Weekly Assignment

Please write a 250 word to this weeks lesson. Please add notes about the work cite at the bottom of the page.

Lesson Overview
We continue to critique some of the standard theories that we explored early in class. This week we look at the racial and the sexual contract.
Lesson Objectives
Students will be able to:
Critique Social Contract theory
Assess Carol Pateman’s sexual contract and Charles Mills’ racial contract
Contrast ideas about contract and society
Specific Topics of Discussion
In this lesson, we will discuss:

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We will continue to discuss research essays.
Students will discuss the sexual and racial contract.
This Week’s Deliverables
The following activities and assessments need to be completed this week:
Reading: See instructions in Reading & Resources
This week your research essay is due at the end of Week 8.
Reading & Resources

This week please read the lesson plan. Students are assigned to find an article about the sexual or racial contract from the online library or elsewhere. An informative YouTube video or podcast is also acceptable. Students should be prepared to report on their resource on the forum.


Other Contracts

In the last eight weeks we have discussed a variety of theories about society and why we stay in our communities. Khaldun talked about social cohesion and the cycles he observed in civilization. Other theorists showed that by entering into a social contract we offer our labor and freedom to be paid with a secure and orderly life. We give ourselves up to civilization and our rulers to avoid the violence and chaos that life in a state of nature may result in.

Social life is imperfect, but is preferable to a chaotic wilderness with no rules. Novels like Lord of the Flies show explore implications when civilization unravels. According to Smith, our contract payment also comes in the terms of feeling good about ourselves and feeling pleasure in exchange for our works. Smith was pleased by the harmonizing effects of a society that hummed along and enjoyed the fruits and emotional benefits of law abiding work.

Marx, however, noted that the exchange was a lopsided one, not so much an exchange but a robbery where people suffered under the illusion that civilized working life was a contractual exchange where both parties agreed Marxist ideology points to ideas about invisible power imbalances as in hegemony where the slave owner more or less brainwashes the slave so that the latter thinks it is in his or her best interest to remain a slave. What could they do in freedom? How would they take care of themselves without the benevolent master? What would they do with literacy and education when they are so naturally inferior? Moreover, movies like The Birth of a Nation, suggest a mainstream fear of a threat to civilized ways if nonwhites, slaves or x slaves were permitted to enter into the social contract. We can see this in the scene where a black man tries to talk to a white woman. She runs away and seems to prefer falling from a cliff. For those interested you may watch the full movie for free on youtube. A plot description is also available.

Women in previous centuries were led to believe that they needed men to lead and protect them. Men’s top hats signified the size of their brains and their importance. Women were not clever enough to have bank accounts, property, jobs or to vote. They should be dependent like children, and their value lay in their ability to decorate and to be decorous. Hence the idea, too, of the trophy wife, a reward for how important and rich a man may have become in his labor. Of course, women also produced babies. However, in previous centuries women were only legal citizens through their husbands or fathers.

Mills responded to the social contract with racial contract theory and argues that the social contract was devised to include only some groups of people. The authors we have examined proposed that social contracts would bring equality, liberty and happiness to all, but Mills argued that this arrangement and contract was deliberately set up for the privileged; it did not include non whites.

As we know, Jefferson was a slave owner and as we have seen, some of our authors also had an indirect hand in the slave trade. The exclusions of groups of people to the social contract were perhaps so woven into the fabric of society that many people took it for granted that this was a western and European contract. Perhaps the writers did not notice that some groups were excluded or perhaps they thought that it was a natural exclusion. We can, after all, see these authors struggling (in their writing) with the issues of indigenous populations and slavery. They could not easily grapple with these anomalies when it came to the smooth running of their theories.

In the 21st century, we would continue to see evidence of people taking the racial contract line of thinking in the arguments set forward in the Black Lives Matter movement where spokespeople suggest that Constitutional rights for Americans are not afforded to all.

In the Sexual Contract, Carol Pateman discusses the political situation for women who are rendered subordinate in the marriage contract and in the social contract. The central concept here is what Adrienne Rich (1983) first called “the law of men’s sex right.” “A stark example of sex-right is marital-rape law in the United States. It is only in the last decade that marital rape has been made intelligible and illegal as rape in all fifty states” ( Miriam 10).

Mary Wollstonecraft prefigured some of Pateman’s ideas as she critiqued Rousseau and others for glorifying women in their domestic role. The nineteenth century was an era of “how to” books with “how to be a good” wife and daughter texts where authors argued that one should be obedient and malleable to one’s husband’s commands. Ideas abounded, too, that ensured the contract stayed in place when women who stepped out of their place in society have historically been punished (as witches in earlier centuries) or labeled as hysterical, or in some way ill as seen in books like the “The Yellow Wallpaper” and as depicted in studies on hysteria by early neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot. Students may feel free to further explore some of these references (Charcot etc.) to follow up on some of the broader themes and implications of this week’s lesson.

To conclude, critics of the social contract frequently argue that the social contract is set up for the individual modern, white man, or for the very people who devised the contract. Were they the ones particularly afforded the privileged, empowered, educated and adventurous lives?

Works Cited
Birth of A Nation. Dir, D.W. Griffith. Perf. Lillian Gish. Griffith. 1915. Youtube. Web.11 May. 2016.

Brace, Laura. “‘Not Empire, but Equality’: Mary Wollstonecraft, the Marriage State and the Sexual Contract.” Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 8, no. 4, 2002, pp. 433–455., doi:10.1111/1467-9760.00111.

Mills, Charles. The Racial Contract. Cornell University Press, 1997.

Miriam, Kathy. “Getting Pateman ‘Right.’” Philosophy Today, vol. 49, no. 3, 2005, pp. 274–286., doi:10.5840/philtoday200549346.

Pateman, Carol. The Sexual Contract. Stanford University Press, 1988.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (1792). Project Guttenburg, 2015.

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