Meaning of social contract

What is a social contract:

It is known as a social contract that which citizens implicitly sign with the State once they decide to live in a society regulated by the latter.

The social contract is a term first coined by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) in his work The social contract: or the principles of political law published in 1762.

For Rousseau, the social contract is a reconciliation between nature and culture where the general will is expressed in the form of social interest and the common good and not just a majority numerical totalization of private wills, these being selfish and private interests. Rousseau affirms in the last of the four books that make up this work that it is the manifestation of the general and social will for public utility where the sole and legitimate authority of the State emanates.

The clauses of the social contract are constituted by the rights and duties of individuals, where the more rights the more duties. Rousseau justifies the abandonment of citizens' freedoms to the state in exchange for the state securing an order. This justification is supported by the thought of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Rousseau's thought was important for the maturation of the concepts that catalyzed the French Revolution (1789-1799) with the motto “Equality, liberty and fraternity”.

See also What is a contract?

Examples of social contract

The forms that the social contract takes in a society are, for example, referendums that, as a mechanism for citizen participation through suffrage, have an influence on a government decision. The right of citizens to be consulted in the decisions of the State is contrasted with their duty to vote.

Measures to ensure human rights and equality in society are part of the duties of the State vis-à-vis the social contract with its citizens.

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