<philosophical terminology> belief that political structures and the legitimacy of the state derive from an (explicit or implicit) agreement by individual human beings to surrender (some or all of) their private rights in order to secure the protection and stability of an effective social organization or government. Distinct versions of social contract theory were proposed by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls. Recommended Reading: Social Contract: Essays by Locke, Hume, and Rousseau, ed. by Ernest Barker (Oxford, 1962); The Social Contract Theorists: Critical Essays on Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, ed. by Christopher W. Morris (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999); Brian Skyrms, Evolution of the Social Contract (Cambridge, 1996); John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Harvard, 2001); and Patrick Riley, Will and Political Legitimacy: A Critical Exposition of Social Contract Theory in Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel (iUniverse, 1999).
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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