The Social Contract Tradition: Patriarchy, Artifice, and Reason

Dissertation, Michigan State University (2003)

Some feminists argue that social contract theory is inherently patriarchal, meaning that no version of the social contract can fail to subordinate women. My thesis is this conclusion is mistaken. I begin my argument by developing a concept of the social contract based upon an analysis of the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Rawls. After establishing the concept of the social contract, I use the idea of social artifice to counter certain common objections to social contract theory. In the second stage of my argument I develop a feminist argument, the dominance approach, which holds that the reliance upon traditional conceptions of universal reason is the source of the patriarchal element in abstract individualism and the public/private distinction, and thus in social contract theory. I then examine the idea of social reason, and offer it as a substitute for the patriarchal universal reason. Social reason avoids the patriarchal aspects of traditional universal reason while still permitting the ideas of individualism and the public/private distinction to function within the concept of the social contract. My final remarks include an examination of how the new ideas of social artifice and social reason work within the concept of the social contract. I conclude that since the concept of the social contract is not necessarily patriarchal, not every conception of the social contract is patriarchal, and thus it is false that social contract theory is inherently patriarchal
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