Rawlsian Affirmative Action Essay

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Rawlsian Affirmative Action: Compensatory Justice as Seen from the Original Position *

ABSTRACT: In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls presents a method of determining how a just society would allocate its "primary goods"-that is, those things any rational person would desire, such as opportunities, liberties, rights, wealth, and the bases of self-respect. (1) Rawls' method of adopting the "original position" is supposed to yield a "fair" way of distributing such goods. A just society would also have the need (unmet in the above work) to determine how the victims of injustice ought to be compensated, since history suggests that social contracts are likely to be violated. This paper is an attempt to determine the remedial measures that
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In addition, it mandates that every advantage is to be the reward of holding a position for which all members of society have the opportunity to compete (60-1, 84, 302-3). (In what follows, this caveat will prove critical.)

I shall construe the goal of affirmative action policies in Rawls' terms. Thus, they are to be understood as being designed to secure for those who were harmed by a violation of either one of the above principles the measure of primary goods to which those principles entitle them as well as a remedy for the effects of their deprivation. They, then, require us not only to change current distributional practices so as to make them fair, but also to help those disadvantaged by past injustices become capable of utilizing the assets such a change would bring their way.

One way of achieving this goal is to mandate that the administrators of educational, governmental, and business institutions employ aggressive means of recruiting the victims of injustice. This practice, hereafter "AA1," is supposed to insure that such persons, who might otherwise be ignorant of the academic and employment opportunities thereby offered, are made aware of their existence and encouraged to take advantage of them.

The second form of affirmative action dictates that a member of a disadvantaged group be given a sought after position in the event that she is as qualified for it as other aspirants. The idea here is to compensate a victim of injustice by having her

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