What Document Is One of the First Examples of a Social Contract

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Property played an essential role in Locke`s argument for civil government and the treaty that established it. According to Locke, private property occurs when a person mixes his labor with the raw materials of nature. For example, if you cultivate a parcel of land in nature and turn it into a parcel of agricultural land that produces food, then you have a claim to own that parcel of land and the food produced in it. (This led Locke to conclude that America didn`t really belong to the Native Americans who lived there because, according to him, they didn`t use nature`s basic material. In other words, they did not cultivate it, so they had no legitimate rights to it, and others could therefore legitimately appropriate it.) Given the implications of natural law, there are limits to the amount of goods one can own: one must not take more nature than one can use, leaving others not to have enough for themselves. Because the nature of all mankind is given by God for their common sustenance, one cannot take more than one`s own righteous share. Property is the keystone of Locke`s argument for the social contract and civil government, for it is the protection of their property, including their property in their own bodies, that people seek when they decide to abandon the state of nature. Given his rather strict view of humanity, Hobbes nevertheless managed to create an argument that makes civil society possible with all its advantages. In the context of political events in his England, he also succeeded in advocating the maintenance of the traditional form of authority which his society had long enjoyed, while placing it on a basis which he considered much more acceptable. Buch du contrat social (1762; The Social Contract) to suggest how they might regain their freedom in the future.

Once again, Geneva was the model: not Geneva, as it had become in 1754, when Rousseau returned there to recover his rights as a citizen, but Geneva as it had once been, that is, Geneva. The idea of the social contract had a great influence on the American founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and James Madison (1751-1836). The U.S. Constitution begins with the three words “We the people,” which embody this idea of popular sovereignty at the very beginning of this key document. According to this principle, a government formed by the free choice of its people is obliged to serve the people who ultimately have the supreme sovereignty or power to maintain or overthrow that government. Following Pateman`s argument, a number of feminists have also questioned the nature of the person at the heart of contract theory. The liberal individual, the entrepreneur, is represented by the Hobbesian man, the owner of Locke, the “Noble Savage” of Rousseau, the person of Rawls in the original position, and the Robinson Crusoe of Gauthier. The liberal individual is supposed to be universal: raceless, genderless, classless, disembodied, and is seen as an abstract, generalized model of humanity that is capitalized.

However, many philosophers have argued that if we take a closer look at the characteristics of the liberal individual, we do not find a representation of universal humanity, but a historically localized and specific type of person. C.B. Macpherson, for example, argued that Hobbesian man is in particular a bourgeois man, with the qualities we would expect from a person during the nascent capitalism that characterized modern Europe. Feminists have also argued that the liberal individual is a special, historical, embodied person. (As well as race-conscious philosophers like Charles Mills, discussed below.) Specifically, they argued that the person at the heart of liberal theory and the social contract is gendered. Christine Di Stefano, in her 1991 book Configurations of Masculinity, shows that a number of historically important modern philosophers can be understood to develop their theories from the perspective of masculinity as conceived in modernity. She argues that Hobbes` concept of the liberal individual, which laid the foundation for the dominant modern conception of the person, is particularly masculine, because it is conceived as atomistic and solitary and owes none of its qualities or even its mere existence to another person, especially its mother. Hobbes` man is therefore radically individual, in a way that is specifically due to the character of modern masculinity. Virginia Held argues in her 1993 book Feminist Morality that social contract theory is implicitly based on a conception of the person who can be described as an “economic man.” The “economic man” is mainly concerned with maximizing his own interests considered individually, and he concludes contracts to achieve this objective. However, the “economic man” does not represent all people at all times and in all places. In particular, children and those who provide them with the care they need, who have always been women, are not adequately represented. The model of the “economic man” cannot therefore legitimately claim to be a general representation of all people.

Similarly, Annette Baier argues that Gauthier`s concept that the liberal individual enters the social contract to maximize his or her own individual interests is gendered because he does not take seriously the position of the children or women who are normally responsible for caring for those children. Hobbes is not only exclusively interested, but also argues that people are reasonable. They have within themselves the rational capacity to pursue their desires as effectively and as much as possible. Their reason, given the subjective nature of value, does not evaluate their given goals, but functions simply as “spies and spies to move abroad and find the way to coveted things” (139). Rationality is purely instrumental. He can add up sums, subtract and compare with each other, giving us the ability to formulate the best means, whatever our ends. More recently, historians have also linked social contract theories to central social movements such as those for Native American rights, civil liberties, immigration reform, and women`s rights. In moral and political philosophy, the social contract or political contract is a theory or model that emerged during the Enlightenment and generally deals with questions of the origin of society and the legitimacy of state authority over the individual. Social contract arguments generally postulate that individuals have explicitly or tacitly agreed to give up some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the ruler or magistrate (or the decision of a majority) in exchange for the protection of their remaining rights.

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