Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Allan Ramsay
The social contract is a concept of political philosophy in which the individual enters into a contract with society, forfeiting total freedom in exchange for the protection and support of the state. The idea is explored in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's
1762 book The Social Contract,
which famously states: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."
Tolstoy was an admirer of Rousseau's philosophy, agreeing with him that the individual in a state of nature will act morally, and society is therefore to blame for humanity's corruption. As a young man Tolstoy wore a medallion of Rousseau around his neck, and towards his death he said that, alongside the Gospels, Rousseau's work was the most important influence on his own thought.