Does one need to consent to a social contract? It seems that they are something
Thanks for this question. I'm not an expert in this field but I noticed no one has answered this yet. I will attempt a preliminary answer for you. There are a couple (at least) different kinds of "contract" theories out there. Without going into too much about the varieties, just to give you an idea of how complex this issue is, I'll mention two somewhat specific examples. First, consider Hobbes. His work Leviathan contains a classic formulation of contract theory. In it, he offers three hints at an answer to your question. First, he argues that contracts that you enter into by force are legitimate. So, for example, if someone holds a gun to your head and will shoot you unless you agree to a contract, that's still a valid contract (if you agree to it). You might think that this is a case in which no consent was given. The person agrees, but only because the person was forced or coerced. If that's right, then the answer to your question, on this view, is "no, consent is not required." Another idea in Hobbes is tacit consent. This is explored in more detail, for example, in Kavka's very helpful book on Hobbesian moral theory. The idea is that, by reaping the benefits of our society (resources, security, etc), by following laws, by voting and participating, etc., you are tacitly consenting to the contract. So although you never explicitly say "I agree," you have consented simply by living here and playing along. In that case, the answer to your question is "yes" but it is very easy to count as having consented. Finally, there is inherited consent (though this is tricky in various ways). Hobbes thinks that when you are a child the parent is your sovereign. Suppose your parent has consented to be bound to the ruler, a higher sovereign. Then you are, as a result, also under that sovereign in the contract that your parents effectively made for you. Hobbes thinks that this chain could go back all the way to Adam and Eve, since their child was under their sovereignty. So as long as someone at some point in your lineage agreed to a contract and that contract has not been nullified, you're under it to. In that case, your consent is not needed any more than your being under the power of your parents requires consent.
Those are a few of ideas from Hobbes. A more contemporary contract theory is that of John Rawls. The idea there is that the just arrangement is determined, not by what people actually happen to agree to, but by what rational people *would* or *should* agree to under certain conditions (the conditions include that each person is ignorant of his or her own position in society...this takes a while to explain and there are many complexities and difficulties here). So, the question there may seem to be whether you should, as a rational person, consent, not whether you actually do consent. However, it could be argued that the rational thing to consent to is a system of laws that does not bind people to a contract unless they've explicitly consented. So, in that case, contracts do require actual consent afterall! We've now arrived at some complicated stuff that I will leave to the experts to explain...I hope that at least helps in getting started thinking about consent in contract theories.