The Social Contract. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Glossary agreement: The item that Rousseau calls a convention is an event, whereas what we call 'conventions' . Page 1 of 7 What is Social Contract Theory? The concept of social contract theory is that in the beginning man lived in the state of nature. They had no. PDF | This paper provides a small summary of Social Contract Theory by Hobbes , Locke and Rousseau. It discusses what is the social contract.
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Part I. ○ Rousseau‟s life and works. ➢ Part II. ○ The Discourses – Critique of society and civilization. ➢ Part III. ○ The Social Contract. Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. Social contract theory raises the possibility that the need for social order and certain That is, we find it most advantageous to form a social contract to base our.
Rousseau highlights the rationale for cooperation but does not address implementation issues as such. One type of contract has a number of elements in common with the social contract, namely the "framework convention" convention-cadre or accord-cadre. Increasingly, therefore, the public health literature uses the term social contract in the study of framework conventions or other broad agreements.
In reviewing the reform of the primary health care strategy in New Zealand, Howell refers to new agencies, primary health organizations, that receive funding for primary health care, coordinate delivery of care and manage service delivery contracts. Howell states that these organizations form a new actor together with taxpayers, patients and government "in the social contract for overseeing the purchase and delivery of subsidized health care".
Nevertheless, this publication was very early to show the rationale for cooperation among actors and to indicate the overall net benefits; practitioners and researchers of contracting can hardly be indifferent to this salient feature of the 18th-century social contract. Rousseau died in His work continues to attract the interest of social scientists, and new interpretations of the social contract are being developed, such as in game theory.
References 1. Rousseau J-J. Le contrat social, essai de philosophie politique. Amsterdam: Chez Marc Michel Rey; The social contract, or principles of political right [English translation]. London: Penguin Books; Book I, Chapter 6.
Social contract theory. In: The Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Perrot J. Different approaches to contracting in health systems. This theory was, we have seen, a commonplace.
The amount of historical authenticity assigned to the contract almost universally presupposed varied enormously. It was, therefore, almost inevitable that Rousseau should cast his theory into the contractual form.
There were, indeed, writers of his time who laughed at the contract, but they were not writers who constructed a general system of political philosophy.
From Cromwell to Montesquieu and Bentham, it was the practically minded man, impatient of unactual hypotheses, who refused to accept the idea of contract. But we, criticising them in the light of later events, are in a better position for estimating the position the Social Contract really took in their political system. Rousseau, on the other hand, bases no vital argument on the historical nature of the contract, in which, indeed, he clearly does not believe.
He clearly means by it no more and no less than the fundamental principle of political association, the basis of the unity which enables us, in the State, to realise political liberty by giving Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] up lawlessness and license.
The presentation of this doctrine in the quasi-historical form of the Social Contract theory is due to the accident of the time and place in which Rousseau wrote.
At the same time, the importance of the conception is best to be seen in the hard death it dies. Though no-one, for a hundred years or so, has thought of regarding it as historical, it has been found so hard to secure any other phrase explaining as well or better the basis of political union that, to this day, the phraseology of the contract theory largely persists.
A conception so vital cannot have been barren. When he is thinking quasi-historically, he describes his doctrine as that of the Social Contract. Modern anthropology, in its attempts to explain the complex by means of the simple, often strays further from the straight paths of history and reason.
In a semi-legal aspect, using the terminology, if not the standpoint, of jurisprudence, he restates the same doctrine in the form of popular Sovereignty.
This use tends continually to pass over into the more philosophical form which comes third. Sovereignty is, first and foremost, a legal term, and it has often been held that its use in political philosophy merely leads to confusion. We have only to seek out the determinate human superior in a given society, and we shall have the Sovereign. In answer to this theory, it is not enough, though it is a valuable point, to show that such a determinate superior is rarely to be found.
Where, for instance, is the Sovereign of England or of the British Empire? Is it the King, who is called the Edition: current; Page: [xxv] Sovereign? Or is it the electorate, or the whole mass of the population, with or without the right of voting? Clearly all these exercise a certain influence in the making of laws. Or finally, is it now the Cabinet? For Austin, one of these bodies would be ruled out as indeterminate the mass of the population and another as responsible the Cabinet.
But are we to regard the House of Commons or those who elect it as forming part of the Sovereign? The search for a determinate Sovereign may be a valuable legal conception; but it has evidently nothing to do with political theory. It is, therefore, essential to distinguish between the legal Sovereign of jurisprudence, and the political Sovereign of political science and philosophy.
Even so, it does not at once become clear what this political Sovereign may be. Is it the body or bodies of persons in whom political power in a State actually resides?
Is it merely the complex of actual institutions regarded as embodying the will of the society? This would leave us still in the realm of mere fact, outside both right and philosophy.
The Sovereign, in the philosophical sense, is neither the nominal Sovereign, nor the legal Sovereign, nor the political Sovereign of fact and common sense: it is the consequence of the fundamental bond of union, the restatement of the doctrine of Social Contract, the foreshadowing of that of General Will. The Sovereign is that body in the State in which political power ought always to reside, and in which the right to such power does always reside.
The idea at the back of the philosophical conception of Sovereignty is, therefore, essentially the same as that we found to underlie the Social Contract theory.
It is the view that the people, whether it can alienate its right or not, is the ultimate director of its own destinies, the final power from which there is no appeal. The difference between Hobbes and Rousseau on this point is solely that Rousseau regards as inalienable a supreme power which Hobbes makes the people alienate in its first corporate action. That is to say, Hobbes in fact accepts the theory of popular supremacy in name only to destroy it in fact; Rousseau Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] asserts the theory in its only logical form, and is under no temptation to evade it by means of false historical assumptions.
In its passage the view has fallen into its place in a complete system of political philosophy. In a second important respect Rousseau differentiates himself from Hobbes. For Hobbes, the Sovereign is identical with the government. For Rousseau, they are so clearly distinct that even a completely democratic government is not at the same time the Sovereign; its members are sovereign only in a different capacity and as a different corporate body, just as two different societies may exist for different purposes with exactly the same members.
Pure democracy, however, the government of the State by all the people in every detail, is not, as Rousseau says, a possible human institution.
All governments are really mixed in character; and what we call a democracy is only a more or less democratic government. Government, therefore, will always be to some extent in the hands of selected persons. Sovereignty, on the other hand, is in his view absolute, inalienable, indivisible, and indestructible.
It cannot be limited, abandoned, shared or destroyed. It is an essential part of all social life that the right to control the destinies of the State belongs in the last resort to the whole people. There clearly must in the end be somewhere in the society an ultimate court of appeal, whether determinate or not; but, unless Sovereignty is distinguished from government, the government, passing under the name of Sovereign, will inevitably be regarded as absolute.
The only way to avoid the conclusions of Hobbes is, therefore, to establish a clear separation between them. He substitutes for the co-ordination of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial authorities, a system in which the legislative power, or Sovereign, is always supreme, the executive, or government, always secondary and derivative, and the judicial power merely a function of government.
This division he makes, naturally, one of will and power. The government is merely to carry out the decrees, or acts of will, of the Sovereign people. Just as the human will transfers a command to its members for execution, so the body politic may give its decisions force by setting up authority which, like the brain, may command its members. In delegating the power necessary for the execution of its will, it is abandoning none of its supreme authority.
It remains Sovereign, and can at any moment recall the grants it has made. Here, we are concerned rather with its limitations. The distinction between legislative and executive functions is in practice very hard to draw. The legislative power, the Sovereign, is concerned only with what is general, the executive only with what is particular. This distinction, the full force of which can only be seen in connection with the General Will, means roughly that a matter is general when it concerns the whole community equally, and makes no mention of any particular class; as soon as it refers to any class or person, it becomes particular, and can no longer form the subject matter of an act of Sovereignty.
However just this distinction may seem in the abstract, it is clear that its effect is to place all the power in the hands of the executive: modern legislation is almost always concerned with particular classes and interests. It is not, therefore, a long step from the view of Rousseau to the modern theory of democratic government, in which the people has little power beyond that of removing its rulers if they displease it.
As long, however, as we confine our view Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] to the city-state of which Rousseau is thinking, his distinction is capable of preserving for the people a greater actual exercise of will.
A city can often generalise where a nation must particularise. It is in the third book of the Social Contract, where Rousseau is discussing the problem of government, that it is most essential to remember that his discussion has in view mainly the city-state and not the nation.
Broadly put, his principle of government is that democracy is possible only in small States, aristocracy in those of medium extent, and monarchy in great States Book III, chap. In considering this view, we have to take into account two things.
First, he rejects representative government; will being, in his theory, inalienable, representative Sovereignty is impossible. But, as he regards all general acts as functions of Sovereignty, this means that no general act can be within the competence of a representative assembly. France, Geneva and England were the three States he took most into account. In France, representative government was practically non-existent; in Geneva, it was only partially necessary; in England, it was a mockery, used to support a corrupt oligarchy against a debased monarchy.
Rousseau may well be pardoned for not taking the ordinary modern view of it. Nor indeed is it, even in the modern world, so satisfactory an instrument of the popular will that we can afford wholly to discard his criticism. It is one of the problems of the day to find some means of securing effective popular control over a weakened Parliament and a despotic Cabinet. The second factor is the immense development of local government. It seemed to Rousseau that, in the nation-state, all authority must necessarily pass, as it had in France, to the central power.
Devolution was hardly dreamed of; and Rousseau saw the only means of securing effective popular government in a federal system, starting from the small unit as Sovereign. This is made clearer by the fact that the legislator is not to exercise legislative power; he is merely to submit his suggestions for popular approval. Thus Rousseau recognises that, in the case of institutions and traditions as elsewhere, will, and not force, is the basis of the State. This may be seen in his treatment of law as a whole Book II, chap.
The Social Contract renders law necessary, and at the same time makes it quite clear that laws can proceed only from the body of citizens who have constituted the State. Humbly speaking, in default of natural sanctions, the laws of justice are ineffective among men.
No critic of the Social Contract has found it easy to say either what precisely its author meant by it, or what is its final value for political philosophy. The difficulty is increased because Rousseau himself sometimes halts in the sense which he assigns to it, and even seems to suggest by it two different ideas.
Of its broad meaning, however, there can be no doubt. The effect of the Social Contract is the creation of a new individual.
The same doctrine had been stated earlier, in the Political Economy, Edition: current; Page: [xxx] without the historical setting. May it not equally be led away from its true interests to the pursuit of pleasure or of something which is really harmful to it? And, if the whole society may vote what conduces to the momentary pleasure of all the members and at the same time to the lasting damage of the State as a whole, is it not still more likely that some of the members will try to secure their private interests in opposition to those of the whole and of others?
All these questions, and others like them, have been asked by critics of the conception of the General Will. Two main points are involved, to one of which Rousseau gives a clear and definite answer.
It is indeed possible for a citizen, when an issue is presented to him, to vote not for the good of the State, but for his own good; but, in such a case, his vote, from the point of view of the General Will, is merely negligible. Not at all: it is always constant, unalterable, and pure; but it is subordinated to other wills which encroach upon its sphere.
The fault [each man] commits [in detaching his interest from the common interest] is that of changing the state of the question, and answering something different from what he is asked. These passages, with many others that may be found in the text, make it quite clear that by the General Will Rousseau means something quite distinct from the Will of All, with which it should never have been confused.
The only excuse for such confusion lies in his view that when, in a city-state, all particular associations are avoided, votes guided by individual self-interest will always cancel one another, so that majority voting will always result in the General Will.
This is clearly not the case, and in this respect we may charge him with pushing the democratic argument too far. The point, however, can be better dealt with at a later stage. Rousseau makes no pretence that the mere voice of a majority is infallible; he only says, at the most, that, given his ideal conditions, it would be so.
The second main point raised by critics of the General Will is whether in defining it as a will directed solely to the common interest, Rousseau means to exclude acts of public immorality and short-sightedness.
He answers the questions in different ways. First, an act of public immorality would be merely an unanimous instance of selfishness, different in no particular from similar acts less unanimous, and therefore forming no part of a General Will. It is impossible to acquit Rousseau in some of the passages in which he treats of the General Will, of something worse than obscurity—positive contradiction. It is probable, indeed, that he never quite succeeded in getting his view clear in his own mind; there is nearly always, in his treatment of it, a certain amount of muddle and fluctuation.
These difficulties the student must be left to worry out for himself; it is only possible to present, in outline, what Rousseau meant to convey. The treatment of the General Will in the Political Economy is brief and lucid, and furnishes the best guide to his meaning. The definition of it in this work, which has already been quoted, Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] is followed by a short account of the nature of general wills as a whole. The influence of all these tacit or formal associations causes by the influence of their will as many modifications of the public will.
The will of these particular societies has always two relations; for the members of the association, it is a general will; for the great society, it is a particular will; and it is often right with regard to the first object and wrong as to the second.
The most general will is always the most just, and the voice of the people is, in fact, the voice of God.
All such wills are general only for the members of the associations which exercise them; for outsiders, or rather for other associations, they are purely particular wills.
In the Social Contract, he only treats of these lesser wills in relation to the government, which, he shows, has a will of its own, general for its members, but particular for the State as a whole Book III, chap. This governmental will he there prefers to call corporate will, and by this name it will be convenient to distinguish the lesser general wills from the General Will of the State that is over them all. So far, there is no great difficulty; but in discussing the infallibility of the General Will we are on more dangerous ground.
Book IV, chap. When, therefore, the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less than that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so.
Though he sometimes affirms the opposite, there is no security on his principles that the will of the majority will be the General Will. One implication of this is that the strong form of democracy which is consistent with the general will is also only possible in relatively small states. The people must be able to identify with one another, and at least know who each other are.
They cannot live in a large area, too spread out to come together regularly, and they cannot live in such different geographic circumstances as to be unable to be united under common laws.
Could the present-day U. It could not. Although the conditions for true democracy are stringent, they are also the only means by which we can, according to Rousseau, save ourselves, and regain the freedom to which we are naturally entitled. Rousseau's social contract theories together form a single, consistent view of our moral and political situation.
We are endowed with freedom and equality by nature, but our nature has been corrupted by our contingent social history. We can overcome this corruption, however, by invoking our free will to reconstitute ourselves politically, along strongly democratic principles, which is good for us, both individually and collectively. More Recent Social Contract Theories a. John Rawls' A Theory of Justice In , the publication of John Rawls ' extremely influential A Theory of Justice brought moral and political philosophy back from what had been a long hiatus of philosophical consideration.
For Rawls, as for Kant, persons have the capacity to reason from a universal point of view, which in turn means that they have the particular moral capacity of judging principles from an impartial standpoint. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls argues that the moral and political point of view is discovered via impartiality. It is important to note that this view, delineated in A Theory of Justice, has undergone substantial revisions by Rawls, and that he described his later view as "political liberalism".
It is the position from which we can discover the nature of justice and what it requires of us as individual persons and of the social institutions through which we will live together cooperatively. These are the conditions under which, Rawls argues, one can choose principles for a just society which are themselves chosen from initial conditions that are inherently fair.
Because no one has any of the particular knowledge he or she could use to develop principles that favor his or her own particular circumstances, in other words the knowledge that makes for and sustains prejudices, the principles chosen from such a perspective are necessarily fair.
For example, if one does not know whether one is female or male in the society for which one must choose basic principles of justice, it makes no sense, from the point of view of self-interested rationality, to endorse a principle that favors one sex at the expense of another, since, once the veil of ignorance is lifted, one might find oneself on the losing end of such a principle.
In such a position, behind such a veil, everyone is in the same situation, and everyone is presumed to be equally rational. Since everyone adopts the same method for choosing the basic principles for society, everyone will occupy the same standpoint: that of the disembodied, rational, universal human. Therefore all who consider justice from the point of view of the original position would agree upon the same principles of justice generated out of such a thought experiment.
Any one person would reach the same conclusion as any other person concerning the most basic principles that must regulate a just society. The principles that persons in the Original Position, behind the Veil of Ignorance, would choose to regulate a society at the most basic level that is, prior even to a Constitution are called by Rawls, aptly enough, the Two Principles of Justice.
These two principles determine the distribution of both civil liberties and social and economic goods. The first principle states that each person in a society is to have as much basic liberty as possible, as long as everyone is granted the same liberties.
That is, there is to be as much civil liberty as possible as long as these goods are distributed equally.
This would, for example, preclude a scenario under which there was a greater aggregate of civil liberties than under an alternative scenario, but under which such liberties were not distributed equally amongst citizens. The second principle states that while social and economic inequalities can be just, they must be available to everyone equally that is, no one is to be on principle denied access to greater economic advantage and such inequalities must be to the advantage of everyone.
This means that economic inequalities are only justified when the least advantaged member of society is nonetheless better off than she would be under alternative arrangements. So, only if a rising tide truly does carry all boats upward, can economic inequalities be allowed for in a just society.
The method of the original position supports this second principle, referred to as the Difference Principle, because when we are behind the veil of ignorance, and therefore do not know what our situation in society will be once the veil of ignorance is lifted, we will only accept principles that will be to our advantage even if we end up in the least advantaged position in society.
These two principles are related to each other by a specific order. The first principle, distributing civil liberties as widely as possible consistent with equality, is prior to the second principle, which distributes social and economic goods.
In other words, we cannot decide to forgo some of our civil liberties in favor of greater economic advantage. Rather, we must satisfy the demands of the first principle, before we move on to the second. From Rawls' point of view, this serial ordering of the principles expresses a basic rational preference for certain kinds of goods, i. Having argued that any rational person inhabiting the original position and placing him or herself behind the veil of ignorance can discover the two principles of justice, Rawls has constructed what is perhaps the most abstract version of a social contract theory.
It is highly abstract because rather than demonstrating that we would or even have signed to a contract to establish society, it instead shows us what we must be willing to accept as rational persons in order to be constrained by justice and therefore capable of living in a well ordered society.
The principles of justice are more fundamental than the social contract as it has traditionally been conceived. Rather, the principles of justice constrain that contract, and set out the limits of how we can construct society in the first place.
If we consider, for example, a constitution as the concrete expression of the social contract, Rawls' two principles of justice delineate what such a constitution can and cannot require of us.
In that book, he makes a strong argument that Hobbes was right: we can understand both politics and morality as founded upon an agreement between exclusively self-interested yet rational persons. He improves upon Hobbes' argument, however, by showing that we can establish morality without the external enforcement mechanism of the Sovereign.
Gauthier, however, believes that rationality alone convinces persons not only to agree to cooperate, but to stick to their agreements as well. We should understand ourselves as individual Robinson Crusoes, each living on our own island, lucky or unlucky in terms of our talents and the natural provisions of our islands, but able to enter into negotiations and deals with one another to trade goods and services with one another.
Entering into such agreements is to our own advantage, and so rationality convinces us to both make such agreements and stick to them as well. Gauthier has an advantage over Hobbes when it comes to developing the argument that cooperation between purely self-interested agents is possible. He has access to rational choice theory and its sophisticated methodology for showing how such cooperation can arise.
In particular, he appeals to the model of the Prisoner's Dilemma to show that self-interest can be consistent with acting cooperatively. According to the story of the Prisoner's Dilemma, two people have been brought in for questioning, conducted separately, about a crime they are suspected to have committed. The police have solid evidence of a lesser crime that they committed, but need confessions in order to convict them on more serious charges.
Each prisoner is told that if she cooperates with the police by informing on the other prisoner, then she will be rewarded by receiving a relatively light sentence of one year in prison, whereas her cohort will go to prison for ten years. If they both remain silent, then there will be no such rewards, and they can each expect to receive moderate sentences of two years.
And if they both cooperate with police by informing on each other, then the police will have enough to send each to prison for five years. The dilemma then is this: in order to serve her own interests as well as possible, each prisoner reasons that no matter what the other does she is better off cooperating with the police by confessing. Each reasons: "If she confesses, then I should confess, thereby being sentenced to five years instead of ten.
And if she does not confess, then I should confess, thereby being sentenced to one year instead of two. So, no matter what she does, I should confess. However, had they each remained silent, thereby cooperating with each other rather than with the police, they would have spent only two years in prison.
We should, therefore, insofar as we are rational, develop within ourselves the dispositions to constrain ourselves when interacting with others. Both SMs and CMs are exclusively self-interested and rational, but they differ with regard to whether they take into account only strategies, or both the strategies and utilities, of whose with whom they interact. To take into account the others' strategies is to act in accordance with how you expect the others will act.
To take into account their utilities is to consider how they will fare as a result of your action and to allow that to affect your own actions. Both SMs and CMs take into account the strategies of the other with whom they interact. But whereas SMs do not take into account the utilities of those with whom they interact, CMs do. And, whereas CMs are afforded the benefits of cooperation with others, SMs are denied such advantage.
According to Gauthier, rationality is a force strong enough to give persons internal reasons to cooperate. The enforcement mechanism has been internalized. Contemporary Critiques of Social Contract Theory Given the longstanding and widespread influence that social contract theory has had, it comes as no surprise that it is also the objects of many critiques from a variety of philosophical perspectives.
Feminists and race-conscious philosophers, in particular, have made important arguments concerning the substance and viability of social contract theory. Feminist Arguments For the most part, feminism resists any simple or universal definition. Given the pervasive influence of contract theory on social, political, and moral philosophy, then, it is not surprising that feminists should have a great deal to say about whether contract theory is adequate or appropriate from the point of view of taking women seriously.
To survey all of the feminist responses to social contract theory would carry us well beyond the boundaries of the present article. Contract theory represents itself as being opposed to patriarchy and patriarchal right. Yet the "original pact" 2 that precedes the social contract entered into by equals is the agreement by men to dominate and control women.
It is not, however, a fundamental change in whether women are dominated by men. Modern patriarchy is characterized by a contractual relationship between men, and part of that contract involves power over women. According to that story, a band of brothers, lorded over by a father who maintained exclusive sexual access to the women of the tribe, kill the father, and then establish a contract among themselves to be equal and to share the women.
Patriarchal control of women is found in at least three paradigmatic contemporary contracts: the marriage contract, the prostitution contract, and the contract for surrogate motherhood.
According to the terms of the marriage contract, in most states in the U. All these examples demonstrate that contract is the means by which women are dominated and controlled. Contract is not the path to freedom and equality. Rather, it is one means, perhaps the most fundamental means, by which patriarchy is upheld. The Nature of the Liberal Individual Following Pateman's argument, a number of feminists have also called into question the very nature of the person at the heart of contract theory.
The liberal individual is purported to be universal: raceless, sexless, classless, disembodied, and is taken to represent an abstract, generalized model of humanity writ large. Many philosophers have argued, however, that when we look more closely at the characteristics of the liberal individual, what we find is not a representation of universal humanity, but a historically located, specific type of person.
Macpherson, for example, has argued that Hobbesian man is, in particular, a bourgeois man, with the characteristics we would expect of a person during the nascent capitalism that characterized early modern Europe. Feminists have also argued that the liberal individual is a particular, historical, and embodied person.
As have race-conscious philosophers, such as Charles Mills, to be discussed below. More specifically, they have argued that the person at the heart of liberal theory, and the social contract, is gendered.
Christine Di Stefano, in her book Configurations of Masculinity, shows that a number of historically important modern philosophers can be understood to develop their theories from within the perspective of masculinity, as conceived of in the modern period. In particular, it fails to adequately represent children and those who provide them with the care they require, who have historically been women. Arguing from Care Theorizing from within the emerging tradition of care ethics, feminist philosophers such as Baier and Held argue that social contract theory fails as an adequate account of our moral or political obligations.
Social contract theory, in general, only goes so far as to delineate our rights and obligations. But this may not be enough to adequately reveal the full extent of what it means to be a moral person, and how fully to respond to others with whom one interacts through relations of dependence. Baier argues that Gauthier, who conceives of affective bonds between persons as non-essential and voluntary, therefore fails to represent the fullness of human psychology and motivations.
She argues that this therefore leads to a crucial flaw in social contract theory. Liberal moral theory is in fact parasitic upon the very relations between persons from which it seeks to liberate us. While Gauthier argues that we are freer the more that we can see affective relations as voluntary, we must nonetheless, in the first place, be in such relationships e. Certain kinds of relationships of dependence, in other words, are necessary in the first place if we are to become the very kinds of persons who are capable of entering into contracts and agreements.
In a similar vein, Held has argued that the model of "economic man" fails to capture much of what constitutes meaningful moral relations between people. She therefore suggests that we consider other models of human relationships when looking for insight into morality.
In particular, she offers up the paradigm of the mother-child relationship to at least supplement the model of individual self-interested agents negotiating with one another through contracts.
Such a model is more likely to match up with many of the moral experiences of most people, especially women. Feminist critiques of the contractarian approaches to our collective moral and political lives continue to reverberate through social and political philosophy.
One such critique, that of Carole Pateman, has influenced philosophers writing outside of feminist traditions. Race-Conscious Argument Charles Mills' book, The Racial Contract, is a critique not only of the history of Western political thought, institutions, and practices, but, more specifically, of the history of social contract theory.
As such, it also calls into question the supposed universality of the liberal individual who is the agent of contract theory. Some persons, in particular white men, are full persons according to the racial contract. As such they are accorded the right to enter into the social contract, and into particular legal contracts.
They are seen as fully human and therefore as deserving of equality and freedom. Their status as full persons accords them greater social power. In particular, it accords them the power to make contracts, to be the subjects of the contract, whereas other persons are denied such privilege and are relegated to the status of objects of contracts.
This racial contract is to some extent a meta-contract, which determines the bounds of personhood and parameters of inclusion and exclusion in all the other contracts that come after it. It manifests itself both formally and informally.
So, race is not just a social construct, as others have argued, it is more especially a political construct, created to serve a particular political end, and the political purposes of a specific group. The contract allows some persons to treat other persons, as well as the lands they inhabit, as resources to be exploited.
This contract is not hypothetical, as Hobbes describes the one argued for in his Leviathan. This is an actual contract, or series of contracts, made by real men of history. The racial contract makes possible and justifies some people, in virtue of their alleged superiority, exploiting the peoples, lands, and resources of other races.