Social Contract

by Bret Dishner, July 2015

600 words

2 pages


Social Contract

Social environment requires certain behaviour and certain actions from its inhabitants. People do not live separately, they interact each single day of their lives, and yet, they are still quite diverse and possess different points of you. This variety in people’s thoughts and ideas is a usual concept that tends to create a social tension. Thus, a specific set of rules and laws has been established to control this issue and let emerging conflicts in our society be solved strictly, but peacefully. However, social contract is a quite different idea from constitution, for instance.

The notion of social contract goes back to the seventeenth century, and has changed its meaning over the years. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (2008) in his discussion of social and political concerns of the mid eighteenth century points out: “The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before” (p. 23). Therefore, the social contract serves as a buffer between a society as a whole and a separate person, as its member. It does not only involve the set of common rules, it incorporates a person’s feeling of own decision making. People are not made to live according to laws, it is an act of free will – they choose to obey to socially accepted rules, so that their own rights are protected as well.

The evidence of social contract existence is everywhere around in countries developed to certain extent. It can be observed in small and trivial everyday actions, like crossing a street at the appropriate place and time (pedestrian crossing and at a green light), and scales up to such socially significant activities, as tax-payment and jury or military duty. In order for the “social clock” to work as a smoothly-running mechanism, members of a society have to willingly accept social standards, rules and laws as their own.

Furthermore, a social contract does not have to be protected by any of external powers, because it is accepted freely without any pressure on society members. Ken Binmore (1998) underlines: “The survival of the social contract does not therefore depend on its being backed up by some external enforcement mechanism. In a well-ordered society, each citizen honors the social contract because it is in his own self-interest to do so, provided that enough of his fellow citizens do the same” (p. 5). Yet, certain deviations from a well-performed social contract can be seen in our modern world: these are the examples of social protests, when citizens are not satisfied of the government’s actions or decisions. Such rallies can come out of control and turn into a national revolution, which might become a quite tough and aggressive action. Nonetheless, certain rules still remain in such situations. Despite an overall disagreement with the political, governmental or other issues, people still obey the social contract …

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