The Traditional Social Contract Theory

  • Michael Huemer


The social contract theory is the most prominent account of authority in the last 400 years of philosophy and has as good a claim as any to being America’s theory of authority. The theory holds that, at least in some countries, there is a contractual relationship between the government and its citizens. The contract requires the government to provide certain services for the population, notably protection from private criminals and hostile foreign governments. In return, citizens agree to pay their taxes and obey the laws.1 Some views of the social contract assign the government a larger role, perhaps including providing for the basic needs of indigent citizens, ensuring an equitable distribution of material resources, and so on.2 Whatever a particular theorist takes to be the state’s legitimate functions, the theorist will argue that the social contract both authorizes and obligates the state to perform those functions.


Board Member Social Contract Political Authority Contractual Obligation Social Contract Theory 
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Copyright information

© Michael Huemer 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Huemer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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