Hobbes, Locke, and the Social Contract:
Explain what Hobbes and Locke meant by a social contract. Why did Hobbes think people would choose to enter into such a contract? Why did Locke think people would enter into a social contract?
Both Hobbes and Locke possess different ideas about the notion of a social contract. For Hobbes, people enter into a social contract in order to get along with one another. Hobbesian view of human nature is one where human beings are immersed in a constant state of war. The negative inclinations within our human nature make the idea of liberalized democracy impossible. Human nature and self driven interest would preclude any hope of working together as a unit. In Hobbesian logic, the social contract drawn is for all individuals to sacrifice their individualized notion of rights to a ruler who would be able to control all. This figure would be able to adjudicate wisely while keeping a lid on all the things that regular human beings fight over. The Lockian view of the social contract is different because he is fundamentally different in his assertion of human nature. Locke is about the idea of individuals being able to work together in a natural and harmonious setting because the element of human nature that Hobbes derides is a "tabula rasa" or clean slate that allows human beings to understand the necessary elements of cooperation in protection of mutual self interest. This is where his social contract is drawn in so far as individuals being able to work together in order to maximize each's own vision of self interest.
When Hobbes and Locke spoke of the social contract, they referred to an imaginary deal that is made between the people in a society and their government. To both, the people give up some of their rights in order to be protected by the government.
Both men say that before governments existed, people would have been in a state of nature that was more or less harsh and lawless. They said that in this state of nature, a person would have only such rights as they could defend by force.
This would not be much fun, so people enter into this social contract. They give up some minor rights and in return the government will protect their lives, their freedom and their property (major rights).
Social contract refers to collection of ideas that support the theory that people voluntarily give up some of their natural freedoms to some central governing or regulating authority to reap the benefits of collective and cooperative living. The benefit result from maintenance of social order based on rule of law. One important premise of the social contract theories is that that the government or any other authority derives power to rule from the consent of those governed.
Three of the earliest and very important contributor to the concept of social contract are Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1724), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).
Hobbes believed people choose to enter into social contracts voluntarily giving up some of their natural freedom to protect themselves from the chaos of what Hobbes called "war of all against all" that will develop in absence of rule of law.
Locke's concept of social contract envisaged the creation of a neutral judge that could protect the life liberty and property of those living within the system of social contract. This concept differs from that of Hobbes primarily in the degree of to which people need to be restrained by the social contract.
More details of concept of social contract are available on the web page referred.