The Social Contract

An 18th century philosophical concept used to attempt to explain the understanding by which people originally left their solitary, wilderness existence and came together under the auspices of government. Theorist Thomas Hobbes first claimed that the contract entailed each individual surrendering all his rights, save that of life, in exchange for the protection of the Crown. A half century later philosopher John Locke modified that to state that not only life, but certain other fundamental rights, albeit not necessarily democratic, were retained by the people and that they were legitimate in overthrowing any state that violated those rights.