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States of Nature and Social Contracts

The Metaphors of the Liberal Order

Kevin Dooley

This book examines the most significant metaphors of modern political philosophy: the state of nature and the social contract. Each of the main chapters is dedicated to the political theory of the different social contract thinkers and the ways they articulated the uniquely liberal view of equality and freedom. The last chapter, unique to most books that explore the social contract, highlights the recent challenges to these views. It is this balance between accepted contractarian ideas and their critiques that makes this book a unique contribution to the field of political philosophy.

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This book would have been quite different had I written it 10 years ago. It still would have included the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Rawls, but it would not have included their critiques. It would have addressed the theories and the ways that they challenged each other’s viewpoints, but it would not have had an entire chapter dedicated to their main flaws. While I am proud of this work, I am most proud of its final chapter. Without taking into consideration the claims of those who disagree with the dominant voices in our discipline, we would be committing gross negligence. And for many years, we were. Without critiquing their premises or worst, hearing the voices of those who were deliberately left out of the social contracts, we would be endorsing a system that is not only not representative, but discriminatory.

This book is therefore an artifact of the evolution in my thinking, teaching, and of course, writing. The past several years was dedicated to understanding the political traditions of all of those who have come to aid in the establishment and protection of democracy. Quite often, time tricks us into thinking that those who lived centuries ago, are more important than those who currently live amongst us. But with this logic, we would not have the ability to see the flaws of our past in the flaws of our present. The development of this book allowed me to see not only...

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