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Affirmative Action, Paternalism, and Respect

New paper by Andreas Bengtson and Viki Møller Lyngby Pedersen in British Journal of Political Science, published by Cambridge University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123423000273


This article investigates the hitherto under-examined relations between affirmative action, paternalism, and respect. We provide three main arguments. First, we argue that affirmative action initiatives are typically paternalistic and thus disrespectful towards intended beneficiaries who oppose them. Second, we argue that not introducing affirmative action can be disrespectful towards these potential beneficiaries because such inaction involves a failure to recognize their moral worth adequately. Third, we argue that the paternalistic disrespect involved in affirmative action is alleviated when the potential beneficiaries' preferences against such initiatives are adaptive. We conclude that, although there is a relevant sense in which paternalistic affirmative action is disrespectful, it may be more disrespectful not to pursue such policies.