The Social Contract (Part Three)

One scholar and writer made some noteworthy points which should be reiterated in our efforts towards gaining a broader understanding of the concept or notion of a “social contract.” For one, he wrote: “A society is a group of unequal beings organized to meet common needs. In any sexually reproducing species, equality of individuals is a natural impossibility. Equality of opportunity must be regarded as the second law.” Hence, despite the natural inequalities and inequities between men, equality of opportunity must exist regardless of the natural inequalities and inequities of men: “Every vertebrae born, excepting only in a few rare species, is granted equal opportunity to display his genius or to make a fool out of himself.” 

He added: “While a society of equals…is a natural impossibility, a just society is a realizable goal.” The scholar and writer then went on to describe what he meant by a “just” society:

“The just society, as I see it, is one in which sufficient order protects members, whatever their diverse endowments, and sufficient disorder provides every individual with full opportunity to develop his genetic endowment, whatever that may be. It is this balance of order and disorder, varying in rigor according to environmental hazard, that I think of as the social contract.” 

It follows that aside from a social science standpoint, a “social contract” which ensures certain rights as well as a certain level of justice among men can also be advanced from a natural science standpoint, despite the notions of “Social Darwinism” and so forth which have prevailed in our societies. As one philosopher argued: “Men are by nature free and equal, but a life that is not social is a brutish existence in which man cannot advance towards perfection.” He added: “Accordingly men have a natural inclination to society. Social life is founded on this inclination and on a social contract, ‘an order expressly or secretly agreed upon touching the manner of their union in living together.’”

It follows that without a ‘social contract’ which establishes basic notions of equal opportunity and justice amongst all men which in turn are the basic requirements for keeping a society intact, humanity cannot satisfy the aim or goal for which it has been set out to satisfy, namely, perfection. At the heart of keeping a society together through a “social contract” is “the task of formulating a conception of justice that will be recognized as reasonable by any reflective citizen” which in turn “people would choose to accept if, as it were before being born, they could do so.” 

This perhaps suggests that a “social contract” is an a priori concept and idea that is to be realized through both experience and ‘praxis.’ Ultimately, and as Rousseau argued, a ‘social contract’ is brought about through the ‘general will’ of those who come together to forge a ‘social contract.’ It follows that states are founded on a ‘social contract’ in addition to legal charters and notions of ‘natural law.’ Absent of a ‘social contract’ forged “either by common agreement or by force of arms” is a state of war. In a sense, the “Hobbesian state of nature” which exists outside of a social contract or arises in the event of the breakdown and demise of a social contract as a result of injustice and moral transgression is a state of war. Hence, in order to explain and understand war, we must also wield the concept or notion of a “social contract” and how it relates to the condition of war. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s