Rethinking the Dworkinian Forward-Looking Approach: is Affirmative Action Compatible with Fairness?


  • Chong Ho Yu Azusa Pacific University, USA
  • Kwok Tung Cheung University of Dayton, USA


Action, Affirmative, Compatible, Fairness


Whether Affirmative Action is a proper way to accomplish social justice in terms of fairness has been an ongoing debate in the United States. Late philosopher Ronald Dworkin was a vocal supporter of Category 4 Affirmative Action, in which preferential treatments for minorities is justified. Dworkin emphasized a forward-looking approach as a means to achieve social justice and overall fairness. In his view, it is not sufficient for black applicants to enjoy preferential treatment now just because in the past their ancestors suffered due to slavery. Rather, a successful argument for affirmative action programs must include a forward-looking justification. To be specific, this policy promises a better educational environment in terms of diversity and promotes a less racially conscious society for all citizens. Additionally, Dworkin often cited the study entitled The Shape of the River to substantiate his claim that special treatment for minorities could amend social injustice and produce fairer outcomes. This article attempts to evaluate this Dworkinian theory on both the principle and practical levels. It concluded that while a neutral or non-interventional policy is insufficient to achieve racial equality, interventions in terms of special treatments and soft quotas are not yet shown to be fair in practice.