Positive and Negative Affirmative Action

Politics, Philosophy and Economics (forthcoming)
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Affirmative action continues to divide. My aim in this paper is to present participants in the debate with a new distinction, namely one between negative and positive affirmative action. Whereas positive affirmative action has to do with certain goods, such as a place at a prestigious university or a job at a prestigious company, negative affirmative action has to do with certain bads, such as a firing or a sentence. I then argue that some of the most prominent arguments in favor of affirmative action speak at least as much in favor of negative as positive affirmative action. At the same time, at least one of the most prominent arguments put forward against affirmative action speak less against negative affirmative action. Thus, the paper should redraw the battle lines in the affirmative action debate.

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Andreas Bengtson
Aarhus University


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