social contract


: an actual or hypothetical agreement among the members of an organized society or between a community and its ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Weight Watchers employ this type of social contract in some ways to encourage but also as a deterrent to relapse. Ian Hamilton, CBS News, 29 Dec. 2022 Bass is tasked with patching fissures in the social contract in a city rocked by racist remarks uttered by a few City Council members and witnessed by a labor leader in a secret recording revealed in October. Dennis Romero, NBC News, 12 Dec. 2022 The shift strikes at the party’s longstanding social contract with its people. Vivian Wang, New York Times, 4 Dec. 2022 Promises of a year’s paid maternity leave or a subsidized day care spot once a child turns one led many in Germany to start families; when the pandemic stripped the latter away, that may have felt like a breach in the social contract. Courtney Tenz, Harper's BAZAAR, 7 Nov. 2022 Our evolved social contract—to hunt, gather and farm collectively—tied us together, gave us our childhood and extended our golden years. Herman Pontzer, Scientific American, 12 Dec. 2022 In effect, Jiang’s embrace of financial reform was a continuation of Deng’s social contract with the Chinese people: to accept the rule of the party in exchange for getting rich. David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 30 Nov. 2022 That era of prosperity was fundamental for the social contract between the Communist Party and a population whose freedoms have been dramatically curtailed since President Xi Jinping took power 10 years ago. Reuters, NBC News, 30 Nov. 2022 But the policies and programs underpinning our social contract were mostly designed during the 20th century in ways that are proving unsustainable in the 21st century. Paul Ryan, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'social contract.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1660, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of social contract was in 1660

Dictionary Entries Near social contract

Cite this Entry

“Social contract.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Legal Definition

social contract

so·​cial contract
: an actual or hypothetical agreement among individuals forming an organized society or between the community and the ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each

More from Merriam-Webster on social contract

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