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Social and Racial Contract Theories Essay


The issue of diversity in the contemporary world has touched a number of different spheres and is currently being addressed in such fields as politics, medicine, and education, among others. Philosophically, the problem of cultural and racial clashes in our society has been explored by Charles Mills, who commented on the theory of social contract and formulated a new point of view on this theory.

Social contract or agreement is a theory that dates back to the era of Enlightenment. Social contract refers to a tacit or explicit agreement of the individuals to give up some of their initial freedoms in order to create the government that would be responsible for the maintenance of order in the society. The authority body assigned this way was to protect the remaining rights and freedoms of the individuals. This theory includes such concepts as the original position and the veil of ignorance.

The original position stands for a hypothetical situation during the establishment of rules and principles for the society suggested by John Rawls. In this situation, the participants come up with the basis of social structure. The principles are selected behind the veil of ignorance, a state where an individual is unaware of their characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, social position, and conception of the good. The latter concept refers to one’s personal perception of the “proper” way of living.

Mills approached the theory of social contract from a new point of view, adding a concept of race to it. According to Mills’ racial contract, racism is the foundation of social contract as historically, the white nations of Europe tacitly and sometimes explicitly pursued the goal of conquering and domination over the other nations of the world promoting the supremacy of white people. In Mills’ “The Racial Contract,” it is mentioned that this tendency is still active. The racial contract implies that non-white individuals and nations that do not originate in Europe are not considered as the participants of the social contract. This way, they are initially perceived as the nations to be ruled by white people and led towards “civilization.”

One point both theories have in common is the idea about the social agreement implemented in order to determine authority. The difference is that Rawls’ social contract is assumed to have happened all around the world, and Mills’ – only in Europe, but then taken for granted for the rest of the world, establishing the supremacy of white nations. Historically, the attempt of the European nations to dominate the rest of the world is undeniable, but Rawls’ original position relies on the veil of ignorance as a tool to select the rules objectively, which means that Rawls initially described a racially diverse society in need of justice and equality.

In other words, Rawls clearly takes racial differences into consideration, speaking about the social contract. Yet, in my opinion, Rawls’ original position has little to do with the historical realities and facts, or even human abilities (veil of ignorance is an ideal state of objectiveness that cannot be achieved). I think Mills is right calling social contract fictional or subjectively assumed to apply only to white people.

To address the weaknesses of the social contract theory, Mills offers an alternative starting point for the agreement – the moral concern about injustice and search for ways to eliminate it rationally. This starting point is not as idealistic as the original position and provides a more realistic perspective on the prerequisites of social contract.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 30). Social and Racial Contract Theories. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-and-racial-contract-theories/

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"Social and Racial Contract Theories." IvyPanda, 30 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/social-and-racial-contract-theories/.

1. IvyPanda. "Social and Racial Contract Theories." June 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-and-racial-contract-theories/.


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IvyPanda. "Social and Racial Contract Theories." June 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-and-racial-contract-theories/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Social and Racial Contract Theories." June 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-and-racial-contract-theories/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Social and Racial Contract Theories'. 30 June.

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