Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen here poses the question: "Is affirmative action morally (un)justifiable?" As a phrase that frequently surfaces in major headlines, affirmative action is a highly controversial and far-reaching issue, yet most of the recent scholarly literature surrounding the topic tends to focus on defending one side or another in a particular case of affirmative action.
Lippert-Rasmussen instead takes a wide-angle view, addressing each of the prevailing contemporary arguments for and against affirmative action. In his introduction, he proposes an amended definition of affirmative action and considers what forms, from quotas to outreach strategies, may fall under this revised definition. He then analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each position, relative to each other, and applies recent discussions in political philosophy to assess if and how each argument might justify different conclusions given different cases or philosophical frameworks. Each chapter investigates an argument for or against affirmative action. The six arguments for it consist of compensation, anti-discrimination, equality of opportunity, role model, diversity, and integration. The five arguments against it are reverse discrimination, stigma, mismatch, publicity, and merit. Lippert-Rasmussen also expands the discussion to include affirmative action for groups beyond the prototypical examples of African Americans and women, and to consider health and minority languages as possible criteria for inclusion in affirmative action initiatives.
Based on the comparative strength of anti-discrimination and equality of opportunity arguments, Making Sense of Affirmative Action ultimately makes a case in favor of affirmative action; however, its originality lies in Lippert-Rasmussen's careful exploration of moral justifiability as a contextual evaluative measure and his insistence that complexity and a comparative focus are inherent to this important issue.