Thomas Hobbes was a proponent of strong central government in the country. According to Hobbes, some
kind of strong authority with the ability to punish dissenters needs to be put into place to prevent the chaos in the
society. In this process, he proposed the Social Contract Theory.
According to this, people should be in a social contract in which people agree to give up or limit their
natural rights and freedoms in exchange for some kind of benefit. For ex. the benefit would be an authority
that protects people’s remaining rights and freedoms.
This social contract should be between the people and the governing authority. He Hobbes argued that the
best authority is an absolute sovereign, one supreme ruler who controls all. The absolute sovereign is the
head of the military, law, religion, and state in general.
Also, as the population gives the sovereign their authority via the social contract, their power cannot be
resisted. Thus if one is upset with their sovereign, they only have themselves to blame.
However, such authority can be turned into anarchy. In such social contract, there would be no accountability
and the society becomes unjust. Also, in such society there will be a domination of duties over rights.
Although, the theory has some limitations, it is significant if the sovereign authority is like the “Philosopher
King” of Plato.
Significance of this theory in present context:
Security from external threats: In today’s world of conflicts and competition, the strong central
government is very important. Here, people have to limits their rights in the national interest.
Internal threats and law and order: To prevent chaos and maintain order in the country, people have to
follow the laws and rules of the land. To formulate it, the government is needed. For ex. in Indian
Constitution along with fundamental rights, the duties are also given.
Natural and manmade calamities: In the times of natural events like Uttarakhand flood disaster, to prevent
loss of lives and social good, there should be single and strong decision making authority. Also, the recent
pandemic has shown the importance of government in the country.
Growth and development: To make the country competent in today’s world, various initiatives need to be
taken. For ex. the Make in India initiative, Startup initiative, etc are some of the PAN-INDIA initiative taken
by the central government. Also for the all round development of the citizens of the country, the central
government has a role to play. For ex. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education); Aayushman Bharat (Health), Atal
Pension Yojana (for social well-being), etc.
If the anarchical and authoritative nature of central government is prevented, then the Social Contract Theory of
Hobbes has a significant role to play in present context.