Classical Contractarianism

The fundamental presupposition of political philosophy is that the legitimate rule of one individual over another requires justification: political power may come out of the barrel of a gun but political authority does not. Classically, the philosopher of politics looked to nature. In the seventeenth century, however, the philosophical tide turns in a decidedly different direction: contractarianism. Political society becomes a consensual construct created through the heuristic vehicle of a hypothetical social contract. Simultaneously, within the confines of contractarianism itself, a remarkable transformation occurs. The theory originates in the hands of Grotius, Hobbes and Pufendorf as a justificatory tool for political absolutism and, paradoxically, reaches its zenith in Locke with a firm commitment to constitutionalism. I explore this transformation in detail, culminating with what I term the “Lockean Synthesis.”
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DOI 10.5840/ipq200343438
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David Gauthier (1997). Political Contractarianism. Journal of Political Philosophy 5 (2):132–148.
Deborah Baumgold (2005). Hobbes's and Locke's Contract Theories: Political Not Metaphysical. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 8 (3):289-308.

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