Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Charles Mills

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | Ethics and Political Philosophy | International Law | International Relations | Other International and Area Studies | Political Theory


Social Contract, Transitional Justice, Transitional Justice Mechanisms, Political Philosophy, State of Nature, Social Movements, Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Genocide, International Relations, ICTY, ICTR, International Law


In this thesis, I seek to bring together two areas of scholarly work to see how each can inform the other: social contract theory and transitional justice. The social contract, as it exists and as it was theorized about by Rousseau, was born from the world-historic forces that spread capitalism across the globe, stirring up nationalism everywhere it went. In its wake, there was vast inequality and new legal regimes which protected the hoarded wealth of the capitalist class by enshrining the right of private property along with life and liberty. To examine the intricacies of transitional justice and its mechanisms, I primarily study the examples of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. From these cases there are many examples of transitional justice mechanisms: two international criminal tribunals, hybrid courts, truth and reconciliation commissions, special war crimes courts, indigenous forms of dispute resolution, lustration, and amnesties. I attempt to answer three questions: Why do people commit genocide? What is the social contract under transitional justice? Is there a third state of nature? To answer these questions I draw upon a diverse body of literature from multiple disciplines. I hope that my approach to these subjects illuminates new ways of thinking about social contract theory and transitional justice.