Hobbes's and Locke's Contract Theories: Political not Metaphysical

Abstract Inspired by Rawls?s admission that his twentieth?century contract theory builds in the parochial horizon of modern constitutional democracy, this essay critically examines two truisms about seventeenth?century contract theory. The first is the stock view that the English case is irrelevant to the logic of Leviathan and the Second Treatise. To the contrary, I argue that their political conclusions depend on introducing constitutional and legal ?facts?, in particular, facts about the constitution of the English monarchy. Second, I challenge the Whiggish characterization of contract theory as an important step in the development of democratic sovereignty. I draw on Hume?s famous critique of the genre to make the case that seventeenth?century contract theory addressed a peculiarly ancien?regime issue ? namely, resistance to legitimate rulers. In both respects, Hobbes?s and Locke?s social contracts are properly regarded as ancien?regime theories of politics. They are, as Rawls would put it, ?political not metaphysical? theories.
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DOI 10.1080/13698230500187169
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John Rawls (1993). Political Liberalism. Columbia University Press.
J. Rawls (1995). Political Liberalism. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.

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