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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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Chapter Six: The Critiques: Conservatism, Feminism, and Critical Race Theory


Up to this point, this collection has introduced the reader to the most common metaphors of liberalism: the state of nature and the social contract. The heyday of the social contract was the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and its center was Western Europe. Thus far, all of the thinkers in this collection have been males and to be more specific, white, European, males living within the Judeo-Christian tradition. Although most of their theories are centered on the creation of “universal” principles, there has always been a variety of schools of thought that have critiqued such assumptions. This chapter is designed to provide the reader with three intellectual traditions—conservatism, feminism, and critical race theory—that have critiqued the assumptions, methods, and findings of the social contract thinkers. Each tradition has its own assessment and critique and each tradition has sought to demonstrate its own method of bringing about economic, social, and political changes. Some of the scholars in these traditions have sought to specifically target the flaws of the social contracts and their authors; arguing that it is not necessarily the notion of an agreement that is to blame, but merely some of their dominant assumptions. Others have not. This chapter is an attempt at synthesizing the main critiques of the three, aforementioned intellectual traditions and to provide the reader with a critical lens by which they may reevaluate what they have already ←113 | 114→read. It is by no means comprehensive. These three schools of thought were chosen because...

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