What is the social contract? An agreement between the citizen and the government? No, it would only mean the continuation of [Rousseau`s] idea. The social contract is an agreement between man and man; an agreement from which what we call society must result. In this is the concept of commutative justice, first put forward by the primitive fact of exchange. is replaced by that of distributive justice. If you translate these words, contract, commutative justice, which are the language of the law, into the language of business, and you have commerce, that is, in its highest sense, the act by which man and man declare themselves essentially producers and renounce any claim to govern each other. As philosophers began to study the nature of societies and the formation of governing entities by the state, the question arose as to how rulers take power over a group of people. The seventeenth-century political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, suggested that man, in his natural state, would tend to assume unlimited freedoms – he saw it as a “right to all things.” Since they had no obligation to others, many would be free to take whatever they wanted, loot, kill and even rape. Hobbes said that in such a state, life would be “lonely, poor, bad, brutal and short” for people. The social contract begins with Rousseau`s most frequently quoted phrase: “Man is born free, and he is everywhere chained” (49). This claim is the conceptual bridge between the descriptive work of the Second Discourse and the prescriptive work that will come. Humans are essentially free and were free in the state of nature, but the “progress” of civilization has replaced this freedom with dependence, economic and social inequality, and the extent to which we judge ourselves with comparisons with others. Since a return to the state of nature is neither feasible nor desirable, the purpose of politics is to give us back freedom and thus reconcile who we really are and essentially with the way we live together. So this is the fundamental philosophical problem that the social contract seeks to solve: how can we be free and live together? In other words, how can we live together without succumbing to the power and coercion of others? We can do this, Rousseau said, by subjecting our individual, special will to the collective or general will created by agreement with other free and equal people.
Like Hobbes and Locke before him and unlike ancient philosophers, all human beings are inherently equal, so no one has the natural right to rule others, and therefore the only authority justified is the authority that flows from agreements or covenants. The principles according to which individuals in the original position, behind the veil of ignorance, would choose to regulate a society at the most elementary level (that is, even before a constitution) are quite rightly referred to by Rawls as the two principles of justice. These two principles determine the distribution of civil liberties as well as social and economic goods. The first principle states that every person in a society should have as much fundamental freedom as possible, as long as everyone is granted the same freedoms. That is, there must be as much civil liberty as possible, as long as these assets are evenly distributed. (This would exclude, for example, a scenario in which there is a larger aggregate of civil liberties than in an alternative scenario, but where these freedoms are not evenly distributed among citizens.) The second principle states that while social and economic inequalities can be equitable, they must be equally accessible to all (i.e. no one should be denied access to a greater economic benefit in principle), and that these inequalities must be for the benefit of all. This means that economic inequality is only justified if the most disadvantaged member of society is nevertheless better off than would be the case with other arrangements.
Only if a rising tide really lifts all boats up can economic inequality be allowed in a just society. The method of the original position supports this second principle, which is called the principle of difference, because if we stand behind the veil of ignorance and therefore do not know what our situation will be in society once the veil of ignorance is lifted, we will only accept principles that will be to our advantage, even if we find ourselves in the least favored position of society. With the introduction of private property, the initial conditions of inequality became more pronounced. Some have property and others are forced to work for them, and the development of social classes begins. Finally, those who have property note that it would be in their interest to create a government that would protect the private property of those who do not have it, but who can see that they can acquire it by force. Thus, the government is established by a treaty that claims to guarantee equality and protection for all, even if its real purpose is to petrify the very inequalities that private property has produced. In other words, the Treaty, which claims to be equal in the interest of all, is really in the interest of a few people who have become stronger and richer as a result of the evolution of private property. It is the naturalized social contract that Rousseau sees as responsible for the conflict and competition that modern society suffers. There is a general form of social contract theories, namely: social contracts can be explicit, like laws, or implicit, like raising your hand in class to speak.
The U.S. Constitution is often cited as an explicit example of part of the American social contract. It determines what the government can and cannot do. People who choose to live in America accept to be governed by the moral and political obligations set forth in the social contract of the Constitution. Following Pateman`s reasoning, a number of feminists have also questioned the nature of the person at the center of contract theory. The liberal individual, the entrepreneur, is represented by the Hobbesian man, the owner of Locke, Rousseau`s “Noble Savage”, the person of Rawls in the initial position and Gauthier`s Robinson Crusoe. The liberal individual is supposed to be universal: raceless, genderless, classless, disembodied, and is seen as an abstract, generalized model of humanity that is capitalized. However, many philosophers have argued that if we take a closer look at the characteristics of the liberal individual, we do not find a representation of universal humanity, but a specific type of person historically localized. It.B. Macpherson, for example, argued that the Hobbesian man is in particular a bourgeois man, with the qualities we would expect from a person during the emerging capitalism that characterized modern Europe.
Feminists have also argued that the liberal individual is a specific, historical, and embodied person. (As well as race-conscious philosophers like Charles Mills, discussed below.) Specifically, they argued that the person at the center of liberal theory and the social contract is gendered. Christine Di Stefano shows in her 1991 book Configurations of Masculinity that a number of historically important modern philosophers can be understood to develop their theories from the point of view of masculinity as it is conceived in modernity. She argues that Hobbes` conception of the liberal individual, which laid the foundation for the dominant modern conception of the person, is particularly masculine because it is conceived as atomistic and solitary, and owes none of its qualities or even its very existence to another person, especially to his mother. Hobbes` man is thus radically individual, in a way that is specifically due to the character of modern masculinity. Virginia Held argues in her 1993 book Feminist Morality that social contract theory is implicitly based on an idea of the person that can be described as an “economic person.” The “economic man” is primarily concerned with maximizing his own individual interests, and he enters into contracts to achieve this goal. However, the “economic man” does not represent all people at all times and in all places. In particular, it does not adequately represent children and those who provide them with the care they need, who have been women in the past. The model of the “economic man” cannot therefore rightly claim to be a general representation of all people. Similarly, Annette Baier argues that Gauthier`s idea that the liberal individual enters into the social contract to maximize his or her own individual interests is gender-specific, as it takes seriously neither the position of children nor that of the women who are usually responsible for caring for those children. While Hobbes and Locke both believed that a social contract is made when people cede some of their rights to a government, they disagreed on how it would work. Hobbes supported the rule of kings, who had absolute power over the people, as they would be able to prevent people from returning to their natural state.
Locke, on the other hand, preferred government through representation. The state of nature is therefore not the same as the state of war as it is according to Hobbes. .