This contribution investigates whether Hegel’s critique of social contract theory is still applicable to contemporary contract theory proposed by, e. g., Rawls and Nozick. At first sight, they seem to have overcome the problems identified by Hegel because Rawls and Nozick appropriate the social contract as something essentially rational and normative (though in different ways). I argue, however, that for Hegel, their appeal to rational argumentation is not compatible with the concreteness of human individuals. A revised reading of the master/ bondsman-relation, emphasizing the role of the “fear of death”, shows the limited scope of contemporary contract theory.
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