Large-scale collaborations with non-kin are a unique feature of human societies and foundational to human civilization. Individual relationships with collectives can be thought of as "social contracts". This article argues that perceptions of social contract fairness are essential for effective large-scale collaboration and that factors likely to create perceptions of fairness are subject to empirical analysis. Drawing on empirical behavioral and social science literature, the article proposes nine dimensions of social contract fairness. It further proposes that each dimension is distinct, imperfectly substitutable, and universal, although with individual and cultural variations in interpretations and preference weightings. Finally, the article applies the nine dimensions to the breakdown in political collaboration in the U.S. and argues that for large segments of the population, all nine dimensions of social contract fairness were broken during the mid-1970s-2010s. The article concludes with thoughts on social contract repair and further research into perceptions of social contract fairness.


Beinhocker, E. (2022). 'Fair Social Contracts and the Foundations of Large-Scale Collaboration'. INET Oxford Working Paper No. 2022-26.
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