From inequality to equality: Evaluating normative justifications for affirmative action as racial redress

  • Susan Hall Department of Philosophy, Stellenbosch University
  • Minka Woermann Department of Philosophy, Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Rawls, affirmative action, apartheid, quota systems, principle of rectification, justice as fairness, procedural justice, diversity


We investigate whether, and to what extent, Nozick’s entitlement theory and Rawls’s theory of justice as fairness can normatively ground affirmative action policies. Our findings are that, whereas the Nozickean project offers no guidance for large-scale redress, the Rawlsian position supports affirmative action as redress, but only in its softer forms. Therefore, if one accepts the assumptions of equal liberty and fairness upon which Rawls’s theory is based, one is left with two alternatives: either to reject Rawls’s theory because it fails to support quota systems, or to accept Rawls’s theory and reject quota systems as a legitimate form of redress. We argue for the latter option. 


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