Abstract

In this paper I respond to Robert Taylor's argument that a Rawlsian framework does not support strong affirmative action (AA) programs. The paper makes three main arguments. The first disputes Taylor's claim that strong AA would not be needed in ideal conditions. Private racial discrimination, I suggest, might still exist in such conditions, so strong AA might be needed there. The second challenges Taylor's claims that pure procedural justice constrains Rawlsian nonideal theory. I argue that this rests on a fetishizing of pure procedural justice that is absent from Rawls's work. I also show that a revised formulation of Taylor's concern here also fails. My third argument makes a positive Rawlsian case for strong AA in nonideal conditions that builds on a Taylor concession. Taylor suggests that the goal of nonideal theory is to create a world in which ideal theory can be applied. My argument begins by showing that another permissible goal of Rawlsian nonideal theory is to ameliorate injustice. I then argue that Rawls's contractualist framework supports the strongest forms of AA (categories 4–5 interventions) when category 3 interventions are blocked.

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