John Locke's Social Contract Theory: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 A Contract
  • 0:29 John Locke
  • 2:08 Problems
  • 2:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mark Boster
In order for people to get along in society, we need to follow some rules. John Locke came up with reasons for these rules in society and explained why this is so in his social contract theory.

A Contract

You live at home with certain expectations of what your parents are going to do. It's expected they will keep you safe, feed you, and protect your property. Parents also have certain expectations of you, because you are part of the family. They might expect you to be respectful and responsible, and do as they say. That's a sort of family contract with them, and someone named John Locke came up with a theory that explains where that contract comes from.

John Locke

John Locke was a philosopher who lived in England from 1632-1704, a time when the people of England were at peace and relatively happy. Locke thought that people were basically good and wanted to help others. And he thought people ought to be able to do what they want as long as it didn't conflict with someone else's right to life, liberty (another word for freedom), and property. These ideas make up Locke's social contract theory, in which Locke thought that life, liberty, and property rights come from nature; in other words, they're rights that we're all born with.

But, he imagined that a long time ago there was a problem with this. Sometimes two people didn't agree, and there was nothing to do about it. There were no courts, judges, or lawmakers. In other words, nobody was really in charge, so arguments could go on forever over who owned what and what people were free to do. This is why, Locke believed, people came up with the idea of some sort of government. A king, a queen, a czar, a president, or some group could take charge.

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