The Racial Contract

The Racial Contract

4.35 (1,281 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 11mm | 226.8g
  • Ithaca, United States
  • English
  • 0801484634
  • 9780801484636
  • 70,493

Table of contents

Introduction1. Overview
The Racial Contract is political, moral, and epistemological
The Racial Contract is a historical actuality
The Racial Contract is an exploitation contract2. 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. "Naturalized" Merits
The Racial Contract historically tracks the actual moral/political consciousness of (most) white moral agents
The Racial Contract has always been recognized by nonwhites as the real moral/political agreement to be challenged
The "Racial Contract" as a theory is explanatorily superior to the raceless social contractNotes
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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 133 pages (excluding notes).... He achieves this explanation through some of the clearest prose I have encountered in recent philosophical literature." * Small Axe: A Journal of Criticism * "A very important book.... The Racial Contract has the potential to radically challenge many of us to reevaluate how we think about social contract theory. As well, to take the arguments that Mills makes is to be prepared to rethink about the concept of race and the structure of our political systems. This is a very important book indeed, and should be a welcome addition to the ongoing discussions surrounding social contract theory." * Teaching Philosophy * "An ambitious book.... 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." * In These Times * "An important work of philosophy that is at the same time short and accessible.... Mills succeeds admirably in arguing his case for the existence of a racial contract. That he can do this in a way that is rigorous, passionate, and accessible is an important achievement." * Philosophy in Review * "Courageously creative." * Social Theory and Practice * "Mills uses the idea of the social contract to argue that racially structured discrimination is a norm, rather than a deviation from the ideal.... Framed by a lucid discussion of the modern global exploitation of nonwhites is Mills's appeal to standpoint epistemology to maintain that the racial contract is a naturalized version of social contract theory." * Choice * "Offers a bold conceptualization of the racial order and a critique of the way it has been (mis)represented within the domain of scholarship.... Mills cuts through the shibboleths and the mystifications that pervade both popular and academic discourse on race.... The Racial Contract offers a theoretical framework that ought to serve as the starting point for any serious study of race in American society.... At a time when 'the epistemology of ignorance' is ascendant, we can be grateful for a book that speaks the unpalatable truth." * American Journal of Sociology * "This compelling and even explosive book argues that white racism is itself a political system with its own levels of rights, duties, benefits, burdens, etc.... Sure to provoke a heated debate far beyond the field of political philosophy, this bold and wide-ranging study makes a clear and convincing case for the view that systematic racial oppression was not an anomaly sullying otherwise universalistic assumptions about individual rights, but the context in which theorizing about such rights occurred." * The Front Table * "This is a significant and compelling work.... Mills turns our attention to the racial domination and exploitation that have been equally pervasive features of the history of liberalism.... A major contribution." * Ethics * "The objective of this bookis nothing less than the reshaping of liberal political philosophy from the bottom up. Mills contends that the ground zero of Western democratic societies is not the mythical social contract that has prevailed among political philosophersbut a 'racial contract'. In short, we have a white supremacist world because 'whites' have agreed to make it so. The revisionary power of this move is evident." * The Nation *
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About Charles W. Mills

Charles W. Mills is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race, also from Cornell, and From Class to Race: Essays in White Marxism and Black Radicalism.
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Rating details

1,281 ratings
4.35 out of 5 stars
5 55% (706)
4 30% (383)
3 11% (138)
2 3% (39)
1 1% (15)
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