Gleaning the social contract theory from African communitarian philosophy

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 36, issue 4, 2017 , pages: 505–515
DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2017.1359470
Author(s): Munamato ChemhuruDepartment of Philosophy, South Africa


The social contract is one of the most influential political theories in Western philosophy. Although the social contract theory is mainly associated with a number of thinkers in the broad history of social and political philosophy, I am particularly focused on the social contract theory proffered by two British philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. While the social contract theory has mainly been influenced by these British philosophers, little has been done in terms of appraising its key normative ideas from non-Western philosophical traditions. In this article, I examine how the social contract theory might be understood differently from a non-Western perspective, if values salient in African communitarian philosophy are properly understood. As I attempt to establish how the African social contract theory can be gleaned from African communitarian philosophy, I make comparisons and contrasts between the social contract theory in the African tradition and the traditional social contract theory in Western philosophy. I intend to make a novel interpretation of the ideals of the former that are implicit in the African communitarian structure. I seek to provide reasons why the African communitarian structure could be taken as the normative basis for a plausible social contract theory in the African social and political context.

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