This page features a collection of the best resources on social contract theory. To get started, simply choose the type of resource that best suits your learning style.
If you want a comprehensive overview of social contract theory:
- Read the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Social Contract Theory. However, you should keep in mind that it is quite long at around 10,000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces the idea of a social contract:
“Social contract theory, nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Socrates uses something quite like a social contract argument to explain to Crito why he must remain in prison and accept the death penalty. However, social contract theory is rightly associated with modern moral and political theory and is given its first full exposition and defense by Thomas Hobbes….”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
- Listen to Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Social Contract on the In Our Time podcast [42:00 mins]
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