The hypothesis guiding this research is as follows: these tensions stem from promises and agreements that are unfulfilled for a significant part of the population. We are talking here about longterm promises and deals, anchored in our social model and our democracy, and structuring dynamics between social groups, the life paths of individuals and their relationship with society. These promises and arrangements are not written down anywhere, and no short-term political proposal can fully respond to them, as they are intertwined in a larger scheme. We therefore think it is crucial that these promises are fully revealed. This report aims to build a framework to comprehensively account for and explain these promises and arrangements, and to mobilize this framework to describe the past trajectory up to today. Analyzing the evolution of these promises over time should help us understand that they are not immutable and identify the conditions for change.


Saujot, M., Bet, M., Abdallah, S., Bengtsson, M., Rogers, C. (2024). Towards a 21st Century Social Contract – How did we get here? A short history of 19th and 20th century social contracts in France and the UK. IDDRI & Hot or Cool, June 2024.

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The contribution and originality of our approach is:

  • 1. to provide a historical and empirical approach to anchor reflection on the future social contract in an understanding of its past evolution and current perceptions, with a firm focus on two countries (France and the UK). [...] This historical framework will also highlight the alternative narratives and the diversity of pact proposals that have emerged at different times in history but have failed to take hold. [...] Future stages of the project will involve empirical work to better connect with the reality of citizens (interviews, focus groups, indicator dashboard) and a translation into the field of participatory democracy.
  • 2. to mobilize this notion from the perspective of environmental policies, notably in relation to lifestyles [...] (food, transport, housing, etc.), as it enables us to fully grasp the issues and make progress in identifying the conditions for change, [and] allows the individual scale to be illuminated by the collective scale, and for connections between the two to be made.
  • 3. and thus to broaden the use of the social contract concept. In the above-mentioned studies, the main focus is the democratic and economic dimensions, and we think it is also crucial to introduce the question of consumption, which has become so central to our societies; and that of security (and solidarity), which is very present in the historical notion of the social contract and which is crucial in a time of ecological crisis.
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