The theory of Social Contract reached its culmination in the works of Rousseau. After that it began to decline. Bentham called it a title. Bluntschli characterized it as highly dangerous.
Sir Henry Maine held that nothing was more worthless as an plantation of the origin of the state than the theory of contract. Sir derrick Pollock condemned it as “one of the most successful and fatal political impostures”.
The following points of general criticism have been advanced against the theory:
It is un-historical. History does not record any stance of such agreement among men leading to the establishment of political society. The theory, observes Green, is a fiction.
The May ower Contract of November 11,1620 by the early settlers in America cited as an example of the formation of apolitical society by a contract, is obviously a wrong instance because this pact was entered into by the people who were already accustomed to political life in a civil it is certainly not an example of men in the state of nature forming society by making a contract among themselves and, therefore, not prove that primitive men, who had no knowledge of political institutions, created the first states in the world by entering contracts.
Moreover, the belief in hypothetical state of nature which ante] the state is not historically sound, such a condition of human life i| a supposition. Human history cannot be divided into two pail supposed by this theory.
2. Contract—end of the society and not the beginning:
According to Sir Henry Maine, “Society has moved from status to contract. Contract is not the beginning but the end of the state.
In the jarring society, status of every individual in society was predetermined. the advance of time, fixity in status disappeared and its place has taken by contractual obligations.
3. No rights without State:
The conception of natural right and natural liberty upon which the theory has been built up is fallacious! question of rights arises only when there is civil society.
Without so we cannot think of rights. Liberty, too, in the true sense of the vi cannot exist prior to the state. The idea of rights and liberty which pt enjoyed in the state of nature is quite illogical.
4. State came into existence as a result of a long process growth:
The basic assumption that state came into existence all of sudden by means of a contract is absolutely wrong from sociology. point of view.
The seeds of state are laid in the gregarious instinct of and by a long process of social development, the state came existence. Various factors like kinship, religion, force and political awakening played their role in the process of its development. As El’ puts it, “the state should not be reduced to the position of a partner agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco or some low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and the dissolved by the fancy of the parties.
It is to be looked upon I reverence. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. It becomes a partner between those who are living and those who are yet to be born”. The statement thus did not obtain its birth in a day or two but was the result of gradual growth.
5. Absence of political consciousness:
The idea for contract implies political consciousness which can hardly be expected of men, living in the state of nature. Besides, the idea of contract is too refined to have been grasped by the primitive people. The idea of contract also pre supposes a system of law and higher authority to enforce the contract.
In the state of nature, there was no such authority and no such system of law. The question of contract could not, therefore, arise in the state of nature.
The concept of contract arises only after the emergence of civil society. But according to this theory the civil society came into being by way of social contract. It simply reverses the course of theory.
6. State not the handiwork of man:
The theory is dangerous inasmuch as it makes the state a product of individual caprice. It looks upon the state as something like a partnership in a joint stock company. But the bonds that keep members of the state together are certainly stronger than mere contractual obligation.
State is not merely the handiwork of man. It is not an artificial contrivance. It is a natural process of growth. Plato and Aristotle rejected the idea that the state was an artificial creation.
The state, according to them is as natural as life. Its origin lies in the natural gregarious instinct of man. It rests on the needs of human life. Men are born in states, just as they are born in families.
7. Membership of State not optional:
Relationship between the individual and the state cannot be the outcome of a mere contract. If it had been the result of a contract, membership of the state would have been optional. But membership of state is compulsory. According to Garner, membership of the state cannot be interpreted in the terms of legal contract.
We can no more explain them on the theory of contract than we can account for membership of child in the family or its duty of obedience to the parents on the principle of consent. These relations rest upon utility and general interests.
8. A contract cannot be perpetual:
It may be noted that a contract is always made between the contracting parties. The original contract can bind only the original parties but not their successors. If consent were to be based on contract, it would have to be renewed with every change in the parties.
Modern democratic institutions are much better instruments of obtaining the consent of the people than the supposed contract.
9. Single-party contract is no contract:
A contract is always made between two parties and it is broken when the parties concerned so desire. The special contract of Hobbes is, however, a very strange one.
Sovereign is not a party to it. Besides, it cannot be broken.
10. Unanimity of will:
The theory presumes a unanimity of will among the primitive savages which is an impossible affair.
11. Static view of human nature:
All the philosophers of social contract Lake a static and eternal view of human nature. It betrays lack of understanding of psychology of man.
12. Motivated attempts:
The exponents of the theory were actuated by specific motives. Their efforts were never sincere to find out the cause of the state.
Hobbes’ main motive was to defend Stuart absolutism, whereas Locke wanted to defend the Glorious Revolution
Value of the Theory:
1. The theory gave a death-blow to the theory of divine origin of the state. It declared in most unequivocal terms that the monarch derived his authority not from God but from the people. The theory, established the people are the ultimate source of authority.
Whether there was any actual social contract or not, the government or the ruler ought to behave as if they arc merely an instrument to give expression to the will of the people who created the state for common good.
According to Kant, “the contract is not to be assumed as historical fact for as such it is not possible ; bi it is rational idea which has its practical reality in that the legislator may so order his laws as if they were the outcome of a social contract”. It also emphasizes the fact that no government has the right to act arbitrarily.
2. The theory helped the development of the modern concept of sovereignty. Austin’s theory of legal sovereignty is a direct outcome of Hobbes’ conception of sovereignty.
3. Locke clearly distinguished between the state and the government and thus clarified most of the crucial political questions.
4. Modern world is indebted to Rousseau for his idea of popular sovereignty. Rousseau’s ‘social contract’ served as an inspiration to those who brought the French and American Revolutions and played an important part in the declaration of the rights of man and citizen which followed such Revolutions.
Points to Remember
1. (i) The theory is historically untrue.
(ii) According to Sir Henry Maine, society has moved from status of contract.
(iii) The conceptions of natural rights and liberty are fallacious.
(iv) The idea of contract pre-supposes some political consciousness which can hardly be expected of primitive man.
(v) State is not the handiwork of man.
(vi) Contractual origin of state leads to the conclusion that its membership is optional.
(vii) Unilateral contract is no contract.
(viii) A contract always lapses after the death of the contracting parties.
(ix) The philosophers of social contract take a wrong view of human nature.
(x) The exponents of the theory work with specific motive.
2. Value of Theory:
(i) The theory gave a death blow to the theory of the divine origin of the state.
(ii) Austin’s theory of legal sovereignty is the direct outcome of Hobbes’ conception of sovereignty.
(iii) Locke distinguished between the state and the government.
(iv) Rousseau gave to the world the idea of popular sovereignty.