The Constitutional Logic of Affirmative Action

Duke University Press
Free sample

Few issues are as mired in rhetoric and controversy as affirmative action. This is certainly no less true now as when Ronald J. Fiscus’s The Constitutional Logic of Affirmative Action was first published in 1992. The controversy has, perhaps, become more charged over the past few years. With this compelling and rigorously reasoned argument for a constitutional rationale of affirmative action, Fiscus clarifies the moral and legal ramifications of this complex subject and presents an important view in the context of the ongoing debate.
Beginning with a distinction drawn between principles of compensatory and distributive justice, Fiscus argues that the former, although often the basis for judgments made in individual discrimination cases, cannot sufficiently justify broad programs of affirmative action. Only a theory of distributive justice, one that assumes minorities have a right to what they would have gained proportionally in a nonracist society, can persuasively provide that justification. On this basis, the author argues in favor of proportional racial quotas—and challenges the charge of “reverse discrimination” raised in protest in the name of the “innocent victims” of affirmative action—as an action necessary to approach the goals of fairness and equality.
The Constitutional Logic of Affirmative Action focuses on Supreme Court affirmative action rulings from Bakke (1976) to Croson (1989) and includes an epilogue by editor Stephen L. Wasby that considers developments through 1995. General readers concerned with racial justice, affirmative action, and public policy, as well as legal specialists and constitutional scholars will find Fiscus’s argument passionate, balanced, and persuasive.

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About the author

Ronald J. Fiscus was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Skidmore College until his death in 1990. Stephen L. Wasby is Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York, Albany.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Jan 30, 1992
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Pages
175
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ISBN
9780822382263
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Constitutional
Political Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Contributors. Stanley Fish, Phyllis Franklin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Henry A. Giroux, Darryl J. Gless, Gerald Graff, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, George A. Kennedy, Bruce Kuklick, Richard A. Lanham, Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Alexander Nehamas, Mary Louise Pratt, Richard Rorty, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

In this provocative work, an American political scientist poses the question, Why should we uphold our constitution?. The vast majority of Americans venerate the American Constitution and the principles it embodies, but many also worry that the United States has fallen behind other nations on crucial democratic issues, including economic equality, racial integration and women's rights. Robert Dahl explores the vital tension between the Americans' belief in the legitimacy of their constitution and their belief in the principles of democracy. Dahl starts with the assumption that the legitimacy of the American Constitution derives solely from its utility as an instrument of democratic governance. Dahl demonstrates that, due to the context in which it was conceived, the constitution came to incorporate significant antidemocratic elements. Because the Framers of the Constitution had no relevant example of a democratic political system on which to model the American government, many defining aspects of the political system were implemented as a result of short-sightedness or last-minute compromise. Dahl highlights those elements of the American system that are most unusual and potentially antidemocratic: the federal system, the bicameral legislature, judicial review, presidentialism, and the electoral college system. The political system that emerged from the world's first great democratic experiment is unique - no other well-established democracy has copied it. How does the American constitutional system function in comparison to other democratic systems? How could the political system be altered to achieve more democratic ends? To what extent did the Framers of the Constitution build features into the political system that militate against significant democratic reform? Refusing to accept the status of the American Constitution as a sacred text, Dahl challenges America to think critically about the origins of its political system and to consider the opportunities for creating a more democratic society.
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