The State of Nature

The state of a nature is the state that preceded governments. There must have been a time before government, and so the question is how legitimate government could emerge from such a starting position.

Social contract theory holds that individuals in the state of nature came together and made agreements out of self-interest. It is these agreements that give legitimacy to government; people are ruled by consent.

"The State of Nature." Political Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012. <>.
Social Contract Theory

Social contract theory, nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live….

More recently, philosophers from different perspectives have offered new criticisms of social contract theory. In particular, feminists and race-conscious philosophers have argued that social contract theory is at least an incomplete picture of our moral and political lives, and may in fact camouflage some of the ways in which the contract is itself parasitical upon the subjugations of classes of persons.

" Social Contract Theory [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012. <>.