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The Racial Contract Essay

It also adds the element of the moral fabric for a particular re-reading of this social contract and what moral consequences are attached to this re-reading process. Mills highlights these points by suggesting that the goal of the racial contract must have a descriptive component, as well as a normative function ibid.

The narrative of a social contract stands firmly on the side of the victor. This understanding links directly to our historical and contemporary racial discourse. All whites are beneficiaries of the Contract, though some whites are not signatories to it. By inserting the concept of a racial contract as his key theoretical premise, Mills makes a compelling case for the explanatory power that race continues to hold for how our modern world operates. It is also from this vantage point that current debates about reparations for African Americans can be initiated and debated. The premise of this narrative has always been deeply flawed.

There was never a simple dichotomy between those that lived in a state of nature and those that moved into a social contract. The reality is that the state of nature was the normal state of human affairs for at least 99 percent of the time that humans have been on earth.

This perspective immediately calls into question what is so appalling about 99 percent of our time on earth that a dramatic change in lifestyle was needed. The other key point is the notion that 99 percent of human history was based on a nomadic lifestyle and a social organization premised on family and extended family life units. This state of nature lifestyle was also dependent on a social contact, if for no other reason than mere survival. It was not possible to confront and successfully maneuver through the ecological and environmental conditions of that period without the implementation of tightly knit groups of humans working in concert.

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The daily challenges of finding food and maintaining shelter were embraced by these small clan units out of necessity for survival. In particular, Mills ibid. The establishment of society thus implies denial that a society already existed; the creation of society requires the intervention of white men, who are thereby positioned as already sociopolitical beings. What is significant for the social contract is not a generic transformation from state of nature to the social contract existence, but the specific story of European development.

The nomadic and small family-unit existence that is paramount for human history still exists in parts of the western as well as the non-western worlds. These people are not, then, in a state of nature simply waiting to be delivered to a social contract existence. The salient point that Mills illustrates is that, to the extent that the existence of a social contract must rely on a movement from a state of nature to undergird its value and significance, this understanding of human history runs counter to the one based on anthropological knowledge of human history.

Much of what the historical truisms that are claimed by the advancement a social contract narrative posits can easily be refuted from the standpoint of how groups of people, such as indigenous groups in North and South America, survived on a daily basis.

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In particular, Mills states:. What is right and wrong, just an unjust, in society will largely be determined by what is right and wrong, just and unjust, in the state of nature. Mills turns the question of morality on its head by claiming there would be no tangible differences in a state of nature or social contract society and this highlights the limited explanatory power of the western philosophical tradition.

To buttress these observations Mills references multiple historical examples including genocide, slavery and de jure racism.

Understanding Apartheid in South Africa through the Racial Contract

This raises questions about how societies can produce a healthy moral structure and simultaneously develop just and moral traditions. The presentation of a traditional social contract-grounded perspective which suggests the only path towards social, moral, political and economic development is through a western-influenced perspective invariably leads to a Eurocentric bias through a very limited filter.

Charles W. Mills - The Racial Contract (1997) AUDIOBOOK

This approach also misses the way in which morality and moral judgments are produced and navigated on a daily basis. To address this point, the next section considers a contemporary moral dilemma as seen through the filter of how race and racism operate today. It is also a story that was very predictable and closely follows the lines of analysis that so many current and past Black scholars and activists have posited.

Mills is no exception to this larger body of critical race work.

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There are areas of significance that his racial contract perspective highlights and his specific use of a racial contract lens provides important openings into the larger canon of western philosophy. In describing the way in which space is dominated by race, Mills ibid. Given the fact that Zimmerman admitted to killing Martin and that he believed Martin to be a potential criminal, he was closely following the racial codes for security and domination of space that Mills has described. This was why Zimmerman could ignore unambiguous directions from the operator to cease and desist his pursuit of Martin and why he was anxious for authorities to assume control over the crime scene immediately after the shooting.

By the same racial token, if Martin had just not worn a menacing hoody and had he appeared less uppity, he could have safely traveled through that White gated space.

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It is significant to note that when these bodies come into tension, even lethal tension, there is a very predictable script of White domination and supremacy that is presented within a public setting. It is first assumed that the Black body is in the wrong space e. The shooting deaths of young Black men in Florida, and all over the US, and the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused have never been dependent on laws that are passed, observed and enforced.

A classic statement of the slavery contract is the Dred Scott V. Sanford U. Supreme Court decision of Chief Justice Roger Taney, which stated that blacks had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. This allows one to connect the dots between not just how race functions on a personal level and in a public space, but how race operates in a historical frame and has been sanctioned and given legitimacy by the highest courts of the land.

The way in which this point is then reinforced on a daily basis adds credence to the existence of a racial contract. This racial script is unfortunately played out daily in the US and it results in the, at best, mistreatment or, at worst, death of young men of color on an all-too-frequent basis. Mills addresses the way in which this narrative is tied into the very fabric of our society. In other words, it is possible to get away with doing things to subpersons that one could not do to persons, because they do not have the same rights as person.

The Racial Contract, by Charles Mills | Mises Institute

Insofar as racism is addressed at all within mainstream moral and political philosophy it is usually treated in a footnote as regrettable deviation from the ideal. This means the way that we learn about moral and political philosophy has a direct connection to the racial script we abide by. The tragic end that Martin confronted as a just-turned year-old Black male in our society was not only predictable, it was preventable.

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.

Product details Format Paperback pages Dimensions x x 11mm Table of contents Introduction1. Details The Racial Contract norms and races space The Racial Contract norms and races the individual The Racial Contract underwrites the modern social contract The Racial Contract has to be enforced through violence and ideological conditioning3. Review quote "The Racial Contract is an excellent book It is a testament to Mills's expertise as a philosopher, a scholar, and a downright intelligent writer that he has managed to pull off so comprehensive, informative, and persuasive a work in an elegant pages excluding notes He achieves this explanation through some of the clearest prose I have encountered in recent philosophical literature.

Mills turns our attention to the racial domination and exploitation that have been equally pervasive features of the history of liberalism A major contribution. Mill's racial contract thesis is so convincing that one wonders why it hasn't been explored until now in the precincts of mainstream political philosophy. But that's his point.

The racial contract's effectiveness lies in its very invisibility. Cornell Paperbacks. BarOn, Bat-Ami Social Theory and Practice. Johnson, Edward McCarthy, Thomas Steinberg, Stephen American Journal of Sociology. Valls, Andrew The American Political Science Review. Young, Alfred A.

Contemporary Sociology. Categories : Political philosophy literature books Books published by university presses.