Pirates, privateers and the contract theories of Hobbes and Locke

History of Political Thought 29 (3):461-484 (2008)

A company of buccaneers invites comparison with states founded on the social contracts of Hobbes and Locke. These companies were formed by an explicit contract, the articles of agreement, and transgressors risked being marooned in a literal state of nature. Buccaneers were relatively powerful and their authority structure and share system was relatively democratic. The role of venture capitalists in organizing buccaneering may explain why parallels with Locke's social contract are particularly striking. Matthew Tindall attempted to exclude pirates and include privateers in the social contract, but conceded that sufficiently powerful pirates themselves formed states. These comparisons highlight the problem of basing human rights on contract theory
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