Pub. Date:
Cornell University Press
The Racial Contract / Edition 1

The Racial Contract / Edition 1

by Charles W. Mills
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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801484636
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 06/21/1999
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 131,615
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.43(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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.

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

What People are Saying About This

Robert Paul Wolff

"Mills's work on the Racial Contract is a major contribution to modern critical social and political thought, and will become an important, widely discussed work. It exposes, to devastating effect, the unacknowledged racial presuppositions of the entire social contract tradition, which is to say, all of liberal political theory for the past four centuries."

David Roediger

"Like Melville's Benito Cereno, this short, explosive book unflinchingly explores the centrality of race—both in its utterly open brutality and in its remarkable ability to remain hidden—to the history of the Western nation-state. 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 systemic racial oppression was not an anomaly sullying otherwise universalistic assumptions about individual rights, but the context in which theorizing about such rights occurred."

Jennifer Hochschild

"Fish don't see water, men don't see patriarchy, and white philosophers don't see white supremacy. We can do little about fish. Carole Pateman and others have made the sexual contract visible for those who care to look. Now Charles Mills has made it equally clear how whites dominate people of color, even (or especially) when they have no such intention. He asks whites not to feel guilty, but rather to do something much more difficult—understand and take responsibility for a structure which they did not create but still benefit from."

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