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Critical Analysis of the Relevance of Thomas Hobbes’s Social Contract Theory

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Table of contents

  1. Summary
  2. Critique
  3. Conclusion

In the midst of the enlightenment period, many philosophers contributed many commentaries on the political viewpoints of their society. Some writings had also influenced the start of the American and French revolutions. Philosophers dissected on the notion that existing social and political order would not withstand critical observation and examination which were put into a world with mysteries, myths, and various phenomenons. This puts very reputable critiques through theoretical standpoints. A well-known philosopher of this time period was Thomas Hobbes. In this essay, the critical outlines of Thomas Hobbes’s Contract theory and the relevance of how he changed society will be identified and discussed. Hobbes’s main concern was that society needs an order in which to live peacefully and avoid conflicts with each other. In this essay, we will talk about why Thomas Hobbes’s Social Contract theory is still relevant and improvements have been established in regards to modern philosophy and the current circumstances of society today.


According to Thomas Hobbes, a Social Contract was seen as “The mutual transferring of individualistic rights that are surrendered to contribute towards a higher power” (Thomas Hobbes: Social Contract para. 4). Before such a person like Hobbes existed, the world was known as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (in Burger 2013). Since man was on his own, this made it so that it was impossible to cooperate with the economy because no socialism or care for others was as relevant besides supplying for themselves, which resulted in constant conflicts within the natural aspects of society. Humans, in relevance to animals, were always seeking their own interest and will basically do anything to help themselves, as this highlights the saying of “every man for himself”. Hobbes describes this as “bellum omnium contra omnes” meaning war of all against all, which was within his philosophical narrative, “De Cive”. Here he is making an argument that a world without a leader, man would no longer be adequately be able to live his life. He was in fear of losing what he gained in his own self-interest, thus creating the social contract.

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The social contract theory clearly has benefits but also shortcomings. An advantage which was mentioned in Browne (para 12), is that “It provides very clear answers to very difficult questions in ethical theory”. For example, what moral rules are we supposed to follow and how are those rules justified or non justified. What makes it reasonable for we the people to follow the moral rules of society. Under what circumstances are we allowed breaking the rules. It also seems to provide an objective basis for morality. In Browne (para13) states, “One disadvantage of the social contract theory is whether the social contract ever had a basis in history” most recent proponents of the social contract, are clear about the fact that the social contract does not necessarily refer to historical events. The use of the social contract is to act as a test for justification of rules people have to follow. Also, it can be said that we implicitly participate in such a social contract by acting cooperatively in our social arrangements. We vote by going along with the outcome in terms of a Democracy. David Hume also points out that there had never been a situation called the state of nature’ and that nobody had consented to a social contract, mainly because the social contract was purely hypothetical (Rusling 5). Since we are born into a society and we don’t need a contract theory because our belief is that the government is in our best interests and therefore the people support its continuation. Moreover, Olynyk states that “Hobbes makes no allowance for the moral side of people and society. Therefore his theory implies that people without states would have no moral limits.” (Olynyk 8) It is difficult to concur with Olynyk analysis since modern-day experiences particularly in Somalia and the Middle East have shown that where there is state failure life appears brutish and nasty as Hobbes describes. One must admit that Hobbes social contract theory has many relations to contemporary society. Even though we are not born in a hypothetical state of nature, we form a social contract every time we vote for a party. The agreement lays that we give up our rights to be protected, to progress economically. The laws instituted by the state are binding upon all citizens. Like Hobbes secularization state many modern rulers government including Guyana do not claim authority from God, but his or her ability to provide and facilitate the development of citizens; such acts legitimize the ruler government. However there is an important caveat, given the modern experience of the division of powers, Hobbes illustration of a monarchical ruler who makes laws, execute taxation, etc are extreme and atypical. In Guyana there are separations of power Executive, judiciary, and legislation such division is to ensure that power will check power each division will keep the other in check. Since according to Lord Acton ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.


Hobbes social contract was one notable exception with regards to the nature of legitimacy of rulers, Hobbes social contract still has relevance for contemporary society as it is apparent that the ‘state of nature’ argument is still pertinent. Experience in failed states and with modern day terrorist network show that life can still be nasty, brutish and short. Further, Hobbes theory has laid an important and lasting foundation for modern states. Throughout hobbes lifetime he mainly believed that the only true and right form of government was a monarchy. He argues that human beings are just selfish creatures in general and why the social was created in the first place, otherwise we will all be fighting without civil laws. With this being said there are many critiques that tried to challenge or support this theory of Thomas Hobbes’s Social Contract theory. A natural human beings instinct is to be involved in fulfilling their needs to what makes them happy or to survive. To conclude, Hobbes landmark was to form a government strong enough to keep humanity cruel thinking lawfully fixated from tyranny government.

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Critical Analysis of the Relevance of Thomas Hobbes’s Social Contract Theory. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of the Relevance of Thomas Hobbes’s Social Contract Theory.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
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