Discuss the relevance of Social Contract theories in the making of ideas of Human Rights

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Discuss the relevance of Social Contract theories in the making of ideas of Human Rights


This paper addresses the issues regarding the formation of human rights. The history of human rights is being portrayed including the existing International Human Rights or more commonly known as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also includes a brief background of the United Nations Charter which was the first intervention or formation of Human Rights. This paper also discusses the early social contracts and the theories that has been made from time to time influencing the creation of human rights which is currently present today.

Lastly, we talk about the recent issues regarding human rights and try to link or connect with the theories that had emerged from the discovery of social contracts and human rights.




Human rights

§ UN charter

§ Universal Declaration of human rights

Social Contract and itsTheories

· Hugo Grotius

· Thomas Hobbes

· Samuel Freiherr von Pufendorf

· John Locke

· Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Recent Issues regarding human rights

· Gay Rights

· Syria and Turkey

Opinion and Conclusion


Human Rights

Human rights, by the very word, anyone can understand what it tries to mean. According to the free dictionary by Fa,Human rights is the common rights and independence to which all human beings are bestowed, often leading to the right to live freely, having a freedom of speech, expression and equality before the law. Thus we conclude that in short it is a right of every human being.

Its history though not significantly portrayed, have various stories but the most conspicuously heard or written is by the Greek philosopher, Herodotus who wrote about a Persian king,Darius who ordered a group of Greeks to eat the bodies of their dead families in return of a reward but they refused since they thought it to be against their religion. Then he called for a group of Indians to burn their forefathers’ dead body who usually considered eating their dead as a religious act and thus they refused. This made him conclude that different nation considers situations differently.

Human rights have recently come to account due to the consequences of the World War II by signing the UN Charter at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Centre on 26 June 1945.<href=”#_ftn3″ name=”_ftnref3″ title=””>[3] Thus the formation of this charter ensured that 51 states where Poland signed two years later made a treaty or a code which was to be followed at all cost. In the present day 193 countries are the members of the United Nations.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an affirmation by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris. The Declaration took place after the World War II so as to stop such violence in the future. It is also the first international documentation of rights to which all human beings are naturally priviledged.In an overall, it consist of 31 articles all together. Some of the Articles are paraphrased below:

Article 1 says that every human beingis by birth free and reserves the right of liberty and equality in respect and benefit. They are bestowed with logic and duty and should live together in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2 describes that everyone is designated to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without any difference of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no contrast shall be created on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the sovereignty to which a human being belongs, whether it be autonomous, belief, or under any other condition of the government.<href=”#_ftn4″ name=”_ftnref4″ title=””>[4]

Article 3 says everyone has the legitimacy to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4 says Banishment of all types of slavery

Article 5 says no human being shall be treated wrongly with unlawful punishment

Social contract

According to the Free Dictionary by Farlex, the meaning of social contract is defined as“An agreement among the affiliate of an organized fellowship or between the heads of the government describing and limiting the rights and duties of each other.”

The term social contract gave birth to a new era of society and a new way of addressing the world. This later came to play a core role in the creation of human rights. Discussed below are some of the people and their views or theories which played a significant role in the contribution of social contract and later as human rights.

Social Contract theories

Hugo Grotius (1583–1645)

In the advent of the 17th century,Hugo Grotius, a jurist in the Dutch Republic, claimed that every individual have a natural right even without moral agreement; without the presence of religion and natural science. He further stated that even if there were no God if to be taken, people would still have had their natural rights and that the laws would have yet hold still.

This idea was thought to be critical as it would have collapsed the entire rule of the government itself, which was supposed to ensure law and order and the natural rights of the individuals itself, thus taking back all the power of the sovereignty to the individuals meaning that each individuals were considered a ruler themselves.

Grotius remarked that the “people are sui juris (under their own jurisdiction)<href=”#_ftn5″ name=”_ftnref5″ title=””>[5].He believed that everyone being a human being has the same right but they often don’t follow the rules the same way as due to several differences likerace, religionetc. But the least they should do is to avoid harming or interfering unnecessarily with each other. Any failure of improvising these rights should therefore be penalized.

Thomas Hobbes(1588–1679)

The term of social contract was literally introduced by Thomas Hobbes. According to Hobbes, the lives of individuals in the “state of nature” were poor and poverty stricken<href=”#_ftn6″ name=”_ftnref6″ title=””>[6], concluding that the society needed a contract or some sort of rights which could bring back life in a disciplined manner. He commented that life without any social contract was cold, vacant and free.

Thus the formation of social contract brought individuals together under one roof by giving up individual free right (e.g. if Mr. denounces the right to kill Mr. P if Mr. P does the same.)Thus creating a state, a sovereign body like the ones currently being ruled which controls social welfare through the creation of rules and regulations thus ending limitless fight against each other.

But this was a state created with the bindings of social contract having no leader which meant that everyone were individual leaders of the state possessed by self-interest but with the absence of rights. This would create similar situation like before but now competing against each other, powerful and singlehandedly without having someone to impose the law equally. Even though Hobbe’s work was incomplete and needed ramifications but this is considered to be the base or start of the establishment of social contract.

Samuel Freiherr von Pufendorf(1632–1694)

A German jurist as his name suggests was named baron “Freiherr” a few years before his death. His main aim was to avoid backwardness towards warfare from the French and Ottoman menace on its western and eastern borders.

Pufendorf molded a theory of mutual relationships between individuals, sovereignty and authoritarians of the sovereign. His primary target was to avoid all the possible destructive social warfare and situation like the state of nature. He believed on secular method unless abstract, keeping away from religious appeals. He went on to follow a mixed version of theories mixing Grotius, Hobbes and the Italian reason–of-state tradition.

John Locke(1632 –1704)

John Locke mostly addressed as the “Father of Liberalism” had a theory of social contract which was different than Hobbes’ in several crucial manner only taking the part that people will form a state when they are suffering from the state of nature.

Locke was the one who proposed leadership under one because in the state of nature people would mutually be together but without someone to defend themselves from being killed or seeking help for security thus causing them to live in fright. Thus he came up with a theory of “neutral judge” who would act as a figure to protect property, freedom and lives from living together from each other. While Hobbes defended near-absolute reign, Locke argued that the existence of the government would escape people from the rights of self-defense. Thus transforming the government to act as a neutral and fair body instead of becoming a judge of their own. Hobbes thought that the state of Nature was something that was irrational and extreme that it needed to be omitted by the formation of a government, onto which everyone was ready to accept.

Locke presumably is pre-political but his interest is as normal as a natural human being. As he states that everyone has the right to move, eat, sleep and live freely but that doesn’t mean this gives a person the permission to kill or steal other’s property or things. He believes accordingly to the moral values based on the Law of Nature meaning that everyone is bound by the law of nature and that God has given humans life and has ordered humans not to hurt others physically or mentally

All in all, the State of Nature gives the freedom to do what they want but considering the fact that the Law of Nature secures by imposing restrictions which is ultimately peaceful.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 –1778)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the guides towards the French Revolution had a totally different attitude towards the formation of the social contract. He recommended infinity power of domination or in other words a single leader. Rousseau’s political theory contradicted with Locke and Hobbes. Rousseau debates that a citizen cannot succeed by being a self-centered person but must submit themselves to the law and must act accordingly. On his book, The Social Contract, the overall subject to the matter was “if we submit ourselves to the power of one sovereign then we would be recognized as one individual amongst everyone”

Recent Issues regarding human rights

§ Gay Rights

This is a very recent and alarming topic that has been controversial from time to time.United States President Barack Obama supported rightsfor gay, lesbians and transgendered people, emphasizing the society’s fight for rights has reached a “turning point. “He also said that they have become not just more accepting, butalso more loving as a country and as a person. He said with time people change and so do the minds thus focusing the creation of new law and order.<href=”#_ftn8″ name=”_ftnref8″ title=””>[8]Even though it is always said that every human being have the right to live and the freedom to do what they want but this is somewhat confusing. Even interviews like the recently married French couple and their statement looked quite bizarre. One of them said”Today the French Republic has given these rights back to us, the ones they had taken away, and it has put an end to an institutional discrimination.”<href=”#_ftn9″ name=”_ftnref9″ title=””>[9]Upon this statement, the only thing which can be said is they were who they are and they always had their rights but if I say that to marry a horse is my right being taken then the situation becomes way more complicated as well as confusing.

· Syria and Turkey

Another recently surprising issue is that of countries like Syria and Turkey where people going back to where it all started during Grotius times stating the state of nature where everyone were free and had the ability to do what they wanted but now it is much more intricate as the ruler himself doesn’t want to come down leading to brutal wars and catastrophic consequences. This proves that not only laws are the only factors which can give humans eternal peace but external factors like power and deviousness counts.

Opinion and Conclusion

Would always support the laws that were primarily believed that everyone has a social right and that the laws were made to obstruct the State of Nature. But as time elapses, people have become more cunning and greedy wanting as much as possible within a short span of time. Even though we are thought to be making new rules everyday but it seems we are making them to break them applying new ways. It is as true as the saying goes that our wants are unlimited and are present in various forms. The recent human rights issues have been quite alarming from gay marriages to Syrian outburst;humans have always been the cause of their problems. Even though we want to live together but we all want is to be the ruler ofeverything, individually.

From the earlier times, it has been noticed that humans are incapable of living into free wills. Once agreed they are always pushing themself into trouble. No matter how many laws you create or unlimited freedom is given unless the mentality and the inner humanity changes, it will not be of suffice. To sum up I would like to say the saying of Jean-Jacques Rousseau but with a bit of addition to that famous quote of his,

“Man is born free, but yet everywhere he is in chains.”


ByAbdullah.H, CNN,June 14, 2013 — Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)Retrieved 6/16/13



Pufendorf’s Moral and Political Philosophy First published Fri Sep 3, 2010; substantive revision Tue Mar 19, 2013http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pufendorf-moral/

MICHELIE R.ISHAY,THE HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS, Retrieved 6/16/13 from<href=”#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20human%20rights&f=false”>http://books.google.com.bd/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YTh22XQrtlQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=history+of+human+rights&ots=xstyUD-VU8&sig=QzL-iFyBvJ60r3m0YLz7CJelms0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20human%20rights&f=false

The free dictionary by Farlex, “The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled”, Retrieved 6/16/13from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/human+rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2, Retrieved 6/19/2013 from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

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Wikipedia, State of Nature, Thomas Hobbes, line number 8, retrieved from 6/19/13https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract

Total Number of Words:2149

The free dictionary by Farlex,“The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled”,Retrieved 6/16/13fromhttp://www.thefreedictionary.com/human+rights

MICHELIE R.ISHAY,THE HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS,Retrieved 6/16/13 from<href=”#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20human%20rights&f=false”>http://books.google.com.bd/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YTh22XQrtlQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=history+of+human+rights&ots=xstyUD-VU8&sig=QzL-Wikipedia, United The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2,Retrieved 6/19/2013 from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

<href=”#_ftnref5″ name=”_ftn5″ title=””>[5]Wkipedia,Social contract,Philosophers,Hugo Grotius, retrieved from 6/19/13


Wikipedia, State of Nature, ThomasHobbes, line number 8,retrieved from 6/19/13https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract

Pufendorf’s Moral and Political PhilosophyFirst published Fri Sep 3, 2010; substantive revision Tue Mar 19, 2013http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pufendorf-moral/

By Abdullah.H, CNN,June 14, 2013 — Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)Retrieved 6/16/13


<href=”#_ftnref9″ name=”_ftn9″ title=””>[9]CNN,http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/29/world/europe/france-same-sex-wedding/index.html