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Reviewed by:
  • Contract and Domination
  • Chad Kautzer
Contract and Domination. Carole Pateman and Charles Mills. Malden, Mass.: Polity Press, 2007. pp. 315. $26.95 PBK. 978-07456-4004-4.

Contract and Domination is a collaborative, erudite, and provocative volume, building upon the foundations of Pateman's The Sexual Contract (1988) and Mills's The Racial Contract (1997). As the authors write in their [End Page 370] introduction: "Our pioneering efforts struck a chord and our books have been widely read and commented upon. . . . A jointly authored book, then, seemed like a natural development" (3). Natural, perhaps, but certainly not easy when it attempts to integrate historical, institutional, and epistemic analyses of white supremacy and patriarchy while also engaging the legacy and future of social contract theory. The task is complicated by differing disciplinary paradigms—political science (Pateman) and philosophy (Mills)—and differing prognoses on contract theory's ability to avoid past elisions but account for multiple systems of domination and emancipatory possibilities. Dialogical in form, their book is roughly divisible into four parts: (1) a literal dialogue that lays bare the authors' differing perspectives on the normative value of the social contract in chapter 1; (2) an expanded application and, at times, reformulation of their original projects in chapters 2–4; (3) an attempt to capture the intersectionality of race, class, and gender in chapters 5 and 6; and (4) a spirited response to critics in chapters 7 and 8.

In part 1, Pateman advocates abandoning social contract talk altogether, be it classical political contractarianism or (Kantian) moral contractualism, for both rest on fictive conceptions of the self and elide the relations of superiority and subordination engendered by the paradigmatic cases of modern contracts, namely, employment and marriage. She thus bemoans the fact that "political philosophy has been turned into moral philosophy" (20), dominated by the Rawlsian contractualism Mills endorses. For his part, Mills is genuinely committed to moral egalitarianism, yet his contractualist expression of it is defended on pragmatic grounds: Contract theory is hegemonic in the (mostly white) field of political philosophy, so "translating racial justice issues into a contract framework" (23) is considered efficacious in mainstreaming intersectionality issues. This strategy of translation and accommodation has been explicit in Mills's work for over a decade and has animated critics (including Pateman) for just as long.

Pateman's "The Settler Contract" (chapter 2) in part 2 expands upon the "colonial contract" in Mills's The Racial Contract but focuses on the concept of terra nullius in the colonial history of Australia and North America. According to Pateman, the invocation of terra nullius is a kind of state-of-nature theorizing that denies indigenous modes of social and political organization and wipes clean (in theory and through violence) territories for the enactment of European sovereignty. Her project is to unveil this tragic logic so that alternative forms of recognition and reconciliation may [End Page 371] yet be conceived and achieved. In "The Domination Contract" (chapter 3), Mills expands, in turn, upon Pateman's critique in The Sexual Contract , defending a "feminist contractualism" (92) that synthesizes her insights with those of Jean Hampton and Susan Moller Okin. Such contractualism is then, together with his own critical race approach, subsumed under a nonideal "domination contract," informed by present conditions of injustice but tasked with formulating principles of corrective justice. In "Repairing the Racial Contract" (chapter 4), Mills then applies this nonideal model in defense of reparations, arguing that Rawlsians would follow suit if they only began with the historical reality of white "opportunity hoarding" (129), rather than theorizing idealized initial conditions.

Although the chapters of part 3 integrate the racial and sexual contracts (or further that project in the case of Mills), they have contrary objectives. Pateman's "Race, Sex, and Indifference" (chapter 5) continues her original project of making the social contract a target, rather than a means, of critique. Having already argued that actual contracts undermine autonomy and that the social contract is a rationalization of social injustice, Pateman is uninterested in reform. Thus, she subsumes the sexual and racial contracts under what Norman Geras calls the contract of mutual indifference, which is mostly a pithy way to characterize apparent...


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