Race and the social contract tradition

C. W. Mills*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


In this paper, I want to make more explicit than I did in my book, The Racial Contract (Mills, 1997), the strategic and theoretical value of a retention and development of the contract idea by progressive theorists. Moreover, I mean the 'contract'-albeit in a scare-quotes sense - not merely in its normative but also in its descriptive role. The highpoint of revived contractarianism may be past, as exemplified by Rawls' own communitarian concessions in his later work, Political Liberalism (Rawls, 1993). But contractarianism obviously remains one of the central strands in the Western political tradition, and will continue to have some influence as long as political theory is taught. I will argue for the conceptual usefulness to political theory- as both a descriptive model and a normative take-off point - of what I will call the 'domination' or 'exclusionary' contract that can be seen as common to my own work, Carole Pateman's, and the Rousseauean original (the bogus contract of the Discourse on Inequality; Rousseau, 1984; Mills, 1997; Pateman, 1988). I will focus specifically on race, but many of my points will be valid for gender also.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-462
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Identities
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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