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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.
Liberalism is the political philosophy of equal persons - yet liberalism has refused equality to those it saw as sub-persons. Liberalism is the creed of fairness - yet liberalism has been complicit with European imperialism and African slavery. Liberalism is the classic ideology of Enlightenment and political transparency - yet liberalism has cast a dark veil over its actual racist past and present. In sum, liberalism's promise of equal rights has historically been denied to blacks and other people of color. In Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism, political philosopher Charles Mills challenges mainstream accounts that ignore this history and its current legacy in self-conceived liberal polities today. Mills argues that rather than bracket as an anomaly the role of racism in the development of liberal theory, we should see it as shaping that theory in fundamental ways. As feminists have urged us to see the dominant form of liberalism as a patriarchal liberalism, so too Mills suggests we should see it as a racialized liberalism. It is unsurprising, then, if contemporary liberalism has yet to deliver on the recognition of black rights and the correction of white wrongs. These essays look at racial liberalism, past and present: "white ignorance" as a guilty ignoring of social reality that facilitates white racial domination; Immanuel Kant's role as the most important liberal theorist of both personhood and sub-personhood; the centrality of racial exploitation in the United States; and the evasion of white supremacy in John Rawls's "ideal theory" framing of social justice and in the work of most other contemporary white political philosophers. Nonetheless, Mills still believes that a deracialized liberalism is both possible and desirable. He concludes by calling on progressives to "Occupy liberalism!" and develop accordingly a radical liberalism aimed at achieving racial justice.
Charles Mills makes visible in the world of mainstream philosophy some of the crucial issues of the black experience. Ralph Ellison's metaphor of black invisibility has special relevance to philosophy, whose demographic and conceptual "whiteness" has long been a source of wonder and complaint to racial minorities. Mills points out the absence of any philosophical narrative theorizing and detailing race's centrality to the recent history of the West, such as feminists have articulated for gender domination.European expansionism in its various forms, Mills contends, generates a social ontology of race that warrants philosophical attention.Through expropriation, settlement, slavery, and colonialism, race comes into existence as simultaneously real and unreal: ontological without being biological, metaphysical without being physical, existential without being essential, shaping one's being without being in one's shape.His essays explore the contrasting sums of a white and black modernity, examine standpoint epistemology and the metaphysics of racial identity, look at black-Jewish relations and racial conspiracy theories, map the workings of a white-supremacist polity and the contours of a racist moral consciousness, and analyze the presuppositions of Frederick Douglass's famous July 4 prognosis for black political inclusion. Collectively they demonstrate what exciting new philosophical terrain can be opened up once the color line in western philosophy is made visible and addressed.
Liberalism is the political philosophy of equal persons - yet liberalism has refused equality to those it saw as sub-persons. Liberalism is the creed of fairness - yet liberalism has been complicit with European imperialism and African slavery. Liberalism is the classic ideology of Enlightenment and political transparency - yet liberalism has cast a dark veil over its actual racist past and present. In sum, liberalism's promise of equal rights has historically been denied to blacks and other people of color. In Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism, political philosopher Charles Mills challenges mainstream accounts that ignore this history and its current legacy in self-conceived liberal polities today. Mills argues that rather than bracket as an anomaly the role of racism in the development of liberal theory, we should see it as shaping that theory in fundamental ways. As feminists have urged us to see the dominant form of liberalism as a patriarchal liberalism, so too Mills suggests we should see it as a racialized liberalism. It is unsurprising, then, if contemporary liberalism has yet to deliver on the recognition of black rights and the correction of white wrongs. These essays look at racial liberalism, past and present: "white ignorance" as a guilty ignoring of social reality that facilitates white racial domination; Immanuel Kant's role as the most important liberal theorist of both personhood and sub-personhood; the centrality of racial exploitation in the United States; and the evasion of white supremacy in John Rawls's "ideal theory" framing of social justice and in the work of most other contemporary white political philosophers. Nonetheless, Mills still believes that a deracialized liberalism is both possible and desirable. He concludes by calling on progressives to "Occupy liberalism!" and develop accordingly a radical liberalism aimed at achieving racial justice.
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