The state of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition that preceded governments. There must have been a time before government, and so the question is how legitimate government could emerge from such a starting position, and what are the hypothetical reasons for entering a state of society by establishing a government.
In some versions of social contract theory, there are no rights in the state of nature, only freedoms, and it is the contract that creates rights and obligations. In other versions the opposite occurs: the contract imposes restrictions upon individuals that curtail their natural rights.
The time-period before the establishment of government, which political philosophers call the "state of nature," however, is regarded in the modern scientific era not only as hypothetical but actual. Societies existing before or without a political state are currently studied in such diverse fields as paleolithic history, archaeology, cultural anthropology, social anthropology, and ethnology, which investigate the social and power-related structures of indigenous and uncontacted peoples living in tribal communities.
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