The Social Contract Theory: Limitations And Challenges


Social Contract Theory refers to a kind of status whereby individual are dealing with whatever individuals are not either to believe but is to whatever they referrer it as a moral ethic. Based on the researches that have been done previously, Social Contract Theory normally concerns an individual whom is within the society and is not ready to follow moral issues that govern the society. The natural law view holds that all persons have inherent rights that are bestowed by “God, nature, or reason” rather than by an act of government. Additionally, the theories of ethics, models of politics, theories of civil law, and philosophies of religious morality can be used to describe natural law theory. The discussion is based on proving that Social Contract Theory can never be understood as the natural law theory.

Limitation of Social Contact Theory

Researchers have found that the Social Contract Theory gives government too much power to make laws under the guise of protecting the public. Specifically, governments may use the cloak of the social contract to invoke the fear of a state of nature to warrant laws that are intrusive. Meanwhile, the individuals when they were born, do not knowingly agree to a contract and therefore have no consent to the agreement. An outflow of this thought is a movement entitled the “Sovereign Citizens” or “Freemen of the Land,” (Richardson, 2017). The law enforcement body identifies these engagements as individual citizens who reject government control and the government operates outside of its jurisdiction. Because of this belief, they do not recognize federal, state, or local laws, policies, or regulations. The authority considers these movements as domestic terrorist threats. People do accept the contract and wish to abide by it; they may not fully understand what role or part they play. For example, the poor do not get the same benefits of the contract.

While Social Contract Theory does not tell people how they ought to behave, it does provide a basis to understand why society has implemented rules, regulations, and laws. If not for the concept, the understanding of the need for these rules would be limited. Specifically for law enforcement, Social Contract Theory is important to justify the power that law enforcement can exert over the population as a whole (Crawford, 2020). The power imbalance, held by law enforcement, is part of the contract that society has agreed upon in exchange for security. Where the contract can be problematic is when the power used by law enforcement exceeds what is expected by society under the contract.

One must examine several methods of establishing the power of the sovereign body in order to comprehend why it cannot be entirely bound. Tradition, charismatic leadership, and popular support can be singled out among them (Seabright, Stieglitz & Van der Straeten, 2021). Since this type of government has been there for a while, generally a monarch, its authority is recognized in the first scenario. In other words, the main defense of a sovereign body’s legitimacy is that it has existed for a long time. The rulers who obtained their power in this manner may abuse it by claiming that God or their birthright bestowed it upon them. Such people frequently exercise unlimited power, and no outside force can restrain them.

Second, charismatic leadership can be described as a situation in which the ruler typically a dictator or a monarch is regarded as having exceptional intellectual abilities or a high level of moral integrity. In this instance, the sovereign body’s authority is unconstrained in any form. More importantly, every choice that such a person makes is supported by the purported insight, wisdom, and knowledge. Such leaders heavily rely on propaganda to support their policies.

Challenging Issues to Understand Social Contract Theory

The most challenging situation is when two or more parties’ consent to parting with some of their rights in order to further their shared interests. In general, the social compact is most ideal method of establishing the sovereign body since the governed may impose restrictions on the state and make sure that it is held responsible for its actions. However, there are several ways the government takes advantage of people’s divergent interests and viewpoints (Seabright, Stieglitz & Van der Straeten, 2021). They can also look into some logical flaws in the social contract itself.

The fundamental tenet of the social contract is that people must voluntarily sanction the power of the state which has served as a challenge for the individuals to understand social contract theory. The pillars of society were outlined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his book “The Social Contract”. The author claimed that “no community could exist unless there were some aspects in which all interests concur,” (Seabright, Stieglitz & Van der Straeten, 2021). The key tenet of the social contract idea is that people agree on how the state ought to operate and what kinds of rights it should defend. Additionally, it was important to remember the form that the sovereign entity should take, such as democracy, monarchy, or dictatorship. The key problem is that this kind of consensus is not always there among people, and as a result, it is possible for them to give the government more power. For instance, public could think that the government should actively regulate how the economy operates. Over time, the sovereign body has virtually limitless authority over subjects.

Generally, the consent of the governed can serve as the best possible basis for the establishment of a state with the fact tenets serves as challenges for the better understanding of the social contract theory. This is one of the situations that the state can take advantage of (Abdulrasheed, 2021). Second, the idea that people can behave as rational agents is a major source of inspiration for the creation of a sovereign body. The theory suggests that individuals will exercise sufficient caution to make sure that the sovereign body abides by specific laws and regulations. The Social Contract Theory is also predicated on the idea that people are capable of making wise judgments that are supported by pertinent data.

However, several historical instances show that propaganda, populist appeals, and hostility toward a particular ethnic group or socioeconomic class may frequently affect people’s decisions. As a result, it is quite likely that the government they build will be totalitarian (Seabright, Stieglitz & Van der Straeten, 2021). These instances are significant because they show that reaching an agreement among people is not always feasible and that people’s actions might occasionally be illogical and poorly reasoned.

The so-called tacit acquiescence of the populace is the third means by which the sovereign body may come into possession of nearly total power. The problem is that most of the time, people do not express their assent to the state in writing or verbally. They do not state that they concur with the standards and guidelines established by the sovereign authority. Although there have been instances where citizens were compelled to take the oath of allegiance, such consent is scarcely seen as spontaneous and autonomous. An individual automatically confirms the sovereign body’s power to carry out justice by entering the territory of a particular state or by remaining there, according to the notion of “tacit consent” in political science. This reasoning holds that the citizens of a nation who did not opt to leave it or rebel against the sovereign body provided their implicit approval to the state’s legitimacy.

Criticism of Theory According to Authoritative Argument on Understanding of the Social Contract Model

Totalitarian nations and authoritarian leaders frequently make this case, claiming that the absence of opposition indicates that the public approves of their actions. The limitations of such a strategy were recognized by David Hume, who likened such individuals to sailors who are compelled to submit to “the rule of a master” in order to avoid having to “jump into the ocean” This metaphor can be quite significant since it demonstrates how numerous ways it might defend its policies and regulations. This reasoning is undoubtedly founded on faulty logic, but many political figures who are determined to hold onto their positions of authority continue to utilize it.

It must, first and foremost, have absolute control over the drafting of laws. It must determine whether a rule will be advantageous to everyone in society (Olssen, 2021). As a result, the state is free to pass legislation that gives it virtually unlimited power, justifying it with the claim that doing so will enable it to better safeguard the interests of its population. Of course, those who support the legitimacy of the state’s rule may purposefully impose restrictions on its authority and legislative capacity. A sovereign body may not be allowed to change certain basic principles, such as the freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the right to own property, the right to practice one’s religion, and others. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution has restrictions of this nature. When the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933, several of these ideas were, however, overthrown. Once more, the purported need to defend society against both internal and external threats served as justification for this choice.

Overall, even proponents of the social contract concur that having complete power over the drafting of laws can be extremely risky (Olssen, 2021). For instance, Thomas Hobbes contends in Leviathan that by giving the sovereign body authority, citizens are compelled to abide by its laws. Once more, the state frequently advances this defense. Hobbes undoubtedly distinguishes between just and excellent rules (Gaus, 2018). In this context, “just laws” refers to regulations established by a legitimate government with the consent of the people, even though such regulations may not necessarily be desirable. “A good law is one which is necessary for the wellbeing of the people,” he states directly. Despite not saying it directly, Thomas Hobbes’ distinction between just and good rules suggests that the sovereign body does not necessarily act in the community’s best interests (Cook & Dimitrov, 2017). The author does not, however, address how people ought to respond when a sovereign entity abusing its power. More importantly, he believes that revolution is wholly forbidden. Totalitarian nations frequently share this stance on revolution.

John Locke argued against this notion in his Second Treatise. Although he supported the social contract idea, this philosopher also believed that individuals had the freedom to defy the law if they felt that the state’s laws and policies did not further the welfare of society as a whole (Gaus, 2018). In particular, the author holds that “the community continually retains a superior ability to save itself from the endeavors and designs of anybody, even of their legislators, whenever they shall be so foolish, or so wicked, as to plan and carry-on designs against the rights and properties of the subject.” This is a vital defense because it demonstrates that individuals should have the freedom to challenge the legitimacy of a sovereign body whenever they believe it to be essential.


In summary, the social contract notion develops around a person’s liberalism, values, and societal responsibilities. According to the view, every member of a society is constrained by a code of political conduct. The social contract focuses on societal cooperation and social advantages that are utilized by every person without impairing or restricting the freedom of others. Numerous philosophers have attempted to explain how political systems are created, how they function, and which type of government is the most ideal throughout history. This has spawned a wide variety of philosophical views from thinkers like Plato and Aristotle. While some of these theories have been confirmed, others have been the subject of intense discussion and opposition among academics all over the world. The social contract hypothesis is one such theory (Crawford, 2020). Although John Locke and Thomas Hobbes and other philosophers have developed their own interpretations of the social contract theory, in this essay we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of Rousseau’s Social Contract Theory and its applicability to contemporary society.

The social contract theory, on the other hand, is fundamentally both a philosophy of morality and a theory of the state. Even while social contracts are believed to have existed for ages, the Social Contract Theory itself did not become popular in the political philosophy community until the seventeenth and eighteenth century. This notion is based on the idea that in the beginning, man coexisted with nature. They were not subject to any laws or a government, either. Man had to live in a dangerous and distressing environment because of this condition of anarchy. Man created an agreement to solve some of the difficulties they encountered in such a setting as a result of this. People sought security for both themselves and their possessions through the social compact. Additionally, it was because of the social contract that people began to band together and submit to a ruler or authority. As a result, some of the people’s freedoms and rights were lost. The sovereign or ruling body would then promise to defend the citizens’ lives and property. Even so, this authority would safeguard their rights to privacy. Therefore, it is possible to assert that the social compact is what leads to the existence of a sovereign, authority, or state.


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