Similarities Between Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke’s Social Contract Theory

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The social contract was established during the Enlightenment in the 1700s. The Social Contract is a commitment made by society and the government to cooperate.

Many philosophers had their unique interpretations of the social contract idea throughout that time.

We concentrate on three of those philosophers: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. All three had different interpretations of the social contract but shared many similarities.

According to the social contract idea, man first existed in a natural state. They were not subject to any laws or a government, either. There were hardships and oppression in the sections of society.

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes was born in Wiltshire, England, in 1588. About his family and early years, little is known. First attending a church school, Hobbes later pursued his education at a school in his hometown of Malmesbury.

  • Hobbes was enthralled by physics, natural laws, mechanics of motion, and the properties of matter.
  • His interest in philosophy derived from his scientific theories, gradually leading Hobbes to identify man as separate from nature and one with society and the state.

The Social Contract thesis of Thomas Hobbes originally appeared in his book Leviathan, which was released in 1651 during the British Civil War. The “Social contract” is the foundation of Thomas Hobbes’ legal theory.

  • He said that before the Social Contract, man was a member of nature.
  • In the State of NATURE, man’s existence was characterized by fear and egotism.
  • The man had to live in a chaotic world full of anxiety.
  • Life was “solitary, nasty, poor, brutish, and short” under the State of Nature.

Hobbes’ contractarian theories were the product of his theories on the emergence of civil society and the consolidation of political power and authority. In other words, Hobbes thought that the social contract marked the beginning of the development of civil society.


Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778 C.E.), a Swiss-French philosopher, was a watchmaker’s son and was born in Geneva, Switzerland. He was largely self-educated and led a somewhat irregular, semi-nomadic life that included the following: 

  • An abusive apprenticeship from which he fled at the age of sixteen
  • Work as a footman in a wealthy family
  • Financial support from various wealthy or powerful people
  • Five children were the outcome of a common law marriage with a servant girl, and they were all given to orphanages.
  • Association with the top intellectual circles in Paris
  • Flights.

Rousseau left for Paris in 1742, intending to establish himself as a composer and introduce a new system of musical notation. But unfortunately, he never had a lot of musical success. Nevertheless, his prize-winning article on the subject of “Has the progress of the sciences and arts contributed to the corruption or the improvement of human conduct?” made him famous and ignited controversy.

  • Rousseau advocated that inherently good human nature has been corrupted by society.
  • Inequalities and artificiality that civilization creates are at the core of corruption.


Locke was born in 1632 in a puritan family in Somerset, England, and grew up in a rural town. He started his study at Westminster School, a very esteemed institution. He joined Oxford’s Christ Church after graduation. Locke, like Hobbes, was dissatisfied with the college curriculum and read many of his contemporaries’ philosophical writings, including Descartes.

  • Locke also had a passion for medicine, and he eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in it.
  • Later, Locke developed into a qualified physician and even performed a successful liver operation, an extremely risky medical treatment at the time. 

Empiricism in philosophy and European liberalism in politics both owe their roots to Locke’s ideas and worldview. Locke endorsed the social contract theory, just as Hobbes did.

Similarities Between Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke’s Social Contract Theory

Social contract theorists Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau all support the idea that everyone should have certain rights for individual freedom. However, they also think that for the government to function and advance, the people must consent.

Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke are regarded as the leading intellectuals of the 17th century, even though they lived and worked at slightly different times.

  • The three philosophers, who theorized about related occurrences, discussed the same topics.
  • Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke investigated a variety of topics, including the social contract theory and human rights, religion, political forces and their influence, and the social significance of value and property.

Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke endorsed the social contract thesis, which contends that the people choose rulers and that political authority does not emanate from divine authority. Instead, according to the social contract theory, the establishment of political authority resulted from an agreement among society’s participants to appoint a government to uphold and defend their rights.

  • Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke investigated the idea of the “state of nature.”
  • It alludes to the situation in which a person’s natural characteristics, or natural character, are revealed.
  • However, the three thinkers held radically different opinions about the natural state of man and the true nature of man.
  • Hobbes thought that people are aggressive, violent, and self-centered by nature.
  • Locke also asserted that people’s fundamental nature was calmness, reflection, and tranquility.
  • In the natural state, “man is naturally peaceful and timid; at the slightest threat, his initial response is to flee; he only fights through the force of experience and habit,” according to Rousseau.

The above-discussed theories and views of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke formed the basis for modern political science theories and power analysis. The three philosophers’ social contract theory gave rise to democracy and the notion that the people are the source of a government’s political authority.


What are some similarities between Hobbes’ and Locke’s views on social contracts?

Hobbes and Locke both endorsed the social contract thesis, which contends that the people choose rulers and that political and governmental authority does not stem from God.

What do Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau have in common?

Social contract theorists Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau all support the idea that everyone should have certain rights for individual freedom. However, they also think that for the government to function and advance, the populace must consent.

What are the 3 main points of Rousseau’s social contract?

Three stages that Rousseau identified are (a) the state of nature, where man is free and independent; (b) society, where man is enslaved and dependent on others; and (c) the state under the Social Contract, where, ironically, man becomes free via obligation.

What was the main idea of Rousseau’s social contract?

The Social Contract, with its famous opening line, “Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains,” claimed that true freedom could only be attained by living in a civil society that protected its citizens’ rights and well-being.

Author: Syed Hasan

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