how children could be raised to be the kind of well-functioning citizens in a liberal society (Tarcov 1984). Some believe that Locke`s approach to education, which focuses on education within the family, gives the state too little influence over the education of future citizens (Gutmann 1999), while others believe that Locke actually gives the state considerable power to regulate education (Tuckness 2010b).

In addition to subjectivism, Hobbes also concludes from his mechanistic theory of human nature that humans are necessarily and exclusively selfish. All people pursue only what they perceive to be in their own individual interest – they react mechanically by being attracted to what they desire and being repulsed by what they are opposed to. It is a universal claim: it should cover all human actions in all circumstances – in society or outside, in relation to strangers and friends, in relation to small goals and the most general human desires, such as the desire for power and status. Everything we do is motivated solely by the desire to improve our own situations and satisfy our own individual desires as much as possible. We are infinitely appetizing and only sincerely care about ourselves. According to Hobbes, even the reason adults care for young children can be explained in terms of adults` self-interest (he claims that when we save a child by taking care of them, we become the recipient of a strong sense of commitment in someone who has been helped to survive rather than being allowed to die). .

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