John Locke's Social Contract Theory: Western Political Thought

John Locke's Social Contract

John Locke's Social Contract Theory

Basic Biography 

John Locke was born in England in 1632 AD. His father was an attorney. Locke belonged to a well-off family, they were very rich. He died in 1704. 

Early Education:

  1. His father taught him in the highest institution of that time. 
  2. Where he studied the basic scie
    nces and philosophy. 
  3. Later on, Locke was enrolled as a student of medicine at Oxford. 


When he completed his degree in the field of medicine he started working in Oxford as a physician. As a doctor, he met somebody who had a profound impact on his life. 

Interest in Politics:

  1. He met a patient whose name was Ashley Cooper and he became his lifelong friend. 
  2. Ashley Cooper was the founder of the Whigs Party. 
  3. With Ashley Cooper, Locke took an interest in politics and started taking part in active politics. 

Famous Books:

He did many work on politics and wrote different books. His most important book is The Fragments on Government. This book is also called Treaties on Government.

John Locke’s Social Contract Theory

Context of the Theory:

  1. The context of his theory was based on the condition of England. In the early age of Locke, there was a civil war in England. In that war, Locke’s father and mother were on the side of the Republicans. They were against the King. As a result of that war, the Monarchy was there but they became significantly weak but not abolished. 
  2. Since the end of the war, England has been at peace. So Locke was living at a time when England had peace and stability. So Locke grew up with peace, not in fear like Thomas Hobbes. 
  3. Now that time, when there was peace in England, he met with his friend Ashley Cooper (A Republican). Furthermore, he was a believer in rationality, his father, mother and his friend were Republicans. 
  4. As a result, he produced a social contract theory to justify the powers of the King, and the Parliament and the rejection of Thomas Hobbes's Social Contract Theory.
  5. His theory was to justify the supremacy of the Parliament. 

Theory (Social Contract)

Locke’s Human Nature:

Locke begins his theory of social contract with the human nature. He explained:

  1. Man by nature is good, cooperative, and peaceful. 
  2. Man is all good as per John Locke.

Locke’s State of Nature:

According to John Locke, he explained the state of nature in the following points:

  1. There was peace and stability everywhere. 
  2. It was a time when man was social.
  3. Life was certain and long.
  4. But people were not politically organized. There were no Laws and regulation.
  5. There were no vertical power distribution. Societies were pre-political.
  6. His state of nature was socially organized.

According to Locke, the society was not politically orgainzed and when the population started grew, the people developed disputes over properties. Because when the population increased, people wanted more food and property for their living. As a result of which, there were conflict started on resources. 

So according to Locke when the conflict started on the basis of properties, and for resolving there were no law and rules in the society. In order to resolve that problem, the people got together at one place and they spoke two(2) contracts.

First Contract:

According to Locke, the people said, “I surrender my rights to the community as a whole on the condition that you do the same.” In this contract the people gave all the authority to the community. 

Locke further said that due to this contract a problem had arised that community itself had not governed. Because the community is busy in its own affairs. Therefore, the whole community ended into a second contract.

Second Contract:

According to Locke this second contract was the contract which were spoke between the community as a whole and they choose some representatives within themselves. Those representatives ensure the community that they would work for their behalf and they would govern them. A community then ended into a contract with representatives:

“We surrender our rights to the representatives on three (3) conditions:

  1. It shall protect our lives 
  2. It shall protect our properties
  3. It shall protect our liberty”

Features of the Locke’s Social Contract Theory

John Locke’s social contract theory has the following features:

  1. These contracts established a state: A political community were made.
  2. The soverign in the state was the community as a whole
  3. In this contract the state is artificia
  4. The second contract created government
  5. These contracts were conditional
  6. This government in this contract was democratic.
  7. This contract was bilateral 
  8. This contract is revocable 


In conclusion, Locke was trying to justify the power of the parliamnet. He clearly discribed in his theory of social contract that community in soverign, and the representatives of the community in the parliament should have the powers. The people’s representatives have the right to govern because according to John Locke, people are the sovereign in the state. 

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