According to Thomas Hobbes, man existed several centuries ago even before the social contract came to pass. There was a chaotic kind of life where there was no administration and government in place. Hobbes lived during a period of intense war in England between 1642 and 1648. During that period, there were two factions involved in the war. On one, hand, there were the kings together with their supporters who were demanding a monarch kind of governance. On the other hand, there were the parliamentarians under the leadership of Olivier Cromwell. The parliamentarians’ demanded absolute power of the parliament. Hobbes rejected the ideologies of both parties to rule over their subjects. Hobbes argued that the political authority was just based on individuals’ willingness and self- interest of the members of the society, who apparently are all equal with one another. He argues that there should be no one individual with utmost power to govern over the rest. On the other hand, Hobbes argues that the monarch ought to be given absolute powers if at all the society is to remain peaceful and coexist in harmony. According to (Annette 316), Hobbes gives a justification for political rule simply because human beings are known to be exclusively self interested creatures. Annette goes further to explain that Hobbes sees human beings as being rational and would, therefore, submit to a sovereign authority in a civilized society. In their natural state, all human beings are equal and have the same strength and even the strongest man can easily be overpowered (Annette 320). Annette describes a natural state as one where there is no authority to constantly watches over the behavior of men. Hobbes describes the state of nature as a brutal one because human beings were not able to achieve their long run desired goals and satisfaction. There was no cooperation that existed between people because no one had trust on the other party. Due to that, everyone lived in fear of losing their lives and instead opted to follow the law and order in a civilized society in order to be peaceful.
Human beings are known to be rational, and because of that, they will always live in peace in places where others are also willing to stay in peace. As a result of that, human beings are expected to surrender their initial authority over one another which they initially had over one another in the state of nature. They then form a peaceful society where they coexist. In that given society, they elect one person or maybe a group of individuals to take charge in enforcing the laws that govern the whole population. Everyone in the society is expected to respect the rule of the law with the utmost respect to the law of the land. In such kind of society, there are high levels of morality because law offenders are subject to punishment by the authority.
Jacques Rousseau was another contributor to the philosophy of the social contract. Having lived between the years of 172 and 1718, a period of intellectual history, he became one of the bright people of his time when intellectual questions were being pursued. According to Wraight, Rousseau presents two theories about the social contract (94). The first is about the evolution that man has been able to go through in terms of morality and their political evolution over time from their initial stage of the state of nature to their current modern society. His second theory is about finding solutions to the problems that have been created by the modern society. Wraight argues that Rousseau argued that initially mankind was very peaceful in their large trucks of land because they were scarcely populated with very few wants and needs (95). They easily satisfied their needs from their abundance nature. Rousseau argued that these individuals rarely had conflicts due to lack of competition for resources. They even rarely saw one another due to the vast land that was scarcely populated. According to Rousseau, the life of mankind changed at the moment when the population started becoming large and, people started to compete for resources. During this time, mankind had invented the private property. This resulted into increased competition, a lot of greed and inequality among human beings. According to Wraight, Rousseau explains that the introduction of property right created conditions of inequality in the society (109). Classes of people began to emerge creating a boundary between those the rich and the poor. This resulted to the creation of a government that could protect that property from those who did not own one yet wanted to own through the use of force.
The creation of the government through a common agreement was supposed to bring equality in the society by protecting all people. Rousseau however, sees the creation of government as being the ultimate cause of inequality which had been created by the private property. Wraight gives a clear picture of Rousseau’s view of the naturalized social contract. He explains that the creation of the contract was to protect the property of the few who owned private property and not to bring equality to the whole population (105). Rousseau views this as the major cause of conflicts in the modern society. It is of great importance if mankind can decide to bury their differences and the causes of their problems in order to live in a harmonious society. In his own words, Rousseau said that man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. However with the transition from the Free State of nature to the civilization period, others have been forced to be subdued to others through being dependent in terms of economic dependency. We have also created a lot of social inequalities by comparing ourselves with others. Rousseau tries to explain that politics is supposed to create a state of freedom that we desire by bringing reconciliation between whom the humanity is and how people are supposed to live peacefully in a civilized society. He concludes that all men are equal and that no one is justified to create a rule over others unless it is under an agreement or a covenant between both parties. The most important thing is for people to come together and stay as a family and should not be separated the based on how much wealth one owns, because that is the true foundation of a strong society. Rousseau says that sovereignty is achieved in a situation where different free individuals decide to give up their personal interests and come together to create a new bond as one for the good of them all. Once the general will is created, all parties are expected to obey it just as they would have their individual interests. People are therefore, forced to be free by conforming to the general will that they decide to create. Knowing one another is paramount to peaceful coexistence. Conditions for democracy are hard to adhere to, though according to Rousseau, that is the only way through which we can save ourselves.
According to David, Locke sees the state of nature as a place where there is complete liberty where one can do whatever he or she wishes (317). It is a world that is free from the interference of others. He slightly deviates from how Hobbes views a state of nature. Locke views a state of nature as one where there is n government in place to punish law offenders, but, there exists a state of high morality between individuals. Locke describes it as a situation that is free of politics but not free of immorality where everyone is equal to the other under a common law. He explains that morality is God given and therefore, harming others is considered immoral and against the laws of God. In the state of nature, everyone is free to pursue his own interests without interference from any quarter, and, because of that, it remains to be very peaceful (David 316).
In conclusion, I would adopt Hobbes view of the social contract where there is stipulated form of the rule to govern the whole society. An agreed form of government should be in place in order to punish all the law offenders who are considered to be immoral in the society.
Annette, Baier,. 1988. "Pilgrim's Progress: Review of David Gauthier, Morals by Agreement." Canadian Journal of Philosophy Vol. 18, No. 2. (June 1988): 315-330.
David McNally, ‘Locke, levelers and liberty: property and democracy in the thoughts of the first Whigs,’’10 history of political thought 17 (1989).
Wraight, Christopher, D. Rousseau's 'The Social Contract': A Reader's Guide. Continuum, 2008. Print