Affirmative Action, Paternalism, and Respect

British Journal of Political Science (forthcoming)
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Abstract

This article investigates the hitherto under-examined relations between affirmative action, paternalism and respect. We provide three main arguments. First, we argue that affirmative action initiatives are typically paternalistic and thus disrespectful towards those intended beneficiaries who oppose the initiatives in question. Second, we argue that not introducing affirmative action can also be disrespectful towards these potential beneficiaries because such inaction involves a failure to adequately recognize their moral worth. Third, we argue that the paternalistic disrespect involved in affirmative action is alleviated when the potential beneficiaries’ preferences against such initiatives are adaptive. We conclude that although there is a relevant sense in which paternalistic affirmative action is disrespectful, it may well be more disrespectful not to pursue such policies.

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