Human Capabilities and the Racial Contract
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Global relations are largely shaped by what Charles Mills calls “the racial contract”: the sometimes explicit and sometimes unspoken agreement that social arrangements must favor whites over nonwhites. This bias is strong among white political philosophers and especially in the liberal contractarian theories of Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Kant, and, most recently, Rawls. While these theories pay lip service to nominal equality in the name of universalism, they also ignore the inequality and disadvantage that nonwhites suffer at the hands of whites, and thus they contribute to epistemic obscurantism and racial domination. In this paper, first, I strengthen Mills‘s argument by providing an even more convincing objection against the procedural requirements of John Rawls‘s theory of justice; second, I argue that this objection gives us a good reason to distinguish between Rawls‘s liberal contractarianism and other theories in white political philosophy that are far more sensitive to Mills‘s critique; and, finally, I offer a partial defense of Martha Nussbaum‘s and Amartya Sen‘s capability–based approach, which I think is uniquely situated to address the inequalities of the racial contract.
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