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Print Price: $46.99

288 pp.
6.125" x 9.25"


Publication date:
March 2017

Imprint: OUP US

Black Rights/White Wrongs

The Critique of Racial Liberalism

Charles W. Mills

Series : Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities

Liberalism is the political philosophy of equal persons - yet liberalism has denied equality to those it saw as sub-persons. Liberalism is the creed of fairness - yet liberalism has been complicit with European imperialism and African slavery. Liberalism is the classic ideology of Enlightenment and political transparency - yet liberalism has cast a dark veil over its actual racist past and present. In sum, liberalism's promise of equal rights has historically been denied to blacks and other people of color.

In Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism, political philosopher Charles Mills challenges mainstream accounts that ignore this history and its current legacy in self-conceivedly liberal polities today. Mills argues that rather than bracket as an anomaly the role of racism in the development of liberal theory, we should see it as shaping that theory in fundamental ways. As feminists have urged us to see the dominant form of liberalism as a patriarchal liberalism, so too Mills suggests we should see it as a racialized liberalism. It is unsurprising, then, if contemporary liberalism has yet to deliver on the recognition of black rights and the correction of white wrongs.

These essays look at racial liberalism, past and present: "white ignorance" as a guilty ignoring of social reality that facilitates white racial domination; Immanuel Kant's role as the most important liberal theorist of both personhood and sub-personhood; the centrality of racial exploitation in the United States; and the evasion of white supremacy in John Rawls's "ideal theory" framing of social justice and in the work of most other contemporary white political philosophers. Nonetheless, Mills still believes that a deracialized liberalism is both possible and desirable. He concludes by calling on progressives to "Occupy liberalism!" and develop accordingly a radical liberalism aimed at achieving racial justice.

Readership : Academics (students and professors) in political theory, political philosophy, and American Studies.

Part I - Racial Liberalism: Epistemology, Personhood, Property
1. New Left Project Interview
2. Occupy Liberalism!
3. Racial Liberalism
4. White Ignorance
5. "Ideal Theory" as Ideology
6. Kant's Untermenschen
7. Racial Exploitation
Part II - Racial Liberalism: Rawls and Rawlsianism
8. Rawls on Race/Race in Rawls
9. Retrieving Rawls for Racial Justice?
10. The Whiteness of Political Philosophy
Epilogue (As Prologue): Toward a Black Radical Liberalism

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Charles W. Mills is Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Making Sense in the Social Sciences - Margot Northey, Lorne Tepperman and Patrizia Albanese
Black Natural Law - Vincent W. Lloyd
The Time Is Always Now - Nick Bromell

Special Features

  • First book to develop a concept of "racial liberalism" in detail.
  • Argues that while the overtly racist variety of "racial liberalism" may now be past, dominant varieties of contemporary liberalism are nevertheless still racialized.
  • Provides a timely philosophy in a climate of police brutality, continued residential and educational racial segregation, the wealth gap, and new racism.
  • Presents a controversial argument that liberalism's promise of equal rights has been denied to people of color.