Virginia Hero argued that “contemporary Western society is in the grip of contractual thought” (193). Contract models have come to inform a wide range of relationships and interactions between individuals, students and their teachers, authors and their readers. In this context, it would be difficult to overestimate the impact of the theory of the social contract, both within philosophy and on the wider culture. The theory of the social contract is undoubtedly with us for the foreseeable future. But also the criticism of such a theory, which will continue to force us to think and rethink nature both to ourselves and to our relations with each other. Hobbes` political theory is best understood when it enters into two parts: his theory of human motivation, psychological selfishness, and his theory of social contract, based on the hypothetical state of nature. Hobbes has above all a particular theory of human nature that leads to a particular vision of morality and politics, as developed in his philosophical masterpiece Leviathan, published in 1651. The scientific revolution, with its important new discoveries, which the universe could be described and predicted in accordance with the universal laws of nature, strongly influenced Hobbes. He tried to provide a theory of human nature that would be equated with discoveries in the sciences of the inanimate universe. His psychological theory is therefore informed by the mechanism, the general opinion that everything in the universe is produced by nothing but matter in motion.
According to Hobbes, this extends to human behavior. Human macro-behaviors can be well described as the effect of certain types of micro-behaviors, although some of these latter behaviors are invisible to us. Behaviours such as walking, speech, etc. are therefore created in us by other actions. And these other actions are themselves caused by the interaction of our body with other bodies, human or otherwise, which create in us certain chains of causes and effects, and which end up leading to human behavior that we can clearly observe. We, including all our actions and decisions, are then, according to this conception, as explicable in terms of universal laws of nature as the movements of celestial bodies. The gradual disintegration of memory can, for example, be explained by inertia. As we are presented with more and more sensory information, the delay of previous impressions slows down over time. From Hobbes` point of view, we are essentially very complicated organic machines that respond mechanically to the stimuli of the world and in accordance with the universal laws of human nature. The social contract begins with Rousseau`s most frequently mentioned line: “Man was born free, and he is chained everywhere” (49). This requirement is the conceptual bridge between the descriptive work of the second speech and the temporary work to come. Humans are essentially free and free in the state of nature, but the “progress” of civilization has replaced submission to others with dependence, economic and social inequalities, and the extent to which we judge ourselves by comparisons with others.
As a return to the state of nature is neither feasible nor desirable, the aim of the policy is to restore freedom and thus reconcile who we really and essentially are with coexistence. This is the fundamental philosophical problem that the social contract wants to address: how can we be free and live together? In other words, how can we live together without succumbing to the violence and coercion of others? We can do this, says Rousseau, by submitting our individual and special will to the collective or general will created by the agreement with other free and equal people.