The cloddish subtitle masks a serious argument in favor of enforced preferential affirmative action--as opposed to remedial...


A NEW AMERICAN JUSTICE: Ending the White Male Monopolies

The cloddish subtitle masks a serious argument in favor of enforced preferential affirmative action--as opposed to remedial affirmative action, which takes a less rigorous and exacting path to the reversal of discrimination (through, for example, the use of minority job or college recruiters). Maguire--author of The Moral Choice (1978) and teacher of ethics at Marquette--stands forth as a hard-core advocate of quotas and the absolute priority of social over individual goals, given the satisfaction of conditions he lays down. Arguing that discussion of justice in this country has been wrongly cast in individualist terms, Maguire sorts out three aspects of justice: the relationships between individuals, those between the individual and the collectivity, and those between the collectivity and individuals (respectively, individual, social, and distributive justice). These distinctions merely recognize that the isolated individual is a myth, and that the personality is formed within a social context. Bearing this in mind, Maguire sees four criteria as determining the justice of affirmative action: no alternatives are available, prejudice against a group includes depersonalization, discrimination against the group is general in the society (i.e., not localized), and the group in question is visible as a group, making individual escape impossible. On the basis of these criteria, he declares that the first priority must be to reverse discrimination against blacks, since they most thoroughly satisfy all four specifications; but he also cites women, American Indians, and some Hispanics as groups which qualify. Maguire addresses various arguments against his criteria (ranging from the ""reverse discrimination"" charge to ""what's black?"") for blacks only, which is to say that he defends only his strongest case. And while the counterattack against individualist morality is complete, Maguire sometimes slips into rigidity himself--as when he completely discounts all arguments for merit as spurious, failing to distinguish between cases (between university teaching and elementary school teaching, for instance). But Maguire's move is a bold one, given the times, and his case very much deserves a hearing.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980