Social Contract Introduction How do governments evolve? What factors contribute towards stable governance? Who defines the responsibilities and rules for governments and the people who are subject to their jurisdiction? What steps do governments take if their objectives are not achieved?…
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The relationship between governments and individuals, which unites the latter into a ‘society’, is known as a social contract (Boucher, 2009). This paper discusses various theories on social contracts that were proposed by eminent thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Burke. In doing so, the analysis provides an overview of human nature and its contributions in the development of governments. Thereafter, the discussion moves towards analyzing the effectiveness of the United States (US) Congress as a modern element of social contracts. In essence, the analysis associates itself with the most convincing theory amongst the ones mentioned above and provides certain reasons for doing so. Theories on Social Contract The primary question when understanding social contracts is to determine how a society governs itself. Locke attributes this to the notion of natural law and says that social norms turn artificial in the midst of a contract. He believes that individuals are guided mainly by natural reasoning and must adhere to certain limitations under law. However, people are often misguided by their own selfish interests and may break this protocol. Thus, Locke reasons that people require a social contract that is governed by natural law. Social contract and harmony is enforced through a set of public institutions, which enforce law and order according to predefined doctrines besides taking corrective actions in case of aberrations on the part of people or institutions (Morris, 2009). On the other hand, Rousseau adopts a more philosophical approach by including political factors into the social phenomenon. Using concepts like the sovereign state and the rights of people, Rousseau explains that a social contract allows people to place their power and trust with the common will of the state and motivates them to contribute to the latter’s progress as an indivisible component. Thus, the precondition for a social contract is a collective entity that caters to the human, societal and political ambitions of the state (Winfield, 2008). The elements constituting this collective body are the individuals themselves, who exist and thrive under a set of laws proclaimed by the ‘collective’ state. In contrast to this sense of equality (between the state and the individual) as advocated by Rousseau, the theory put forward by Hobbes places more emphasis on the individual. Hobbes’ definition of social contract relies on the individual’s consent to conform to a sovereign authority that holds the greatest power (Erckel, 2009). As such, Hobbes’ theory indicates that the individual submit themselves totally to the state and depend on the latter for fulfilling their daily needs and aspirations. Rousseau’s approach instead envisions an arm’s length social contract that also serves as a legal tool in guiding the people and the government (Lessnof, 2001). As such, Rousseau’s definition of social contracts provides a clear foundation for people to stem corruption from the society and contribute towards the creation of a just and equitable society. Does the modern US government present the best example of social contract theory? Do they follow the tenets proposed by Locke that led to the creation of the United States? Or is the government a symbol of total control as defined under Hobbes’ theory. According to Erckel (2009), the US government (including the Congress) does not represent either theory. The Congress
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(Political Science Essay Admission/Application Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 1250 Words)
“Political Science Essay Admission/Application Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 1250 Words”, n.d. https://studentshare.org/history/1446180-political-science.
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