The Racial Contract

The Racial Contract

Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Racial Contract
    Book Description:

    The Racial Contract puts classic Western social contract theory, deadpan, to extraordinary radical use. With a sweeping look at the European expansionism and racism of the last five hundred years, Charles W. Mills demonstrates how this peculiar and unacknowledged "contract" has shaped a system of global European domination: how it brings into existence "whites" and "non-whites," full persons and sub-persons, how it influences white moral theory and moral psychology; and how this system is imposed on non-whites through ideological conditioning and violence. The Racial Contract argues that the society we live in is a continuing white supremacist state.

    Holding up a mirror to mainstream philosophy, this provocative book explains the evolving outline of the racial contract from the time of the New World conquest and subsequent colonialism to the written slavery contract, to the "separate but equal" system of segregation in the twentieth-century United States. According to Mills, the contract has provided the theoretical architecture justifying an entire history of European atrocity against non-whites, from David Hume's and Immanuel Kant's claims that blacks had inferior cognitive power, to the Holocaust, to the kind of imperialism in Asia that was demonstrated by the Vietnam War.

    Mills suggests that the ghettoization of philosophical work on race is no accident. This work challenges the assumption that mainstream theory is itself raceless. Just as feminist theory has revealed orthodox political philosophy's invisible white male bias, Mills's explication of the racial contract exposes its racial underpinnings.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7135-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    C. W. M.
    (pp. 1-8)

    White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. You will not find this term in introductory, or even advanced, texts in political theory. A standard undergraduate philosophy course will start off with Plato and Aristotle, perhaps say something about Augustine, Aquinas, and Machiavelli, move on to Hobbes, Locke, Mill, and Marx, and then wind up with Rawls and Nozick. It will introduce you to notions of aristocracy, democracy, absolutism, liberalism, representative government, socialism, welfare capitalism, and libertarianism. But though it covers more than two thousand years of Western political thought and...

    (pp. 9-40)

    I will start with an overview of the Racial Contract, highlighting its differences from, as well as its similarities to, the classical and contemporary social contract. The Racial Contract is political, moral, and epistemological; the Racial Contract is real; and economically, in determining who gets what, the Racial Contract is an exploitation contract.

    The “social contract” is actually several contracts in one. Contemporary contractarians usually distinguish, to begin with, between thepoliticalcontract and themoralcontract, before going on to make (subsidiary) distinctions within both. I contend, however, that the orthodox social contract also tacitly presupposes an “epistemological” contract,...

  6. 2 DETAILS
    (pp. 41-90)

    So that gives us the overview. Let us now move to a closer examination of the details and workings of the Racial Contract: its norming of space and the (sub) person, its relation to the “official” social contract, and the terms of its enforcement.

    Neither space nor the individual is usually an object of explicit and detailed norming for the mainstream social contract. Space is justthere,taken for granted, and the individual is ta citly posited as the white adult male, so that all individuals are obviously equal. But for the Racial Contract, space itself and the individuals therein...

    (pp. 91-134)

    Finally, I want to point out the merits of this model as a “naturalized” account of the actual historical record, one which has explanatory as well as normative aspirations. Arguably, we are in a better position tobring aboutthe (supposedly) desired political ideals if we can identify and explain the obstacles to their realization. In tracking the actual moral consciousness of most white agents, in depicting the actual political realities nonwhites have always recognized, the theory of the “Racial Contract” shows its superiority to the ostensibly abstract and general, but actually “white,” social contract.

    Moral theory, being a branch...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 135-162)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 163-172)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 173-174)