The Social Contract Tradition: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau
ABSTRACT: The classical contract tradition of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau have enjoyed such fame and acceptance as being basic to the development of liberal democratic theory and practice that it would be heretical for any scholar, especially one from the fringes, to critique. But the contract tradition poses challenges that must be given the flux in the contemporary socio-political universe that at once impels extreme nationalism and unavoidable globalism. This becomes all the more important not in order to dislodge the primacy of loyalty and reverence to this tradition but from another perspective which hopes to encourage that the anchorage of disclosure be implemented. The contract tradition makes pronouncements on what is natural and what is nonnatural. It offers what many have contended are rigorous arguments for these pronouncements that are “intuitive,” “empirical,” “logical,” “psychological,” “moral,” “religio-metaphysical.” What I offer in this essay is a challenge from the outside. I ask: 1) on what empirical data are the material presuppositions of contractarianism built? 2) what is the epistemological foundation of contractarianism? 3) is contractarianism not derivable from any other form of sociological presupposition except that of the state of nature? 4) does any human know a “state of nature”? 5) given the answers to the above questions, to what extent are the legal and moral foundations of contractarianism sacrosanct? I attempt to answer these questions in what can only be a sketch, but my answers suggest that it is very presumptuous of contractarianist to suppose that they have captured the only logically valid basis of democratic practice universally.
The classical social contract tradition of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau have, in spite of their variation in themes and emphases, enjoyed such fame and acceptance as being basic to the development of liberal democratic theory and practice that it would be almost heresy for any scholar, especially one from the fringes or margins of mainstream (socio-political) philosophical academia, to post frontal, side, arial, rear or sub-surface attack and critique. But the social contract tradition poses challenges that must be accepted on various counts, with new insights and interpretations, given the fluxed reality in contemporary socio-political universe that at once impels extreme nationalism and unavoidable globalism. This becomes all the more important, not simply in order to dislodge the primacy of the loyalty and the reverence of devotion from the followers of this tradition