Social Contract Theory and Power


Political power and its execution are tightly linked with the concept of social contract theory. The latter is based on the notion that citizens are willing to partially give up their sovereignty to the government to achieve collective benefit for the whole society. The social contract theory is one of the fundamental ideas of modern governance and the principles of power dynamics. However, it is important to note that political power is not only supported by the agreement, but also by brute force, such as military power. Therefore, the real power can only be manifested on the social agreement and not on brute force, because the former is the only source for sustainable governance without societal backlash.

Social Contract

The culture of harmony is a special form of human relationships, the content of which is harmony. The term consent has several meanings, such as unanimity, a commonality of points of view, proportionality, harmony, harmony, unity, and unity. In the context of the analysis of social contract theories, the interpretation of consent as reconciliation, unification, and achievement of unity is especially important.

Consent is the basis for the formation of a common, single whole community. The whole is a complex unity of interconnected parts. At the same time, parts can be suppressed by the whole, as a result of which there is a universal, total unity, everything in it is unified, becomes indistinguishable. If equilibrium is established between the parts, then harmonic unity is formed, differences exist in it and are consistent with each other, creating unity in diversity.

In the civilized world, various parties are held together by a relationship of consent. They are manifested in disposition to each other, in the perception of the other as close, dear, but not alien. Such links are expressed by solidarity, mutual assistance, mutual support, mutual acceptance (McCormick 144). In the context of the analysis of theories of the social contract, consent is established by agreeing on the points of view, opinions, ideas, when the parties agree with each other in a situation of the need to resolve any conflict. Their agreement is fixed by a certain agreement – an agreement on mutual obligations.

The agreement establishes the agreement as a program of interactions, principles, and directions for the development of relations containing the conditions for the implementation of consent, its forms, and responsibility for maintaining the agreement. The forms of consent constitute the content of the culture of consent in the indicated context. The culture of harmony has bearers, and they are actors, among which, for example, individuals, society, and humanity as a whole. The culture of harmony can be considered as a way of organizing and reproducing peaceful human coexistence with a view to optimal development.


This argument focuses on the theory of absolutism of government, proceeding from some aspects of the theory of social contracts. The key concept of the theory of civil society is the concept of natural law, which is based on natural law. Locke considers the state as the result of an agreement between people (Inoguchi and Quynh Le, The Development of Global Legislative 11). Political power cannot be heavily reliant on brute force, because such an approach undermines an individual’s freedom and sovereignty. Therefore, the only source of political power should be on the social contract, which manifests itself in the overall decency of human nature. The treaty is the single legitimate source and basis of political power. Elements of a social contract are the beginning of the designation of ethics, morality, and the path to happiness.

The implementation of a social agreement in a civil society presupposes the natural equality of the people of society. Locke says that the human mind requires matching its interests with those of other people. However, the disadvantage of the natural state is that no mechanism would ensure fair use by a person of his natural rights. It is for the creation of such a mechanism for the improvement of life, the reliable provision of freedom and property, that people conclude a social contract.

That is, the creation of a state is more an act of reason than a manifestation of extreme necessity. Having united in a political community, people renounce their earlier right to independently enforce the laws of nature in favor of the state, but they in no way renounce their natural rights. Therefore, the goal of the state – the common good and political community are created to better guarantee freedom and the ability to exercise their natural rights.

Since a social contract is concluded for the sake of better securing natural rights, it vests power with clearly defined rights and obligations, which it should not exceed. Authorities cannot encroach on the inalienable rights of citizens. Among these, one of the main ones is the property right, and any encroachment, such as deprivation of a part of the property and an increase in taxes, is a manifestation of despotism. Also, an inalienable human right is freedom of thought, since, in the sphere of judgments, everyone has absolute power for himself. It is to prevent the state authorities from exceeding their powers that it is important to develop a special constitutional mechanism.

An important component in it is the principle of separation of powers and legality. To prevent the concentration of power and abuse of it, it is necessary not to combine the legislative and executive powers and to subordinate the legislator to the laws created by the executive branch. The legislator, when creating the law, must not violate natural laws. This is one of the most important principles, and it has a great influence on further political and legal thought because it is one of the main principles of the rule of law.

Realization of the main goal of the political community, ensuring freedom and observance of the rule of law requires the delimitation of the powers of the state and their separation between various state bodies. Locke refers to power as a complex mechanism, and he distinguishes legislative power, which should belong only to the national representative body – the parliament (Inoguchi and Quynh Le, Toward Modelling a Global 491).

In addition, it is important for the executive branch, which should belong to the ruler who directs the implementation of laws, appoints ministers, judges, and other officials. Union or federal is also important because it is the government in charge of issues of war, peace, and relations with other states that are exercised by its king and cabinet. An important guarantee of ensuring human rights to prevent abuse by the authorities is the termination by the people of the contract with the government. The preservation of such a means as an emergency measure of control over the government by the people is explained by the fact that handing high, that is, legislative, power, people are not deprived of sovereignty.


The counter-argument is based on Hobbes’s views, where political power needs to rely on brute force, such military, to maintain order and peace. The centerpiece of the given argument is the fact that human nature is hostile by default. The emergence of the state is preceded by a so-called natural or pre-state condition in which people are equal to each other because they are representatives of the human race. However, such equality does not guarantee anyone security, since equal ability to seize the same goods leads to endless struggle. People come into conflict, as their selfish aspirations run into similar aspirations of others.

Hence, the natural state of Hobbes characterizes as a war of all against all (Lloyd 141). In his opinion, in a natural state, man is an enemy to man. In other words, everyone wants to destroy the other to make room for themselves. In this situation, natural law applies, which Hobbes interprets as the freedom to do everything for self-preservation (Moehler 7). However, to establish a common peace, it is necessary to mutually restrict the rights of all people and transfer them to one person by agreement. Thus, due to the contract, a state is formed that is embodied in one person.

The state completely manages the life of citizens, and all spheres of life are subordinate to it. Thus, the state is sovereign, not only the supreme political ruler but also the supreme judge on matters of faith and all other judgments and thoughts that are relevant to the state. To maintain peace and security, the absolute power of the sovereign must be strengthened and safeguarded. The state is also entitled to take any coercive measures against its citizens in the public interest.

Therefore, the ideal of the state for Hobbes is an absolute monarchy, unlimited power over society. Unlike nature, Hobbes regarded the state as an artificial body, as a product and the result of intelligent human activity, as opposed to the divine establishment (Lloyd 146). The emergence of the state is derived by the philosopher from the very nature of man, and the state replaces the laws of nature with social rules. The foundation of the state is a social contract. In addition, the establishment of a state that ensures peace in society and guarantees security for all its members can be connected with a social contract.

The state is established when many people agree and conclude an agreement, each with each, that to establish peace among them and protect them from others, each of them will recognize as their own all the actions and judgments of the person or assembly of people to whom the majority gives the right to represent the face of all, regardless of whether he voted for or against them. The war of all against all, rivalry and competition, the right of everyone to do everything for self-preservation threatens mutual destruction.


It is important to understand that faulty features of human nature do not justify the execution of political power because the parties imposing such power are people too. This means that Hobbes’ arguments fail to consider the fact that the cost of absolute reliance on brute force to ensure peace is a potential abuse. The latter can lead to the backward digression of the overall society, which manifests itself in despotism and human exploitation.

Therefore, it is necessary to make people live together in peace and harmony with each other, that is, force them to agree. It is for the sake of survival that people must establish universal peace and restrict their natural rights, that is, conclude an agreement guaranteeing mutual security, peace, and order. The ability of people to unite in the state through a social contract and submit to power provides an opportunity for a humane life.

It should be noted that a social contract implies the ability of people in society to agree on the limitation of their natural rights and coordinate their aspirations for freedom, completely subordinating them to a common whole – the state. It is important to consider the state as the work of human hands, as a necessary condition for culture. Only the power of a sovereign state can protect society, ensure peace, order, and security, thereby guaranteeing life for all. The social contract acts as a means of establishing harmony between natural and civil laws.


In conclusion, it is important to note the fact that political power can be exercised either by brute force or social agreement. Although people, by default, can be hostile and violent to each other and need governance, it is not sufficient to impose political power solely by brute force. One’s freedom and sovereignty need to be preserved despite the intricacies of human nature because power based on only brute force can be abused. This can lead to horrendous exploitations and total elimination of one’s liberty.

Works Cited

Inoguchi, Takashi, and Lien Thi Quynh Le. The Development of Global Legislative Politics: Rousseau and Locke Writ Global. Springer, 2019.

—. “Toward Modelling a Global Social Contract: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke.” Cambridge University Press, vol. 17, no. 3, 2016, pp. 489-522.

Lloyd, Steven A. Interpreting Hobbes’s Political Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

McCormick, Peter J. Social Contract and Political Obligation. Routledge, 2019.

Moehler, Michael. Minimal Morality: A Multilevel Social Contract Theory. Oxford University Press, 2018.

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