Social contract theory holds that the natural conditions of men puts them free in society. The contract was signed by men to bring to an end the conditions of the state of nature. Life in the state of nature was brutal, short lived and nasty. Men were going for each other, conflicts and wars were the orders of the day.
Life was anarchic and short lived which forced men to sign a social contract that could bring to an end the conditions in the state of nature. Men agreed to surrender their sovereignty to one common authority that would oversee the interests of all. The contract was patriarchic and male dominated in various ways.
Carole Pateman formulated sexual contract theory to challenge the fraternal social contract. She argues that for there to be a binding relationship in marriages, female partners should consent (Carole, 1989, p. 35). This means that women are not passive recipients of societal values as it is thought about.
This paper therefore examines the fraternal social contract, its provisions and sidelines of women in the society. The paper proceeds to discuss the relationship of fraternal social contract with community formation. It addresses the contradictions of the formations with feminist approaches to community development.
Fraternal Social Contract and Women in Society
The contract signed by men to bring to an end the conditions of nature did not involve women in managing societal issues. The conflict is deemed to have been among men only and women were not counted.
This implies that men were in charge of leadership positions and they controlled all forms of socio-political lives. Women were pushed to the periphery since they had no individual meaning in society. They were expected to undertake duties and responsibilities assigned to them by men. Most of the responsibilities were associated with domestic cores.
Education and Child Rearing
Women were supposed to receive specific information that would help them acquire skills for proper child rearing. Rousseau (1987) agrees that education is necessary in an individual’s life but the kind of education to be provided is not gender neutral. Education was to serve the purpose of instilling morals and ethics to youngsters. Women received different forms of education mostly associated with family values.
They were to feed their children by breast-feeding and take care of their husbands. Men on the other side were taught leadership skills and other skills that could help them solve conflicts peacefully. The social contract provisions have influenced educational policies up to date.
Women are not treated equally to men while the kind of education provided to them is relatively inferior. Men dominate the prestigious courses offered in higher institutions of learning and the society tends to believe that it is the way of life.
Most scholarly activists are attributed to men even though women contributed enormously in development of education. We hear today of history but nobody mentions herstory because the kind of education provided to women is believed to be inferior and could not facilitate any innovativeness or any invention.
Women in history are known to have discovered some important things but the findings were attributed to their husbands or fathers. This shows how the society lacked respect to women.
The state of nature was believed to be dangerous that was why people came together to form a civil society. The citizens had to surrender their sovereignty to one common authority, unfortunately, women surrendered theirs but they had no representative in governance.
This implies that they were passive participants since they were not allowed to occupy political offices. Women could not participate in political processes such as voting and being voted for. Politics was a men’s affair, they collectively made policies that would govern everyone (Massey, 1994, p. 171).
Language and Religion
The language used though in the theory is not gender neutral. Women are associated with all kinds of evil especially in religious matters where women are perceived to be the original sinners. The language is gender biased and tries to justify the position occupied by men in society.
Having attended both doctrines of Catholic and Calvin, Rousseau admitted that women occupied low positions in churches and never received any leadership roles. God is referred as a ‘he’ while demons and evil spirits are termed as ‘she’. This shows how women are perceived in the society and their subsequent roles. Almost all of the church’s writings are male dominated; only a few are gender neutral (MacLean, 2006, p. 21).
Social Contract and Formation of Community
The major theorists of the social contract were Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Each of the theorists had varying views pertaining to the origin of the civil society and sense of community. They all agree that a social contract was signed to bring to an end the uncertainties of states of nature.
Thomas Hobbes postulates that people came together to form a sense of feeling whereby they could collectively enforce the common laws. They joined hands to form a leviathan, which according to him was a common authority.
Happiness could not be guaranteed in the given state of nature by the appetites and passion of man. The role of the common authority was to foster the sense of community by protecting the rights and freedoms of all. The common authority therefore had unlimited powers and the individual in the society enjoyed only prescribed rights
The contract according to Hobbes was irreversible meaning that people had given out their sovereignty forever. Unfortunately, the common authority was not part of the contract leading to perpetual struggles in the society. The common authority had no checks and balances, which was possible for power to be abused.
The community was forced to live according to the wishes of the few. The separation of power was not clear in the contract according to Hobbes; there was no distinction between the state and government.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, who was a French political philosopher, life in the state of nature was primitive that is, man lived a life of primitive simplicity. Man never harmed others unless under some conditions such as self-reservation. The situation changed after some human developments such as growth in populations and desire to acquire property.
These human developments led to an end in happiness and equality; there were perpetual struggles in life. The individuals signed a social contract with by agreeing that they needed one another. They created a society that became a custodian and protector of all individuals. The individual became an integral whole of the community.
The general will was going to guide behavior since it represented the general interests of the whole society not one individual. Respect to the general will was like respect to oneself. People never surrendered their rights to the common authority instead; they delegated powers (Rousseau, 1987, p. 16-21).
John Locke, an English philosopher, had a different stand in relation to the state of nature. Life was social but pre-political and reason and justice guided that man. Everyone enjoyed some rights such as right to life and property. People coexisted peacefully but they never knew exactly what was right and wrong. The laws of nature were subject to multiple interpretations.
The meaning of the laws of nature was the only problem to individuals in society. People agreed to sign a social contract that would end doubts and create a civil society. Government contract was arrived at to serve the purpose of interpreting the laws of nature.
The government was to recognize the existence of the community and treat everyone equally. To do this, impartial judges were appointed to arbitrate on conflicts that would bring harm to the community. There was a rule of law in the society and absolutism was not to be tolerated (Ankerl, 1980).
Social Contract and Feminist Movements/Liberations
Feminist liberation is a term loosely used to refer to all sorts of crusades that encourage restructuring of society into relatively fair place for everyone. The campaigns aim to address injustices against women such as maternity leave, domestic violence, equal opportunities, sexual harassment and violence, and political representation.
The organizations have managed to lobby society to accept that equality is inevitable in society if real change is to be achieved. Injustices resulting from traditional practices such as female genital mutilation have reduced which guarantees female health and well-being in the community.
The movements go for nothing short of justice and equality in the society. They differ with the ideas of the social contract theorists in various ways (Iris, 1990, p. 306).
Political Equality and Equal Opportunities
Feminist movements advocated for women suffrage in the 18th century. Women could no longer sit back and continue serving men as they used to be.
Women were considered mirrors of men meaning that they ensured everything was right for their husbands. The society had social constructs promoted through language that women were weaker and inferior.
The social contract had earlier postulated that only men were morally developed and they could be entrusted with leadership. The feminist movements managed to change the perception when women were allowed to participate in electoral processes.
Women participated in elections and proved that what men can do, women can do better. Leadership roles are about competence and capacity not physical ability or masculinity (Astrid, 2004).
Culture and Morality
The culture that existed before the emergence of the movements was patriarchal. The social contract posted that men were naturally free and had power over everything in the society. Women were reduced to helpers and servants in some instances. Traditionally, women were domestic workers and their activities were control by men.
The feminist movements oppose the behavior vehemently because it advocates for freedom and equality in society. Through education, women have been able to shape the structure of society. Gender is longer a cause of disagreement instead, people are judged competitively basing on intellectual capacities (Scott and Glenna, 1994, p. 334).
Social contract theory as formulated by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau (1987) is completely incompatible with sexual contract and feminist theories mainly because of patriarchic nature of it.
The social contract discriminates women by relegating them to the subordinate such as associating them with family cores and allocating inferior education to them. The community is a sense of feeling whereby everyone feels satisfied irrespective of gender. It can only be created if every member of society especially men swallow their pride and accept gender equality as the only way of promoting justice.
Ankerl, G. (1980) Toward a Social Contract on a Worldwide Scale, Geneva: ILO.
Astrid, H. (2004) Not my Mother’s sister: Generational Conflict and third-wave feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Carole, P. (1989) The Fraternal Social Contract, The Disorder of Women: Democracy, Feminism and Political Theory, Stanford, Stanford University Press, p. 33-57.
Iris, Y. (1990) The Ideal of Community and the Politics of Difference’, Linda Nicholson (ed), Feminism/Postmodernism, New York: Routledge, p. 300-323.
MacLean, N. (2006) ‘Gender is Powerful: The Long Reach of Feminism”. Magazine of History, Vol. 20. p. 19-23
Massey, D. (1994) A Place Called Home?’ Space, Place and Gender, Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 157-173.
Rousseau, J. (1987) Book I, On The Social Contract, Indianoplis, Hackett, p. 16-29
Scott, J. S. & Glenna, S. (1994) “Housework in Marital and Non-marital Households”, American Sociological Review, 59(3), p. 327-348.