Social Interdependence Theory

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Social Interdependence Theory

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For this reason, some have asked whether the social contract could be generalized beyond relations between the citizens of a single state to relations among states. Rousseau was ultimately skeptical about the chances of an empirical realization of the confederation he imagined. In , John Rawls spurred a renewed interest in social contract with the publication of A Theory of Justice. The concept of the veil of ignorance gives Rawls an instrument to theorize principles of justice within a context of equality. Rawls takes as a condition of the contract that states will adhere in varying degrees to basic principles of justice.

However, Rawls does make provision for states that fall short of the liberal principles articulated in A Theory of Justice but that cannot be considered tyrannical or dictatorial regimes. At the domestic level, social contract theory is perhaps most susceptible to criticism with respect to the question of Origins. Because no living person has ever experienced an initial situation like the state of nature or the original position, there is good reason to be skeptical about the state of nature as a literal account of the origin of sovereign power.

This objection, most prominently associated with David Hume, holds that the initial situation of social contract theory can only be sensibly invoked as a hypothetical situation, as a thought experiment that establishes a context within which the parties to an agreement are most likely to act rationally or reasonably. How a state was created Hegel maintained, has nothing to do with philosophy. One of the striking features of the relations between states, as opposed to the relations between associates within a state, is the extent to which they occur in a context that seems to more closely resemble the state of nature metaphor.

While, as we will see, the problems associated with social contract theory on the questions of Justice and Legitimacy are only exacerbated by extending social contract theory to the international context, the international context actually has some advantages with respect to the question of Origins in general and to the Humean objection in particular. Prior to the establishment of international laws or treaties, states are situated toward one another in two ways that mirror the Lockean or Hobbesian state of nature.

First there is no authority that stands above the parties to any putative treaty or international agreement. While the international arena is better suited to social contract theory with respect to the question of Origins, it poses particular challenges with respect to the questions of Justice and Legitimacy. It is this constraint that ensures that the substantive principles that inform the contract will be reasonable, equitable, symmetrical, and so forth. Likewise, it is this constraint that ensures that any authority empowered by virtue of the contract will exercise its authority without favor or prejudice.

This problem is particularly acute at the international level, by consequence of the vast differences between states, especially with respect to their relative wealth and power. However many critics of social contract theory have argued that the problem occurs at the domestic level as well. Particularly noteworthy are those arguing from the feminist perspective e. Charles Mills, The Racial Contract. Earlier critics of social contract, such as Rousseau and Karl Marx raised concerns about the assumptions of equality and reciprocity that give the social contract its appeal.

Marx describes it as part of the ideology of capitalism, used to legitimize the ongoing exploitation of the working class by the bourgeoisie. The problem of asymmetry becomes particularly acute at the international level, where there is and, for much of recorded history, has been a tremendous discrepancy in power among parties to any putative law of peoples. Rawls avoids this problem by beginning from an assumption of rough equality between the parties to the second level original position, an assumption which is, of course, highly questionable, particularly in the current geopolitical context, in which one state exerts tremendous power over most, if not all, of the others.

Beyond the problem of inequality, there are other obstacles to using states as proxies for moral persons in the process of enacting an international social contract. Many states, for example, do not adhere to fundamental moral principles with respect to the way they treat their own people. This makes it unlikely that they would reason in accordance with the principles outlined in Section II. If tyrannical regimes treat their citizens shabbily or cannot or will not represent all of their citizens equally at home, it is unlikely that they will carry norms of equity and reciprocity into international relations.

Finally, there is the problem of the high degree of interdependence that characterizes, even constitutes, nations long before they enter into discussion about international laws or treaties. Just as Rousseau dismissed traditional theories of the social contract only to later propose his own, so too have contemporary philosophers such as Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Pogge, and Charles Beitz introduced a qualitatively different version of the international social contract, one that they believe overcomes some of the problems of that contract, as articulated by Rousseau, Kant, and Rawls. The fundamental difference in this alternative approach to an international social contract lies in the nature of the parties to the contract.

Whereas for Rousseau, Kant, and Rawls, the parties to the international social contract would be states or peoples, for Nussbaum, Pogge, and Beitz, social contract theory makes the most sense at the international level when the parties to the social contract are imagined to be individual human beings. Only when imagined in these terms, these writers argue, will the social contract be construed so as to meet basic liberal principles of justice. On this account, the two-stage model favored by Rawls is replaced with a single original position, in which individual human beings contract to a series of human rights that are not constrained by the contingencies of any particular conception of the state.

This approach overcomes the problem of asymmetry identified above VI , ensuring that any forward-looking regime of international justice will not reinstitute hierarchies that exist among states in the status quo. The disadvantage of this approach is that it deviates so dramatically from contemporary practices, in which nation-states dominate international politics. Indeed, it is quite possible that this alternative international social contract will require the wholesale reconceptualization of the state and the corresponding consideration of alternative modes of social organization. Professor Neidleman is currently at work on a monograph on Rousseau and truthseeking.

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