Student Reader

Social Contract

The social contract is the voluntary sacrifice of freedom in exchange for order. Participation in the democratic process constitutes a renewal of the social contract. Under non-democratic regimes, citizens are unable to renew the social contract and the government loses legitimacy. Another factor is authority, which is the power of the government to enforce its decisions and compel obedience. Based on type of authority, there are three types of government or political systems:

Authority Description
Totaliarian Government controls all aspects of life. Governments have unlimited power and determine who winners and losers are. An example is Nazi Germany. Authority: Yes. Legitimacy: No.
Democracy Government controlled by the governed. Governments influence who the winners and losers are. Individuals possess rights that the government cannot take away. Examples are the US, Britain and France. Authority: Yes. Legitimacy: Yes.
Authoritarian Governments strongly influence who winners and losers are. Although dominant in their own sphere, other power bases exist in society. An example is Poland before the collapse of Soviet Union.
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