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3. Political Philosophy
About this Lecture
In this module, we consider the argument that affirmative action should be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it goes against some basic principles of political philosophy, focusing in particular on: (i) the argument that affirmative action goes against the principles of fairness and natural justice; (ii) the argument that affirmative action goes against the principles of liberalism; (iii) the argument that affirmative action goes against the principles of the rule of law; and (iv) two important early cases on the legality of affirmative action – DeFunis v. Odegaard (1974) and Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke (1978).
In this course, Dr Matthew Williams (University of Oxford) explores the concept of ‘affirmative action’ in the United States through the question ‘Why have critics asserted that affirmative action should be declared unconstitutional?’ In the first module, we introduce the question itself, before looking in more detail at the history of race relations in the United States and the idea of “unconstitutionality”. After that, in the second module, we think about why the judiciary is the only branch of government in the United States with the power to declare something “unconstitutional”, and how the Supreme Court obtained these powers. In the following four modules, we outline four potential arguments that critics of affirmative action have used to question its constitutionality – first, on the grounds of basic principles of political philosophy such as liberty and natural justice; second, on the grounds that the Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction to enforce affirmative action; third, on the grounds that federally-enforced affirmative action is no longer needed; and fourth, on the grounds that the ends of affirmative actions are unacceptably vague. Finally, in the seventh module, we provide a brief recap of the question that we were considering and the different arguments that we considered in trying to answer it, before moving on to suggest some avenues for further reading.
Dr Matthew Williams is Access and Career Development Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford. His research focuses on the the language of politics, especially how the language of legislation has changed over the previous century. His recent publications include How Language Works in Politics: The Impact of Vague Legislation on Policy (2018).
Cite this Lecture
Williams, M. (2020, December 30). US Politics – Affirmative Action - Political Philosophy [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/us-politics-affirmative-action/political-philosophy
Williams, M. "US Politics – Affirmative Action – Political Philosophy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 Dec 2020, https://massolit.io/courses/us-politics-affirmative-action/political-philosophy