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.
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.
It also calls into question the methodology of Rawls and social contract theorists
who build models of justice around the rationally self-interested individual and what he or she is prepared to bargain for in conditions of impartiality.