Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Social Contract Theory
Social contract theory is an approach to questions of political legitimacy and obligation that seeks to ground claims to sovereignty on an agreement among people to form a political community. Social contract theory was the dominant approach to such questions in early modern Europe, and numbered among its proponents many of the major political theorists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, Samuel von Pufendorf, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. As it is a theory of popular sovereignty, social contract theory was originally in opposition to theories such as that of the divine right of kings that grounded political authority on a putative mandate from God. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, social contract theory came under sustained attack from Edmund Burke, David Hume, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham and James Mill. As a result of Although ...