Individuals undertake not “to will their own will”
Individuals “accept to undertake limitation on their will”
They “submit the wills of all to the will of one”.
Social contract is the basis of Hobbes’s state whereby individuals .of their own impulse, unite and execute a contract among themselves without the ruler or sovereign being party to it. The origin of state lies in the transfer of all the natural rights of individuals (except the right to life).
The individuals agree to institute a third party—a common recipient—who himself is not a party has to protect the right to life. The contract creates one common superior out of the equally placed individuals. It represents the sum total of all the powers of individuals.
2. Features of Contract:
Chief features of contract are:
Firstly, individuals are the basis of contract. They are endowed with equal natural rights in the state of nature. It is neither a contract among groups, nor is a contract among unequal’s. Moreover, it is a contract resulting from the prudential calculations of individuals and not from fear.
Secondly, the sovereign is not a part but apart from and above the participants. However, it can never make a breach of the contract.
Sovereign cannot be unjust because ‘justice lies in adherence to the contract’.
Thirdly, the contract is irrevocable and finite. The individuals have no right without the consent of the sovereign.
Fourthly, the minority has no right to object to the dictates of the majority in selecting a sovereign.
Fifthly, although sovereign may be one person, two or many, but his preference is for monarchy.
Sixthly, the main motto of the contract is protection of life of individuals. Though the sovereign is supreme in all aspects, he cannot encroach upon lives of individuals.
Seventhly, there is no distinction between state and society and between state and government. For, it is the sovereign power which creates civilized political society out primitive state of nature.
Hobbes’s attempt, though novel in many respect has been subjected to following criticism:
1. Enslave the individuals at the hands of sovereign whose intentions are far from clear.
2. It is ironical as to how individuals guided by dictates of reason choose to create an all powerful authority with irrevocable powers.
3. Hobbes Leviathan is more of a coercive agency than a democratic artifice.
4. Fails to distinguish and differentiate between state, society and government which are distinct institution with varied competence.
5. The notion of permanent and irrevocable contract is questionable. Indeed, it was, as Vaughan points out “intended to support a particular system of government i.e. absolute monarchy”.
Despite serious shortcomings and inherent biases, one cannot refuse to acknowledge that Hobbes heralded a new era. His notion of contract as a basis of state is hailed in all liberal capitalist orders. But, an impersonal, artificial, all powerful sovereign has been with skepticism.