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The social contract

By The Assam Tribune
The social contract
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KARUN LAMA writes on how a democracy, as a political system, was designed to balance social interests among the citizens of a country.


If today, we, as citizens, living in a modern state, are empowered with the right to choose our own leader, or more appropriately, a representative, and are able to entrust him/her to take care of our basic necessities and work for our larger interests, it is because the nation has upheld democratic values and principles. As such, in every modern democracy, citizens are entitled to all those rights and freedoms that are ‘nearly’ unquestionable before the law of Nature. That is why, a state which subscribes to democratic ethos is regarded to follow an ideal and equitable governing form, ever developed in the political evolution of human beings.

However, to really appreciate this great human-political development, we need to dive deep into history, and, at first, learn that it all began against the lawless state of Nature. In such a state of Nature, there was no common authority or government, and hence, when individuals started owning property and exercising their power, there prevailed a sense of insecurity against one another. So, individuals agreed to surrender some of their freedoms to the authority, who, in exchange, ensured the protection of their remaining rights as well as the social order. In this way, the Social Contract Theory, which is said to be as old as philosophy, attempts to evaluate the concept of the state and ignites us with the notion that states came into being as a result of the contract or agreement signed between individuals or societies.

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But, if this contract has to serve its very purpose, the relationship between the rulers and the ruled becomes very crucial. It is behind this context that modern democracy comes to the fore, receiving the highest regard.

The genesis of democracy can be traced to the fifth century BCE in Athens. Now, centuries later, as the world has become globalised, it is democracy and its principles that form the very essence of the world of our times. One can even observe some kind of democratic processes prevailing within a communist regime.

However, we also get to learn about a bunch of influential political philosophers and thinkers of different phases in history who strictly opposed democracy – Socrates and Plato, to name among the pioneers. Different political thinkers have interpreted its concept which shows influences of their time and space.

In 1992, the world celebrated the completion of 2,500 years of democracy. But, like any other process, democracy has also evolved over time. In Athenian democracy, citizens voted for laws directly and not for representatives. Also, not everyone was provided voting rights.

Democracy, in its modern form, started to gain prominence only in the aftermath of World War I. And, it is after World War II that it flourished when the decolonisation process started across the globe. Post-Cold War era, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, democracy, today, dominates the world.

India is no exception. The country has always believed in the spirit of democracy. Arguably, like any other land of prehistoric times, this region was transgressed by early humans who hunted, ate, and wandered in a lawless state of Nature. However, much later, kings and territories gradually came into existence. Later, when the British ruthlessly exploited the ‘Land of the Golden Sparrow’ for years, it took toil, tears, sweat and blood of countless men, women, and children to emerge victorious in the struggle for freedom. Thus, at last, we, Indians finally ratified our own social contract at the stroke of midnight, August 15, 1947.

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