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From Foundation to Dissolution: Rethinking the Social Contract Tradition

From Foundation to Dissolution: Rethinking the Social Contract Tradition

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Title: From Foundation to Dissolution: Rethinking the Social Contract Tradition
Author: Follert, Michael Walter
Abstract: The early modern intellectual tradition of the social contract introduces a problematic of the will to the socio-political realm. With power’s institutionalization no longer shrouded by an earlier religious imaginary, the social contract thinkers attempt to explain how civil society and the state legitimately and originally come into being. However, in doing so they produce a series of excesses. This work traces those excesses from the modern natural law lineage of Hobbes and Locke through the Enlightenment with Rousseau and Kant. It is in the crisis of society confronting the mystery of its self-institution that the excesses of the social and the political come into view. Rather than society being rendered present through the mediations of a divine will, the social contract stages society’s foundation as an act of collective human will. Society is ‘discovered’ in this intellectual tradition as self-instituting, but its discovery is only partial. In submitting the social and the political to a kind of deliberate construction, the social contract in Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau operates through an ‘artificialist imaginary’. As well, being part of the staging of society’s self-institution, the social contract contributes to the disarticulation of the social from the political. The social begins to come into view as a realm of intelligibility unto itself, historically, at this point. Yet its intelligibility remains subsumed by the ostensible transparency of the will, or in Kant, as an ultimate impasse to pure practical reason. The social must be found by reading between-the-lines of the works of these thinkers. This is because the social stands as an excess that the logic of the social contract cannot contain. There are multiple figures of the social that begin to reveal themselves here: the social as obligation, as sociability, and even as an uncontrollable ‘monstrosity’. Rather than a ballast for the political, the social primarily resists, residually or intractably, the immediate expressions of the political will. These excesses come most fully into view when the contract confronts its dissolution – an act that, by dint of its ‘foundability’, the contract must legitimate at a certain limit point.
Subject: Sociology
Political Science
Keywords: Social contract
State of nature
The social
Suicide of the state
Discovery of society
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/30040
Supervisor: Singer, Brian C. J.
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Sociology
Exam date: 2015-03-27
Publish on: 2015-08-28

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