An island of Social Contracts

Throughout a recent a discussion, Andrea told my class to break up into groups of 5 people. She informed us that we were all stuck on an island, and we were all assigned certain roles within the group.The roles were as follows: doctor, woodworker, fisherman, hunter, and cook. On top of that, each group was assigned a theorists within the excerpts of the social contracts by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Each group had to use the ideas of each theorist to make decisions to get off the island. We were told, optimistically, that we would be found in about 3 weeks. After analyzing a theorist within their respective social contracts, each group had to come up with what each member of the group will have to do to get off the island. Each scenario played out very differently with the presence of various social contracts.

A stranded island
A stranded island

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau all had different views on what exactly social contract theory was. The original concept was that man lived in a state of nature, with no government, and no law to regulate them. Let’s take a look at how each theorist analyzed the theory of social contract:

ThomasHobbes

Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes

For Hobbes, man has a natural desire for security and order. He kept in mind the idea of self-preservation and self-protection. In order to achieve this, they must surrender all of their rights and freedoms to some authority to command society. An authority must protect  everyone’s lives and property. Subjects had no rights against this sovereign, and he must be obeyed in all scenarios. Based on his analysis, the people on the island would behave as follows, in my opinion:

The doctor would rise to power, as he is the only one that can keep people alive, other than the fact that they are on a stranded island. The doctor would have supreme control over everyone in the group, and would dictate certain jobs each member. The woodworker would be in charge of building a boat out of resources found on the island.The fisherman and hunter would be in charge of fishing and hunting, respectively. The cook would be involved with preparing food for the group after the fisherman and hunter brought back the food. After the woodworker built the boat, the hunter would be killed off by the doctor. The group needs less members to supply resources more adequately throughout each individual, and a hunter is not needed at sea.

John Locke

John Locke
John Locke

For Locke, his theory of Social Contract is reasonably more enjoyable than that of Hobbes, but the property was no secured. Society had all the rights that nature could give them. People in society were viewed as equal, to a certain degree. They were free to pursue their own interests, and were free from interference from a higher authority. Overall, Locke’s theory empazised equality, and the fact that one cannot take more than his or her own fair share. He advocated for a society that benefited the good of people, with a constitutionally limited government. Based on his analysis, the people on the island would behave as follows, in my opinion:

Each member would be treated equality throughout the group. Everyone will work together and do their respective job. An individual would not rise to power, but each member would be responsible to make sure everyone was doing the right thing. Everyone has to make sure that property, food, medicine, etc., is divided up equally so everyone can get their fair share. Ultimately, everyone does they respective job in society, as noted above, with a very limited government, to get off the island as quickly as possible.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

For Rousseau, his theory of Social Contract was a brand new interpretation, which involved complete equality among everyone, where everyone is happy throughout a society. He wanted everyone to surrender their rights not to a single authority, but to the community as a whole. He emphasized the idea of “general will”. This was to help society make decisions based upon the general will of everyone, through majority votes. Overall, Rousseau’s theory is based on freedom and liberty of all individuals. Based on his analysis, the people on the island would behave as follows, in my opinion:

Each member would do their respective job, and would try to work together to get off the island. Not one person would rise to power and dictate what anyone in their small society does. Ultimately, everyone does their job efficiently and quickly to get off the island, but it is a free-for-all when it comes to food, medicine, etc.

Although each theorist’s  respective analysis of the Social Concept is very different, each scenario can work to make five people on a stranded island cope with this new society. Overall, I believe that Hobbes’ analysis will work the best to keep the sanity of these people. I believe over time, someone will eventually rise to power in a life-or-death scenario like this one. A person at supreme power over everyone else in the group may seem scary at first, but I believe it is the only way to keep everyone together, and achieve the ultimate goal of getting rescued.

For those who are reading this, my opinion is my opinion. I would love if you can answer the poll question below, and choose which theorist’s analysis of the social contracts would work best on this island, in your opinion. Click “Poll” to be redirected!

Poll

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