HORIZON EUROPE FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME┋Democratic governance for times of disruptive changes to the social contract



Expected Outcome

Projects should contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Better understanding of ways to account for the need for evaluation and changes in the social contracts in the EU Member States countries through theoretical, philosophical, political, historical, legal, normative and comparative studies, amongst others.
  • Investigate and propose safeguards and mechanisms that need to be in place in those circumstances when questioning the very foundations of the social contract.
  • Scenarios for how new social contracts in EU Member States could look like or approaches for how to develop the narratives for new social contracts, accounting for the fact of the EU membership and the rights and duties that go with it.


A social contract is the intellectual construct referring to the agreement between members of a society, community, or organisation that spells out the obligations, functions, and rights of each citizen agreeing to the contract. The classic concept of social contract also implies the notion of the individual renunciation of some freedoms, in exchange for core public goods, including the right to democratic participation and the protection that societal life can offer. When the social contract fails to uphold its end of the bargain and leaves its citizens disappointed, there is a risk of social unrest and political instability. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed social and economic inequalities, leading to calls for a new social contract at national, EU and global levels based on inclusivity, participation and sustainability. Such calls may include requests for new articulations of the basic justifications, functions, rights and duties of democratic societies and their citizens likewise.

Some societies flourish while others struggle to maintain the social fabric, hardly avoiding the breakdown of their social contracts. Certain forms or configurations of the social contract appear more successful than others, and not necessarily because of their immutability or endurance. Instead, flexibility, adaptability, trust and resilience seem to be factors of success, in particular vis-à-vis external shocks or disruptive forces (a pandemic, abrupt technological changes, wars…). Such disruptions may hit a pre-exiting equilibrium, bringing to the light dimensions unforeseen by the existing social contract and putting it under stress. In such situations, the social contract could withstand, in the case of better prepared societies, and continue delivering after necessary adaptations, or alternatively could break up, not resisting the pressure, and open the door to the establishment of a new contract through some dramatic or arduous exercise.

In order to identify the factors that drive, or contribute to, the social success of certain societies and their social contract models, proposals are invited to use narrative approaches (historical, legal, anthropological methods and analysis) or data-driven / computer-based approaches, or mixed approaches. In terms of the geographical scope of the research, proposals should focus on EU and/or Member States societies, while international cooperation allowing comparative perspectives in view of extrapolations relevant to EU policies is also encouraged.

Clustering and cooperation with other selected projects under this topic and other relevant projects are strongly encouraged.

Application date
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology, Philosophy, Theology and religion
Social sciences : Demography, Law, Geography, International Relations, Political science, Sociology