CFP: Renewing the Social Contract: The Challenge of Inclusivity and Democratic Government in Social Contract Theory

Submission deadline: September 15, 2024

Conference date(s):
December 18, 2024 - December 19, 2024

Go to the conference's page

This event is available both online and in-person

Conference Venue:

Center for Critical Democracy Studies , American University of Paris
Paris, France

Topic areas


Social contract approaches seek to explain the origins of political obligations but are also recognized as tools of social change. Social contract theory “provides a test for distinguishing what is fair from what is oppressive, for distinguishing choice from subordination, and for exposing adaptive/deformed preferences […] and also as a practical tool to spur individual and social action” (Walsh). In the face of classic social contract philosophers, who maintained that normative legitimacy may be grounded in hypothetical agreement, recent accusations of exclusivity and anthropocentrism have challenged contract theories’ relevance. And yet, in spite of these challenges, contract theories have experienced a resurgence. According to Albert Weale, these revised theories use new approaches to the concepts of diversity and power dynamics and novel interpretations of justificatory frameworks.

First, critiques by scholars like Mill and Pateman highlight how the logic of the social contract may reflect systems of racial or gender domination. Are such ill-conceived social contracts that perpetuate inherent bias redeemable? Secondly, even democratic regimes are increasingly threatened by political stratification, alienation of minorities, and crises of trust in government institutions. Can social contract theories cope with social polarization and radical disagreement? Can they accommodate partial or complete renegotiation? Finally, growing acknowledgment of transnational and global problems such as the environmental crisis is transforming the landscape of political discourse and bringing new emphasis on the role of administrative intervention and regulatory power to preserve democracy. Can new obligations and regulatory frameworks be incorporated into the social contract framework? These issues have brought forward a series of multifaced challenges and pushed many to reconsider (and even propose to jettison) the idea of the social contract.

This conference seeks to engage with this second wave of theories and reflect on the challenges of inclusivity and democratic government within contract theory from an interdisciplinary perspective. How should contract theory be amended in the context of contemporary transformations of democracy? How can we develop alternative theories considering the need for gradual transformation to consider contestation? How can social contracts be thought of as resilient?

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies at the American University of Paris invites researchers in the fields of political theory, philosophy, law, history, economy, and other social sciences to submit abstracts on the theme of the conference conceived broadly.

Suggested topics:

  • Democratic social contract
  • Governance, administration, and social contract
  • Anthropological or sociological perspectives on the social contract
  • Can social contract theories be of relevance for the contemporary world?
  • Can social contracts be continuous?
  • How should we define the empirical basis of social contract theories?
  • Social contract theories after Rawls
  • Resilience, robustness, and social contract
  • Feminist and postcolonial social contract theories
  • Social contract theories and social justice
  • Ecological social contract theories
  • Constitutional manifestations of the social contract

The conference languages are English and French. Proposals in English or French must include an abstract of no more than 400 words and a short narrative CV of no more than 250 words. Please submit all materials via this form by September 15, 2024. We will review the submissions and notify applicants by September 30, 2024.

Participation and attendance are free, but the organization cannot cover accommodation or travel expenses.

Organization: Stephen Sawyer, Roman Zinigrad, Nathanaël Colin-Jaeger.

Inquiries: [email protected]

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)


Custom tags:

#social contract , #Constitution, #Democracy , #Government, #Governance, #Resilience