Philosophy seminar: A Theory of Egalitarian Justice

Speaker: Abosede Priscilla Ipadeola

Postcontractarianism is a political theory that argues that egalitarianism cannot be founded on agreement, but on understanding. Over the course of about half a millennium, scholars, and theorists of political ideas have celebrated the contractarian theory of justice. Even though the social contract has faced criticism from time to time, many scholars view it as an ideal theory of egalitarian justice.

However, just like Carole Pateman and Charles Mills have already argued, contractarianism justifies gender and racial inequalities because it promotes equality among the white male population while excluding and marginalizing women and people of color. Thus, the social contract cannot engender or ensure equality, as it is not designed for that purpose. There have been various attempts by contractarians to redefine and improve the theory.

In the end, however, since agreement is the core of the social contract, the theory cannot achieve equality. This is because contractarianism abysmally fails to produce equality at a level beyond the contractor’s immediate society and era. Therefore, postcontractarianism is proposed as a viable alternative to social contract theory. According to postcontractarianism, a more egalitarian society can be built on the Hegelian philosophy of history.

Priscilla is a senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and also currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Katholische Universitat Eichstatt-Ingolstadt in Germany, funded by the Humboldt Foundation. She has just published a book on feminist African philosophy with Routledge.