This theory originated during the Age of Enlightenment that typically addressed the questions of the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. It focussed on "man" as a rational being who has rights no matter what position he holds in society. It states that people will come together and sign up to a social contract whereby a formalized government will be the logical outcome to keep the chaos in check.
Thomas Hobbes -(1651)an English philosopher through his book Leviathan written during the English Civil War stated that in order to avoid chaos, people must accede to a social contract and establish a civil society.He stated that the protector's sovereign power derives from individuals' surrendering their own sovereign power for protection.
John Locke- English philosopher who authored 'Second Treatise of Government' (1689)stated that state of nature is not that of any disturbance or commotion. He stated that persons in a state of nature would willingly come together to form a state. People in a state of nature would be bound morally, by the Law of Nature, not to harm each other in their lives or possessions, but without government to defend them against those seeking to injure or enslave them, people would have no security in their rights and would live in fear. Locke argued that individuals would agree to form a state that would provide a "neutral judge", acting to defend the lives, liberty, and property of those who lived within it
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French Philosopher, in his anthology 'The Social Contract' 1762 stated "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” The state of nature was a primitive condition without law or morality, which human beings left for the benefits and necessity of cooperation. As society developed, the division of labour and private property required the human race to adopt institutions of law thereby pressure threatens both his survival and his freedom. To avoid this, general will is significant where people will have final authority and state is contributory to the collective interest. This theory implied a proscription against despotism. Moreover, government is only legitimate insofar as it is subordinated to popular sovereignty.
Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)- Man by nature is peace loving and desires to live according to dictates of reason, “law as immutable which cannot be changed by God himself” because it is based on the nature of man and his urge to live and live peacefully. The Divine law is predecessor. Then comes the natural law and positive laws are final descendants, so natural law is higher than positive law.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)- The principle of Innate Relationship states “an action is right only if it co-exists with each and every man’s free will according to the universal law”. The sole function of state is to ensure observance of law. According to him, basis of social contract was reason. Human right of self-determination is when a man to act in such a way that he is guided by dictates of his own conscience. Autonomy of the will is an action emanating from reason but it does not mean the freedom to do as one pleases.