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Analytical Essay on Social Contract Theory: Ideas of Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke

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“We the people…” is a phrase from the United States Constitution that represents the embodiment of social contract principle born out of the Enlightenment age by Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. Social Contract Theory has had massive influence in western governments, as one of the oldest theories pertaining to the ordnance of citizens in society. The basis of Social Contract theory is citizens sacrificing their individual rights for the greater good of society in return for protection and resources that are beneficial to everyone. In contrast, Dewey's view of the origin of ethics represents practicality and priority of action. Dewey’s theory doesn’t rely on fixed principles or universal authority, instead he believed in citizens being encouraged to equip themselves with the reflective skills that will improve their moral judgements. Having high moral citizens in society would in turn influence an ethically correct society. Both ideas are essentially instruments of righteous societal construction.

According to Hobbes, “Government is necessary not because man is naturally bad…. But because man is by nature more individualistic than social. “He believes that since it’s in human nature to be competitive and ruthless a social contract is required to provide structure and order to a society. Without society and government accountability, no restrictions would ignite what Hobbes views as “war of all against all.” In order to prevent said war from happening an alliance has to be established in order to keep everyone civilized. Social Contracts serve as social protection and security. Citizens create social contract while the government protects the social contract ensuring that it is maintained and being obeyed. Both society and government ensure that everyone follows the social contract, or they’ll be punished in their society. Social contract is meant to provide alliance and structure to an otherwise war-stricken environment.

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Unlike Thomas Hobbes, John Dewey had a more pragmatic view of societies structure. John Dewey’s beliefs fell in line with individualism and modern boot strap ideology. Dewey denounces social contract theory and even criticizes it as a ‘myth’. His philosophy on society wasn’t invested in socialist theories nor did he find need for universal sacrifice for the improvement of society. In Dewey's View of the Origin of Ethics, Dewey argues, “Complete morality is reached only when the individual recognizes the right or chooses the good freely.” Instead of believing in what he considered to be a limiting social agreement, he heavily emphasizes the objective of those in society improving their own individual values. He describes individuals as their own entities that help influence society with their own moral code and standards. Dewey believes that social contracts do not improve society values and their importance only lie in the fact that they’re upheld as standard, as opposed to being what he considers as “personal and voluntary.”

In spite of the differences between the two contemporaries; whether it be an individual effort or a collaborate one, both philosophers agreed on social responsibility. Both ideologies are grounded in having an established moral code to positively impact their societies wellbeing. Thomas Hobbes believes society has a monolith responsibility to institute policies influenced by a mutual moral code that will socially and politically push forward the greater good. John Dewy holds similar expectations in regard to the influence of moral values in the decision making of society. Dewey’s theory sanctions the high standing citizens to use their moral code to control the social temperature that dictates the ethics of the community. Both men’s philosophies differentiate in who’s to determine and what’s to determine the ethical climate in society.

In conclusion, Thomas Hobbes and John Dewy theories are essential for comprehending modern western government. Both philosophers’ beliefs are the basis of standard principles of democratic society. John Dewey insists on individuals having governance of themselves, whereas, Thomas Hobbes believes in established alliance and government protecting the order of society. Both theories serve to further political and social dialogue of government engagement, all the while serving as debate of ethics, morals, and structural influences on society.

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Analytical Essay on Social Contract Theory: Ideas of Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
“Analytical Essay on Social Contract Theory: Ideas of Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Analytical Essay on Social Contract Theory: Ideas of Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Feb. 2024].
Analytical Essay on Social Contract Theory: Ideas of Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2024 Feb 22]. Available from:
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