Charles Mills critiques classical/modern social contract theory, that traditional contractarian theory assumes a problematic racial exclusion of non-whites from white Europeans. Modern social contract theory is integrated with white supremacy, a political system that has been theorized to authorize domination of whiteness over other ethnic groups. Therefore, he introduces a concept, racial contract, to stands for a separate social contract for the non-whites. Here are my criticism to this book divided in four sections.
Mills states that racial contract is political, moral, epistemological, historical, and exploitative[ Charles Mills (1997), The Racial Contract, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), p9.]. Traditional political contract can be defined as a contract between men and the state, as a “relationship of trust the rights and powers we have in the state of nature to a sovereign governing entity’[ Ibid, p10.]. Mills elicits an argument that political contract undertakes an abstract process of transferring racelss men from state of nature to the white-settler state.[ Ibid.] Why is a raceless rally of men transformed to white supremacist state? To answer this question, it is essential to re-examine social contract theory of modern political philosophers (e.g. Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau). According to modern social contractarians, men in state of nature, without governance of the state, are uncivilized. By forming a social contract, men are deemed to be promoted out of the state of nature, and are to be upgraded to a state of civilization. Whites are able for promotion to civil society, whereas non-whites, as they are labeled as immoral and unintelligent savages, are assumed to lack in capabilities to elevate to civility. Thus, the demarcation between the civil and the savage/wild spaces is established, as whites occupy the civil space, and nonwhites, the savage one.[ Ibid, p41.] The moral contract is formed due to the moralization of spaces from “the outposts of civilization into native territory”[ Ibid,p47.]- expansion of imperialism and colonialism during the past five hundred years. Mills terms “epistemological enthnocentrism” to explicate, for outsiders of European knowledge, the “the preemptive restriction of knowledge of European cognizers, which implies that in certain spaces real knowledge... significant cultural achievement, intellectual progress is thus denied to those spaces”[ Ibid, p44.]. Mills presents an exemplary word, exploration, which is inspired by Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, to manifest that the use of vocabulary expel non-western notions. In Conrad’s novel, Africa is named as the dark continent “because of the paucity of remembered European contact with it”[ Ibid, p45.]. To date, exploration is still an expression of discovery of non-human lands or entities, a hegemonic word of whiteness . Racial contract is made historical, because “we live in a world which has be foundationally shaped for the past five hundred years by the realities of European domination and the gradual consolidation of global white supremacy”[ Ibid, p20.]. To demonstrate the racial contract as exploitative, Mills backs his argument that “this state treats whites and nonwhites, persons and subpersons, differently... In seeking first to establish and later reproduce itself, the racial state employs the two traditional weapons of coercion: physical violence and ideological conditioning.”[ Ibid, p83.]
From a holistic perspective, I have two critiques on the racial contract theory. First, Mills neglects to transit his theoretical analysis of racism and white supremacy from colonialist era to globalizing modern states. Post-colonialist ideological schism of whiteness and non-whiteness is different from that in imperial-expansion time. Significant transformations in areas such as science and arts have occurred. Non-whites have been scientifically demonstrated to possess comparable morality and intelligence. Thus the racial contract, if historically constructed, is supposed to evolve with the social transformations. My second critique lies in the questions of modern social contract tradition. Are men politically equal after forming the social contract? Is this political equality independent from economics, culture and among others? In contrast with external critique against contractarian tenets, Mills, as an internal critique of social contract, stands on rectification of problems of social contract theory. If racial contract is to modify theoretical omissions of the contract aiming for inclusion of the nonwhites, what is the blueprint framework of this political-social inclusion in terms of class, gender, culture, and nations? What are the demographic structures within the nonwhites?
Mills makes an excellent examination of the state of nature for the two compartments, whites and nonwhites. “The non-European state of nature is thus actual, a wild and racialized place that was originally characterized as cursed with a theological blights as well as unholy land. The European state of nature, by contrast, is either hypothetical or, if actual, generally a tamer affair, a kind of garden gone to seed, which may need some clipping but is really already partially domesticated and just requires a few modifications to be appropriately transformed- a testimony to the superior moral characteristics of this space and its inhabitants.”[ Ibid, p47.]
Mills also notices that the political space of polity is “not coextensive with its geographical space”[ Ibid, p51.]. “In entering the dark spaces, one is entering a region normatively discontinuous with white political space, where the rules are different in ways ranging from differential fundings to the the absence of police protection.”[ Ibid.]
Is affirmative action alleviating or aggravating problems of the racial contract?
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