Who is the author of Leviathan containing Social Contract Theory? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Leviathan Containing Social Contract Theory


Question: Who is the author of Leviathan containing Social Contract Theory?

  1. Hobbes
  2. Locke
  3. Rousseau
  4. Laski

Answer: (1)

The question posed in the MA CUET exam regarding the author of “Leviathan” directs attention to the seminal work of Thomas Hobbes, a pivotal figure in early-modern English political philosophy. Hobbes’s “Leviathan,” first published in 1651, is a magnum opus that laid the groundwork for the development of Social Contract Theory. This essay explores the key ideas presented in “Leviathan,” Hobbes’s contributions to political philosophy, and the enduring influence of his social contract framework on subsequent thinkers such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant.

Thomas Hobbes and Leviathan:

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was a polymath, contributing to fields as diverse as political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, and science. His most significant work, “Leviathan,” presents a comprehensive theory of politics and government. Published during a tumultuous period in English history, “Leviathan” addresses the need for a strong and centralized authority to maintain order and prevent the chaos that Hobbes believed was inherent in human nature.

The Social Contract in Leviathan:

Hobbes’s political philosophy, as expounded in “Leviathan,” is deeply rooted in his view of human nature and the necessity of social contract as a means to establish political authority. According to Hobbes, in the state of nature, human beings are naturally inclined towards conflict, competition, and self-interest. Contrary to the classical view, as articulated by Aristotle, that humans flourish in political communities (polis), Hobbes argues that human nature is not suited for harmonious coexistence without the constraints of political authority.

In the absence of a governing authority, Hobbes contends, individuals in the state of nature would engage in a constant struggle for self-preservation. The natural condition of humanity, he asserts, is marked by a “war of every man against every man,” where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” To escape this dire state, individuals, driven by their rational self-interest, enter into a social contract.

The Hypothetical Social Contract:

Hobbes introduces the concept of a hypothetical social contract as the foundation for political authority. In the state of nature, individuals recognize the inherent risks and uncertainties of unrestrained self-interest. Fearful of the potential consequences of a perpetual state of conflict, they agree to relinquish certain natural liberties and transfer their power to a sovereign authority. This sovereign, whether a monarch, a legislature, or another form of political authority, assumes the responsibility for ensuring the safety and well-being of all.

The social contract, in Hobbes’s framework, is not a historical event but a hypothetical construct that rational individuals would agree to for the sake of their own self-preservation. This contractual arrangement establishes the legitimacy of political authority, emphasizing its role as a mechanism for collective security and the prevention of the inherent anarchy that Hobbes associates with human nature.

Rejecting Aristotle’s View:

Hobbes’s political philosophy explicitly rejects Aristotle’s optimistic view of human nature and the suitability of individuals for political life. In contrast to Aristotle’s claim that human beings realize their natures through citizenship in a polis, Hobbes contends that humans are inherently unsuited for political coexistence. He describes a natural inclination towards rivalry, susceptibility to manipulation by ambitious leaders, and an exaggerated self-regard that magnifies the value placed on personal interests.

Hobbes turns Aristotle’s idea on its head, asserting that humans, left to their natural tendencies, would lead to a state of anarchy and constant conflict. The absence of a common standard of behavior and the prevalence of self-interest make it impossible for individuals to coexist peacefully without the imposition of external authority.

Human Nature and the Lack of Self-Restraint:

Hobbes’s analysis of human nature forms a crucial aspect of his social contract theory. He contends that even individuals who may exhibit moderation in their desires are not immune to the potential for aggression. The absence of a natural self-restraint, coupled with the competitive nature of humans, creates a situation where conflict and aggression become unavoidable in the absence of a sovereign authority.

Moreover, Hobbes argues that the pursuit of self-interest, even by those who consider themselves moderate, can lead to a preemptive use of violence to protect one’s interests. This lack of a natural common standard of behavior, according to Hobbes, necessitates the establishment of a sovereign power capable of maintaining order and preventing the descent into anarchy.

Influence on Later Thinkers:

Hobbes’s “Leviathan” had a profound impact on the development of political philosophy and the formulation of Social Contract Theory. His successors, including John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant, engaged with and expanded upon Hobbes’s ideas, contributing to the rich tapestry of modern political thought.

John Locke:

John Locke (1632–1704), influenced by Hobbes, presented his own version of Social Contract Theory in works such as “Two Treatises of Government” (1689). While Locke shared the basic premise of a social contract as a means of securing collective security, he departed from Hobbes in his more optimistic view of human nature. Locke emphasized natural rights, including life, liberty, and property, and argued that individuals form a government to protect these inherent rights rather than solely for security against a hostile state of nature.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) added another layer to Social Contract Theory with his work “The Social Contract” (1762). Rousseau’s version emphasized the idea of the general will, where individuals collectively contribute to the formation of laws that reflect the common good. In contrast to Hobbes’s focus on security, Rousseau highlighted the participatory nature of political authority and the importance of direct democracy.

Immanuel Kant:

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), though not directly associated with Social Contract Theory in the same way as Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau, incorporated elements of contractual thinking into his moral and political philosophy. Kant’s emphasis on autonomy and the moral law can be seen as resonating with the underlying principles of social contract, where individuals, through reason, contribute to the establishment of just laws.

Critiques and Contemporary Reflections:

While Hobbes’s “Leviathan” laid the groundwork for Social Contract Theory and significantly influenced subsequent thinkers, it has not been without its critiques. The harsh portrayal of human nature and the necessity of a powerful sovereign have been points of contention. Critics argue that Hobbes’s pessimistic view undermines the potential for more egalitarian and participatory forms of governance.

In the contemporary era, scholars continue to engage with Hobbes’s ideas, recognizing the enduring relevance of his contributions to political philosophy. The concept of the social contract remains a central theme in discussions on the legitimacy of political authority, the protection of individual rights, and the role of government in ensuring collective security.


In conclusion, the answer to the MA CUET exam question is (a) Hobbes, as the author of “Leviathan” containing Social Contract Theory. Thomas Hobbes’s “Leviathan” stands as a foundational text in the development of modern political philosophy, providing a compelling analysis of human nature and a theoretical framework for justifying political authority through the social contract.

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1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

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