Rawlsian Affirmative Action

Ethics 119 (3):476-506 (2009)
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Abstract
My paper addresses a topic--the implications of Rawls's justice as fairness for affirmative action--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 affirmative action: 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.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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2009-06-10

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