Under What Conditions May Social Contracts Arise? Evidence from the Hanseatic League

32 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2010 Last revised: 3 Dec 2010

Alexander Fink

University of Leipzig

Date Written: July 11, 2010

Abstract

Social contractarians commonly take social contracts to be solely hypothetical and refrain from elaborating on the factors that influence the feasibility of the formation of social contracts. In contrast, this paper aims at providing a discussion of the conditions affecting the feasibility of social contracts. I argue that the more aligned the preferences of group members for public goods are, the more the individuals share similar social norms, and the smaller the group is the more feasible a genuine social contract becomes. I provide evidence in support of my contention from the medieval Hanseatic League. At the Hanseatic Kontor in Novgorod, one of the four major trading posts of the Hanseatic League in cities outside of Germany, German merchants agreed to live under the rule of a constitution that gave rise to a political authority for the Kontor society.

Keywords: social contracts, constitutions, Hanseatic League, trading posts, Kontor

JEL Classification: D71, H41, N43

Suggested Citation

Fink, Alexander, Under What Conditions May Social Contracts Arise? Evidence from the Hanseatic League (July 11, 2010). Constitutional Political Economy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1565205

Alexander Fink (Contact Author)

University of Leipzig ( email )

Grimmaische Str. 12
Leipzig, 04109

HOME PAGE: http://www.alexander-fink.com

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