The Idea of the Social Contract in the History of 'Agreementism'

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Abstract

One of the recurrent motifs in political thought is the idea of the social contract, according to which a society, a government, or moral principles depend for their existence on agreements between voluntary agents. This association between the social contract and “agreementism” implies that there is nothing about the terminology of contracts that distinguishes it from that of other types of agreements constitutive of normativity. This essay tests this assumption by surveying the terminology of the social contract and by proposing two hypotheses. The first is that all attempts at analysing the idea of the social contract require a formal conceptual frame of reference that is distinguishable
from agreementism. The second is that social contract theories can be grouped into four trends, even if the authors of each of these trends are unable to form a coherent body of doctrine. These trends are the Iberian Catholic version of the Counter-Reformation; the Protestant individualist trend of the Enlightenment; the quasi-dialectical trend of the radical Enlightenment; and the contemporary trend of public morality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Legacy-Toward New Paradigms
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Counter- Reformation
  • social contract
  • agreementism
  • conventionalism
  • radical enlightenment

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