Research Seminar

Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen: Affirmative Action and Relational Egalitarianism

Date: 15 December 2015
Time: 10:00–12:00

Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, professor at the department of political science, Aarhus university


Traditionally, egalitarians have been concerned with distributions of income, opportunities, resources generally etc. being equal. Recently, however, so-called relational egalitarians have called into question the distributive focus of standard egalitarianism. Instead, they argue, what egalitarians should be, and real-life egalitarians have in fact been, concerned with is that people relate to one another as equals, e.g., that gays and lesbians can appear in public space without shame, that race is not a sign of low socio-economic status, and that disabled people are not excluded from civil society. On their view, distributions of goods are relevant only to the extent that they affect the (in)egalitarian nature of social relations and, as a matter of fact,  significant inequalities can coexist with egalitarian social relations.

In my presentation, I will explore the implications of this view for indirect discrimination and affirmative action. I will argue that relational egalitarianism implies that indirect discrimination is not unjust as such and that it implies that certain unusual forms of affirmative action are justified, e.g., affirmative action increasing the representation of members of privileged groups among low-pay, low-prestige jobs. These implications might or might not be damaging, but they appear out of line with the views of most real-life egalitarians.

Research area; the concept of democracy, ethics and moral philosophy, political and economic philosophy and history of ideas.

Download the paper here (pdf)

Read more about Kasper

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