Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Social Contract in Albania

On January 21, three Albanian citizens were killed while participating in a violent demonstration against the corruption and election fraud committed by the current Socialist Party. The threee protestors were killed by members of the Republican Guard who were attempting to repel their armed attacks.

These tragic deaths have lead to several officials battling over whether or not the officers involved in this incident should be arrested. At the center of the debate over responsibility are Albania's general prosecutor, Ina Rama, and its Prime Minister, Sali Berisha. Currently, Rama is calling for the arrest of six officers involved in the incident, but Berisha has insisted that these arrests should not take place. According to reports, the officers only fired into the crowd with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons, so the deaths do not appear to be intentional. However, there is debate over whether or not they are an acceptable side effect of this exchange.

It is clear that the events that occurred on that day were quite tragic, but both sides were quite uderstandable in their actions. From the perspective of the protestors, something must be done about the corrupt regime that is in power. Unfortunately, violent prtoest is distincly outside of what we would normally consider just under the social contracts that we have in place. While it is not the case that all societies possess the same social contract, it seems that all societies do have some version of a contract that applies to most, if not all, of their members. Does corruption of the powerful positions created under these social contracts ultimately break the contracts and free the citizens who were once bound by them? If so, are those who remain in seats of power during times of corruption still bound by these contracts and who is responsible for enforcing them upon those powerful individuals who generally remain untouchable by the public? Are government officials bound by the contracts any more or less than the average person during times of content and peace?


  1. Perry, this is a very fascinating story and I’m glad you covered this event. Having just talking about social contracts in class, I love that you tied that concept into a recent event. At the end of your article you asked, “if corruption of the powerful positions created under social contracts ultimately break the contracts and free the citizens who were once bound by them,” and I believe that, that may indeed be the case. If people in power are corrupted and misleading and hurting the people they were once bound to protect it would seem that the social contract would be broken. (Correct me if I’m wrong, or if you disagree). I think that your next question is interesting as well because it is difficult to say who is responsible for enforcing these social contracts on the corrupt power figures. I can not have an answer for that but I do believe that government officials are bound more than the average person to the contracts during times of content and peace because I believe that they are still role models to the people they serve or represent.

  2. I really liked your positing of what happens when the social contract has been violated. In class so far we have only discussed the contract in positive terms and I hadn't even considered evaluating what the results of it going awry might be. Even still, being into philosophy, of course I can form an arrogant opinion on it, so here goes: a violation of the social contract does not necessarily invalidate the entire thing on both or either side, just like infidelity does not necessarily invalidate a marriage license. Granted it can, but both parties must at least be informed, then the natural steps may follow. The issue arises in that this contract is not between equals and therefore its violation by the stronger party is judicially inconsequential if the dominant half wishes it so.

  3. The social contract, from my understanding, is a rational agreement between government and governed so that justice my be preserved. If the government violates this contract by not serving the interests of its constituents, the citizenry is under obligation to reform it.
    But not all governments are democracies instituted for the people, and even those that claim to be often are not. If a government does not come into power based on popular consensus or the will of the people, then is it appropriate to say both parties entered into a social contract? It seems rather that the individuals entering into power often do so without binding themselves to any sort of social contract with the people. The only force binding a government to uphold its end of a social contract is in fact the brute force of the people.
    So while the social contract theoretically invites a government under the will of the people, it really only ensures that people my revolt against a crappy government, and as we have seen, governments more often then not have no qualms against squashing such outcries.

  4. I agree with Cole's point that, "if the government violates this contract by not serving the interests of its constituents, the citizenry is under obligation to reform it." This is exactly what our reading on John Locke described. The social contract, according to Locke, is a partial and voluntary transference of power. When the government fails to protect the people in some way, it is completely acceptable for them to overturn it. I agree with Locke in this sense, and this ties directly into the thoughts many including myself have been having on the recent struggles in Egypt. I think that controversy directly relates to this one, and it is interesting that multiple examples of this kind of challenge to authority are happening right now.

  5. This post reminds me of a crucial section in the Declaration of Independence: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." If current members of the Albanian government cannot maintain peace within the country (and are responsible for the deaths of any number of citizens), they should be replaced with individuals who are capable of providing stability and security. Although the protest became violent, the citizens have the right to voice their opinions in the public forum. Ultimately, the government should be responsible for the safety of all participants and must be held reliable for these actions.


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