The social contract theory is one of the most important concepts in political philosophy. According to this theory, people agree to give up some of their personal freedoms in exchange for protection and security provided by the government. But when did the social contract start?
The origins of the social contract theory can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. In his famous work « The Republic, » Plato discussed the idea that individuals have an obligation to follow the laws of the state and that the state has a duty to protect its citizens. However, it wasn`t until the Enlightenment period in the 17th and 18th centuries that the social contract theory fully developed.
In 1651, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes published his influential work « Leviathan, » in which he argued that individuals must surrender their individual rights to a central authority in exchange for protection. According to Hobbes, this social contract was necessary to prevent the state of nature, which he believed was a state of war, chaos, and violence.
French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed a different version of the social contract theory in his 1762 treatise « The Social Contract. » Rousseau believed that the social contract was an agreement between individuals to create a government that would act in the general interest of all citizens. He also believed that individuals had the right to resist an unjust government.
The social contract theory had a significant impact on the development of Western political philosophy. It inspired the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, which stated that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. It also helped shape modern political systems and theories of democracy.
In conclusion, the social contract theory has its roots in ancient philosophy but fully developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Hobbes and Rousseau`s works were crucial in the evolution of this theory, and it continues to influence modern political philosophy.