What Is the Social Contract Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau is one of the most prominent philosophers of the 18th century, whose social contract theory has had a profound impact on modern political thought. The social contract theory is a concept that dates back to ancient times, but Rousseau`s version of it is particularly noteworthy because of its emphasis on individual freedom and the importance of social equality. In this article, we will explore the social contract theory of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in more detail.

What is the social contract theory?

The social contract theory is a concept that suggests that individuals willingly give up some of their individual freedom and rights in exchange for social and political order. This idea has been widely studied and discussed by philosophers throughout history, with each thinker proposing their own version of the theory. The social contract theory typically aims to explain how human society functions and the origins of political power.

Rousseau`s social contract theory

Rousseau believed that human beings were naturally good and that society corrupts them. Therefore, he argued that people should be able to live in a natural state of freedom and equality, but due to the existence of private property and the development of civilization, people have lost this ability. According to Rousseau, the social contract is an agreement among individuals to create a government that will manage their affairs and protect their rights.

Rousseau saw the social contract as a means to promote the general will of the people, which he defined as the common good or the interest of the community as a whole. He believed that the general will should be the ultimate source of political power and authority, not the ruler or institution in power. This idea implies that individuals should be willing to give up some of their individual rights and freedoms for the greater good of the community.

The social contract is, therefore, a mutual agreement between citizens and the state. Citizens give up their individual freedom and rights to the state in exchange for security, protection, and the promotion of collective interests. The state, in turn, receives the power and authority to enforce the law and protect the rights of its citizens. This means that the government must act in the interest of the public, not the other way around.


Rousseau`s social contract theory has had a significant impact on political thought and continues to be relevant today. It suggests that individuals should be free and equal, but they must give up some of their individual rights for the collective good. The state exists to serve the needs of the people, not the other way around. In summary, Rousseau`s social contract theory highlights the importance of social equality, individual freedom, and the promotion of the general will of the people, all of which are essential components of a just and fair society.