Social Contract Theorist

Social Contract Theorist

A person who believes that morality is a manifestation of the mutual consent of all persons involved in a society. For example, murder is wrong according to social contract theory because society has generally agreed that it would not be conducive to prosperous relations, and not because it is wrong in and of itself. Social contract theory is used in government as one of the foundations of the modern state. "Government by consent of the governed," one of the most fundamental ideas of democracy, has its origins in social contract theory.
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To a Lockean social contract theorist (like me), the ideal is to support only those forced transfers of legal rights that lead to net gains in social utility by creating positive-sum games, while spurning proposed transfers that create negative or zero-sum results.
Locke scholars, contemporary social contract theorists, and anyone with an interest in the history of feminism and protofeminism will benefit from adding this volume to their library.
Land reformers such as Henry George and his agrarian cohorts used all three social contract theorists to justify notions of public land, community, and natural rights.
Although neither Rawls nor classical social contract theorists, with the partial exception of Hobbes, argued for the equality of women, later political theorists have argued that women and minorities-who have not been fully included and may even have been utterly excluded from civil society--may appeal to the notion of a "contract" made between the individuals of a society as a model for redressing their unequal status.
Yet, if the political culture and civic education elements of the social contract theorists' writings are most helpful for us today, this tradition, which apart from Rousseau never emphasized them, would seem less relevant than that school of thought made up of political theorists like Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and, closer to home, Dewey, which stressed political history, the cultural context of public spheres, and the communication of habits and norms in group life.
Such historians, writes Oakley, "miss the significant differences of emphasis and nuance that serve to distinguish modern and even early modern patterns of thinking from what has gone before." The earlier medieval ideas "survived" and left "their imprint on the great social contract theorists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Filmer was one of the first political thinkers to criticize Hobbes and Milton, calling into question the legitimacy of assuming a pre-political state of nature, a foundational assumption of all social contract theorists. This point is not given much attention by Locke, who dismisses Filmer primarily on the grounds of his absolutism, a clever rhetorical strategy but certainly a mischaracterization of the essence of Filmer's patriarchal thought.
Against the appeal to consensus by social contract theorists such as Rawls, the argument overlooks the degree of dissension allowed within an overlapping consensus.
Early Social Contract theorists like Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, and especially Rousseau supported this version.
6 This is most clearly evident in the social contract theorists: Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, and John Locke, followed by the Utilitarians, such as Jeremy Bentham.
In chapter 5, "The Social Contract," Shapiro focuses predominantly on the hypothetical thought experiments of contemporary social contract theorists, most notably John Rawls, in their attempts to establish a fair-minded political regime that people of different moral reasoning would agree to.
By ascribing a normative function to civil society, Harbeson seeks to bridge contemporary Africanists' usage of the term with that of the European social contract theorists who invented it three centuries ago.