My paper addresses a topic--the implications of Rawls's justice as fairness for affirmativeaction--that has received remarkably little attention from Rawls's major interpreters. The only extended treatments of it that are in print are over a quarter-century old, and they bear scarcely any relationship to Rawls's own nonideal theorizing. Following Christine Korsgaard's lead, I work through the implications of Rawls's nonideal theory and show what it entails for affirmativeaction: viz. that under nonideal conditions, aggressive forms (...) of formal equality of opportunity (e.g., sensitivity training, outreach efforts, external monitoring and enforcement) and compensating support (e.g., special fellowship programs, childcare facilities, mentoring, co-op opportunities, etc.) can be justified, but that "hard" and even "soft" quotas are difficult to defend under any conditions. I conclude the paper by exploring the implications of these surprising results for contemporary liberalism more broadly and for constitutional law and public policy. (shrink)
Affirmativeaction is often implemented as a way of making redress to victims of past injustices. But critics of this practice have launched a three-pronged assault against it. Firstly, they point out that beneficiaries of preferential policies tend not to benefit to the same extent as they were harmed by past injustices. Secondly, when its defenders point to the wider benefits of affirmativeaction , critics maintain that such ends could never be sufficiently weighty to permit (...) violating equal treatment. And, thirdly, critics dispute whether the alleged benefits of affirmativeaction really ensue. I argue this three-pronged assault is flawed at the conceptual level. Firstly, it operates with an impoverished conception of redress. When X wrongs Y, X does not make exhaustive redress to Y by compensating Y for the harm Y suffered due to X’s wrong action. Redress also requires rectification of the wrong: X must put right the wrong done to Y by making adequate amends. While the means of compensation are determined by the extent of the harm for which compensation is due, the adequacy of amends for a wrong is less tightly controlled by the nature of the wrong. So, secondly, it is perfectly right that the choice of amends be informed by the prospect of wider benefits. Whether, thirdly, these benefits are in fact in prospect in the case of affirmativeaction is an empirical question which philosophy cannot answer. (shrink)
Affirmativeaction programs are not justified by compensatory justice. They place a disproportionate burden on white-male applicants. White-male applicants do not owe compensation because they committed a relevant wrongdoing or because they benefitted from another’s wrongdoing. They did not commit a relevant wrongdoing. Receipt of an unjust benefit, when unavoidable and mixed with hard work, does not justify a duty to compensate a victim of the injustice. Thus, the compensatory-justice argument for affirmativeaction fails.
There is widespread agreement among both supporters and opponents that affirmativeaction either must not violate any principle of equal opportunity or procedural justice, or if it does, it may do so only given current extenuating circumstances. Many believe that affirmativeaction is morally problematic, only justified to the extent that it brings us closer to the time when we will no longer need it. In other words, those that support affirmativeaction believe it (...) is acceptable in nonideal theory, but not ideal theory. This paper argues that affirmativeaction is entirely compatible with equal opportunity and procedural justice and would be even in an ideal world. I defend a new analysis of Rawlsian procedural justice according to which it is permissible to interfere in the outcomes of procedures, and thus I show that affirmativeaction is not morally problematic in the way that many have supposed. (shrink)
One popular criticism of affirmativeaction is that it discriminates against those who would otherwise have been offered jobs without it. This objection must rely on the non- consequentialist distinction between what we do and what we merely allow to claim that doing nothing merely allows people to be harmed by the discrimination of others, while preferential programs actively harm those left out. It fails since the present effects of past discrimination result from social arrangements which result from (...) actions of ours. We can be responsible for the effects of past discrimination, even without having discriminated, if we are responsible for that discrimination having those effects. (shrink)
Though the common sense defense of affirmativeaction (or employment equity) appeals to principles of restitution, philosophers have tried to defend it in other ways. In contrast, I defend it by appealing to the notion of restitution, arguing (1) that alternative attempts to justify affirmativeaction fail; and (2) that ordinary affirmativeaction programs need to be supplemented and amended in keeping with the principles this suggests.
Critiquing any practice, theory, or law, requires understanding the characteristics of the environment which created a need for this law. There are hundreds of different cultures in the world, and each one has its own set of norms, characteristics, and values. What in one country is perceived normal, ethical or unethical, right or wrong, may not be the same somewhere else in the world. The first civilizations begun in Africa and Europe many thousands of years ago when people were hunters (...) and nomads, it is not unreasonable to suspect that many of those traits and characteristics have been socially transferred and/or inherited by future generations. (shrink)
This paper examines four major arguments advanced by opponents of race and gender conscious affirmativeaction and rebuts them on the basis of moral considerations. It is clear that the problem of past racial/gender discrimination has not disappeared; its effects linger, resulting in a wide disparity in opportunities and attainments between minorities/women and whites/males. Affirmativeaction, although not the perfect solution, is by far the most viable method of redressing the effects of past discrimination. Thus it (...) cannot be dismissed lightly by way of arguing for mere colorblindness. (shrink)
Affirmativeaction has been a particularly contentious policy issue that has polarised contributions to the debate. Over recent times in most western countries, support for affirmativeaction has, however, been largely snuffed out or beaten into retreat and replaced by the concept of ‹diversity management’. Thus, any contemporary study that examines the development of affirmativeaction would suggest that its opponents have won the battle. Nonetheless, this article argues that because the battle has been (...) won on dubious ethical grounds it is important that we do not allow affirmativeaction to sink unnoticed. This article explores and challenges the ethical and philosophical underpinnings of opponents’ views and finds their cases against affirmativeaction are not ethically sound. The article concludes there are strong ethical grounds for those organisations which seek to do well, to reassert affirmativeaction programmes in the global efforts to eradicate systemic discrimination and disadvantage. (shrink)
This article argues against the view that affirmativeaction is wrong because it involves assigning group rights. First, affirmativeaction does not have to proceed by assigning rights at all. Second, there are, in fact, legitimate “group rights” both legal and moral; there are collective rights—which are exercised by groups—and membership rights—which are rights people have in virtue of group membership. Third, there are continuing harms that people suffer as blacks and claims to remediation for these (...) harms can fairly treat the (social) property of being black as tracking the victims of those harms. Affirmativeaction motivated in this way aims to respond to individual wrongs; wrongs that individuals suffer, as it happens, in virtue of their membership in groups. Finally, the main right we have when we are being considered for jobs and places at colleges is that we be treated according to procedures that are morally defensible. Morally acceptable procedures sometimes take account of the fact that a person is a member of a certain social group. (shrink)
This article provides a framework for comparing meritocratic and affirmativeaction admissions policies. The context of the analysis is admissions to public universities; admission rules are evaluated as part of the public investment problem faced by a state government. Meritocratic and affirmative admissions policies are compared in terms of their effects on the level and distribution of human capital. I argue that (a) meritocratic admissions are not necessarily efficient and (b) affirmativeaction policies may be (...) efficiency enhancing relative to meritocratic ones. Both these claims, as well as their negations, depend on features of individual behavior for which there is little empirical evidence. The implications of this absence of evidence are then explored, with a focus on policy evaluation when equality and efficiency are both desiderata. I argue that standard statistical decision theoretic approaches do not apply to the affirmativeaction case, even if equality and efficiency are rendered commensurable based on a scalar payoff function. In this context, I suggest that a presumption for equality-enhancing policies leads to support for affirmativeaction, but I emphasize the contingent nature of this conclusion. Key Words: affirmativeaction meritocracy college admissions efficiency. (shrink)
In this book Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen address the complexities of his question "Is affirmativeaction morally justifiable?" by analyzing the prevailing contemporary arguments both for and against affirmativeaction. The book applies current political philosophy to demonstrate that arguments on both sides justify different conclusions given different specific cases, though it ultimately does argue in favor of affirmativeaction based on the relative strength and significance of the anti-discrimination- and equality of opportunity-based positions.
In the context of state educational institutions, young white males are owed a duty to respect their interest or desert tokens. Not all white males have waived this duty since many white males have not performed the relevant types of culpable wrongdoing. Merely having benefitted from an unjust injury act or being a member of a community that owe a debt of compensation to racial minorities and women are not sufficient grounds to override the duty owed to the white male. (...) Since the three most plausible attempts to provide a compensatory justice justification for strong affirmativeaction programs at state educational institutions fail, I conclude that the following is false. (1) Other things being equal, a state educational institution may choose to hire a less qualified candidate over a more qualified candidate because the weight given to the race or gender of the less qualified candidate relates to the elimination of a debt of compensatory justice. Hence, unless strong affirmativeaction programs at state educational institutions can be justified by reference to some other value, such as the value of diversity, the state ought to eliminate such programs. (shrink)
Racial preferences are among the most contentious issues in our society, touching on fundamental questions of fairness and the proper role of racial categories in government action. Now two contemporary philosophers, in a lively debate, lay out the arguments on each side. Carl Cohen, a key figure in the University of Michigan Supreme Court cases, argues that racial preferences are morally wrong--forbidden by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and explicitly banned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He (...) also contends that such preferences harm society in general, damage the universities that use them, and undermine the minorities they were intended to serve. James P. Sterba counters that, far from being banned by the Constitution and the civil rights acts, affirmativeaction is actually mandated by law in the pursuit of a society that is racially and sexually just. The same Congress that adopted the 14th Amendment, he notes, passed race-specific laws that extended aid to blacks. Indeed, there are various kinds of affirmativeaction--compensation for past discrimination, remedial measures aimed at current discrimination, the guarantee of diversity--and Sterba reviews the Supreme Court cases that build a constitutional foundation for each. Affirmativeaction, he argues, favors qualified minority candidates, not unqualified ones. Both authors offer concluding comment on the University of Michigan cases decided in 2003. Half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, issues pertaining to racial discrimination continue to grip American society. Ideal for courses in political, social, ethical, and legal philosophy, this penetrating debate explores the philosophical and legal arguments on all sides of affirmativeaction, but also reveals the passions that drive the issue to the forefront of public life. (shrink)
This essay is about the moral and political justification of affirmativeaction programs in the United States. Both legally and politically, many of these programs are under attack, though they remain ubiquitous. The concern of this essay, however, is not with what the law says but with what it should say. The main argument advanced in this essay concludes that most of the controversial affirmativeaction programs are unjustified. It proceeds in a way that avoids dependence (...) on controversial theories of justice or morality. My intention is to produce an argument that is persuasive across a broad ideological spectrum, extending even to those who believe that justice requires these very programs. Though the main focus of the essay is on affirmativeaction, in the course of making the case that these programs are illegitimate, I shall defend some principles about the conditions under which it is appropriate for the state to impose on civil society the demands of justice. These principles have broader implications for a normative theory of social change in democratic societies. (shrink)
AffirmativeAction is becoming the most controversial social issue of our day. In this essay I examine nine arguments on the moral status of AffirmativeAction. I distinguish between weak AffirmativeAction, which seeks to provide fair opportunity to all citizens from strong AffirmativeAction, which enjoins preferential treatment to groups who have been underrepresented in social positions. I conclude that while weak AffirmativeAction is morally required, strong Affirmative (...)Action is morally wrong. (shrink)
Contributors: Steven M. Cahn, James W. Nickel, J. L. Cowan, Paul W. Taylor, Michael D. Bayles, William A. Nunn III, Alan H. Goldman, Paul Woodruff, Robert A. Shiver, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Robert Simon, George Sher, Robert Amdur, Robert K. Fullinwider, Bernard R. Boxhill, Lisa H. Newton, Anita L. Allen, Celia Wolf-Devine, Sidney Hook, Richaed Waaserstrom, Thomas E. Hill, Jr., John Kekes.
Affirmativeaction refers to positive steps taken to hire persons from groups previously and presently discriminated against. Considerable evidence indicates that this discrimination is intractable and cannot be eliminated by the enforcement of laws. Numerical goals and quotas are justified if and only if they are necessary to overcome the discriminatory effects that could not otherwise be eliminated with reasonable efficiency. Many past as well as present policies are justified in this way.
Affirmativeaction programs remain controversial, I suspect, partly because the familiar arguments for and against them start from significantly different moral perspectives. Thus I want to step back for a while from the details of debate about particular programs and give attention to the moral viewpoints presupposed in different types of argument. My aim, more specifically, is to compare the “messages” expressed when affirmativeaction is defended from different moral perspectives. Exclusively forward-looking arguments, I suggest, tend (...) to express the wrong message, but this is also true of exclusively backward-looking arguments. However, a moral outlook that focuses on cross-temporal narrative values suggests a more appropriate account of what affirmativeaction should try to express. Assessment of the message, admittedly, is only one aspect of a complex issue, but it is a relatively neglected one. My discussion takes for granted some common-sense ideas about the communicative function of action, and so I begin with these. Actions, as the saying goes, often speak louder than words. There are times, too, when only actions can effectively communicate the message we want to convey and times when giving a message is a central part of the purpose of action. What our actions say to others depends largely, though not entirely, upon our avowed reasons for acting; and this is a matter for reflective decision, not something we discover later by looking back at what we did and its effects. The decision is important because “the same act” can have very different consequences, depending upon how we choose to justify it. (shrink)
Choice often proceeds in two stages: We construct a shortlist on the basis of limited and uncertain information about the options and then reduce this uncertainty by examining the shortlist in greater detail. The goal is to do well when making a final choice from the option set. I argue that we cannot realise this goal by constructing a ranking over the options at shortlisting stage which determines of each option whether it is more or less worthy of being included (...) in a shortlist. This is relevant to the 2010 UK Equality Act. The Act requires that shortlists be constructed on grounds of candidate rankings and affirmativeaction is only permissible for equally qualified candidates. This is misguided: Shortlisting candidates with lower expected qualifications but higher variance may raise the chance of finding an exceptionally strong candidate. If it does, then shortlisting such candidates would make eminent business sense and there is nothing unfair about it. This observation opens up room for including more underrepresented candidates with protected characteristics, as they are more likely to display greater variance in the selector’s credence functions at shortlisting stage. (shrink)
ABSTRACT This article attempts to show that affirmativeaction can be supported by the doctrine of double effect which recognises distinctions between desired and unintended effects such that the responsibility for acts falls on the side of the former rather than the latter. With this doctrine it may also be seen why affirmativeaction programmes cannot be simply equated with numerical quota systems, nor can they be called discriminatory, at least not under the definition of discrimination (...) utilised. (shrink)
This paper explores the psychological phenomena of sex stereotypes and their consequences for the occurrence of sex discrimination in work settings. Differential conceptions of the attributes of women and men are shown to extend to women and men managers, and the lack of fit model is used to explain how stereotypes about women can detrimentally affect their career progress. Commonly-occurring organizational conditions which facilitate the use of stereotypes in personnel decision making are identified and, lastly, data are provided demonstrating the (...) way in which affirmativeaction programs and practices can act to promote the stereotyping of women suggesting, that rather than being a remedy for sex discrimination, such programs might in fact be another contributor to the problem. Conclusions focus on the importance of attending to the role sex stereotypes play in hindering women's career progress when procedures to combat sex discrimination in organizations are designed and implemented. (shrink)
Professor Sterba argues for two interesting and provocative positions regarding affirmativeaction. First, affirmativeaction programs are still needed to ensure diversity in educational institutions of higher learning. Secondly, the proponents and opponents of affirmativeaction are not as far apart as they seem to think. To this end, he proposes a position that would give weight to race as a category for affirmativeaction that can withstand the challenges of affirmative (...)action opponents while giving the needed support for affirmativeaction proponents. It is his contention that both sides can support arguments for diversity affirmativeaction. This paper raises concerns about the ability of arguments for racial diversity to resolve or bring together opponents and proponents of affirmativeaction. It is argued that the negative social climate, regarding the social and intellectual merits of black Americans, works against the acceptance of affirmativeaction programs. In sum, it is argued that Professor Sterba’s position continues to put the social onus of changing racial attitudes on blacks with little or no effort on the part of whites other than allowing blacks admittance to formerly segregated educational institutions to interact with white students. (shrink)
For the students, while the numbers are up,… the problem that minorities face – and it is persistent – is that there is still too much of a patronizing air in the professional schools. And there's still too much of the notion that if you're here it must be because someone gave you a break and you're different and you really don't belong here. And indeed when my son went off to school four years ago… I really wanted to warn (...) him about the atmosphere that you see on all too many campuses, diat if you're black and walking on campus, that all too many people look at you and say, “You must be an affirmativeaction product,” whatever that means to them. “You're here only at our good grace.” And no one's looking at the individual. Thinking about it in retrospect, I guess, in some ways I enjoyed an advantage in being [the only black in my law school class]. It was a terrible disadvantage in a lot of ways, but, because I was the only black, the one thing I never faced was anyone ever challenging my intellectual capability. The way they brought this off was to say, “Well, you're different. You're black but you're not really black.” I think it's a lot worse now…. Professional schools are hard enough as it is, and to constantly have the pressure of what others are thinking about you and wondering whether you really belong, that really is a difficult burden. (shrink)
While affirmativeaction programs exist for a number of groups, little serious consideration has been given to the establishment of such programs for gay men and lesbians. This essay argues that many of the conditions that justify current affirmativeaction programs would also justify their extension to gay people, both in terms of compensation for injuries suffered and in terms of benefit to both individuals and society generally. It is argued that anti-discrimination policies are hard to (...) enforce and, in any case, would be inadequate to redress many of the wrongs suffered by gays and lesbians. It is concluded that programs favoring gay visibility are morally justified. (shrink)
Physical attractiveness is highly valued in our society and impacts a variety of decisions made by organizations. Generally speaking, research findings suggest that the more attractive the person, the greater the likelihood of favorable employment-related decisions. It follows then, that those considered physically unattractive will suffer adversely in some employment-related decisional contexts — decisions that may prevent them from achieving the good life. Until recently, discrimination against unattractive people has been considered nothing more than a moral or ethical issue. However, (...) with the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, attractiveness as an employment-related criteria may become a legal issue. In this essay, we propose that the history of social and legal trends, coupled with uncertainties and ambiguities within the ADA, represents a possible expansion of protection for physically unattractive people. (shrink)
Although the residues of official segregation are widespread, affirmativeaction continues to meet resistance in both official and everyday life, even in such recent Supreme Court decisions as Grutter v Bollinger (539 U.S. 306). This is due in part to a governing ontology that draws the line between individual and collective. But there are other possibilities for conceiving the social, and I offer one here in a theory of affirmativeaction that is developed through close examination (...) of sharing and promising as elemental qualities of equitable communal life. The nature and value of these actions are demonstrated in narrative formulations of fairness as exemplified in triage and the situation at the end of slavery; of the difference between equality and equity and how justice depends on their conjunction; and finally of theorizing how these may come together in the permutable, opaque, yet resilient interdependence of person and community that represents most deeply the Greek idea of two in one, that is, of one two, not two ones. In these respects the paper is successful insofar as it discloses the kinds of reasoning that underlie both resistance and commitment to affirmativeaction. (shrink)
As a U.S. civil rights policy, affirmativeaction commonly denotes race-conscious and result-oriented efforts by private and public officials to correct the unequal distribution of economic opportunity and education attributed to slavery, segregation, poverty and racism. Opponents argue that affirmativeaction (1) violates ideals of color-blind public policies, offending moral principles of fairness and constitutional principles of equality and due process; (2) has proven to be socially and politically divisive; (3) has not made things better; (4) (...) mainly benefits middle-class, wealthy and foreign-born blacks; (4) stigmatizes its beneficiaries; and (5) compromises the self-esteem and self-respect of beneficiaries who know that they have been awarded preferential treatment. By way of a thought experiment, imagine that after decades of public policy and experimentation, the United States public finally came to agree: affirmativeaction is morally and legally wrong. Employing such a thought experiment, this essay by a beneficiary of affirmativeaction—written in response to James Sterba’s AffirmativeAction for the Future (2009)—examines duties of moral repair and the possibility that the past beneficiaries of affirmativeaction owe apologies, compensation or some other highly personal form of corrective accountability. Beneficiaries of affirmativeaction have experienced woundedness and moral insecurity. Indeed, the practice of affirmativeaction comes with a psychology, a set of psychological benefits and burdens whose moral logic those of us who believe in our own fallibility—as much as we believe in the justice of what we have received and conferred on others—should address. (shrink)