American Social Contract Theory

Published by


The law, as we understand it, is simply the agreed-upon rules of society that are enforced by sanctioned violence.

History of Social Contract Theory

This concept is the basis for the social contract theory that gave rise to the ideals of popular government during the enlightenment era. As the United States was founded during this period, the American constitution draws heavily on the principles of the enlightenment and the social contract theory of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rosseau. Rosseau was a political philosopher tailored for the era of the enlightenment as he worked out a theory of government without the use of an argument invoking God.

This was revolutionary at the time, as Europe was ruled by a higher class of nobility and royalty that was constantly engaging in conflict at the expense of the people. When “the people” are referred to, one must take a step back due to the Marxist connotation that is now associated with the idea. Rosseau had touched on that the entirety of humanity was indeed the people rather than a selective socioeconomic class. The proletariat of the communists differs in that it is made up simply of the lower working classes.

Social Contract Theory For the Common Man

Social contract theory is critical to society and the typical working man and his family as the government increasingly become tyrannical in the modern technological age. As protests and conflict take place around the world, those who wish to take a stand for what they believe in must be able to advocate for self-government and the value of human freedom. When human freedom is completely lost, there will be no chance to argue against those in power. If a man is going to die regardless, he must at the very least speak his mind against the oppressors of his people.

No matter what you believe, social contract theory is the basis of how you are living. It is the principle that is the foundation of public and private life in most western nations. People are kept in order by the law that exists so that they do not face the outlined punishment of the contract. It is often the case that people will not break the law for obvious reasons, but as one man breaks the law, can not a second do so? Indeed, a second man may break the law, and so will a third. What about ten thousand?

This is the precise place where society breaks down, and the foundation of the social contract theory can be broken in a community. The idea of the theory can not be violated in practice; it can simply be terminated by the people who made it. When an undefined percentage of the population decides that they no longer wish to be bound by the contract, they are able to choose so. I say an “undefined percentage” because the number of people varies based upon the situational context and the difference between a nation and a community. A simple majority is often all that it takes, but it is not always that simple if six thousand men wish to stay in the contract but four thousand stay.

Theory In Practice

For example, if state law in Texas said you could not purchase an electric truck, but one million people bought an electric truck, that would be too many people for the state government to go after for the infraction. If this many people are breaking the law, it may be for a good reason would be a fair assumption. Considering the population of Texas is nearly 30 million people, this would have a minor impact. If 15% of the population of Texas chose not to pay taxes to the state, that would be well over four million people. Neither the state government of Texas nor the United States federal government has the resources to go after those people effectively. The principle behind this is that there is strength in conviction when a minority is cohesive.

I have summarized in lay terms the need for the average man and woman to have a basic understanding of social contract theory so that they may use it to their benefit and that of their family and community. American Social Contract Theory lives on.