Working Paper No. 14-20:
Affirmative Action: Between the Oikos and the Cosmos

Author(s):

Harry Hutchison

Date Posted: June 2014

Availability:
Abstract (below) | Full text (most recent) on SSRN

Abstract:

This essay reviews Sander & Taylor’s book, MISMATCH: HOW AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HURTS STUDENTS IT’S INTENDED TO HELP, AND WHY UNIVERSITIES WON’T ADMIT IT (MISMATCH) by situating its claims within a context. Context is supplied by examining three things: first, by reflecting on the contradictions embedded in the modern world; second, by exploring the paradoxes of Supreme Court jurisprudence; and finally, by observing the gulf between the cosmopolitan ideal predicated on appeals to Americans as citizens of the world who are provoked by reason and love of humanity and bounded only by universal moral obligations on the one hand, and a vision that sees citizens of the United States as individuals who are bounded by the primacy of their commitment to the nostos comprised by the local community of birth and the particularities of family and nation, on the other.

Several reasons spark this review of MISMATCH. First, the authors contend that they have “demonstrated that the present system of racial admissions preferences has grave problems and has shown a remarkable incapacity to heal itself,” a thesis that is made all the more puzzling given their corresponding claim that the United States “Supreme Court seems to be the only hope for serious and stable reform” of our current affirmative action system. Second, William Kidder and others have raised a number of serious issues that indicate Sander & Taylor have too often relied on either questionable data or incomplete data analysis. Third, the Court’s recent decision upholding the state of Michigan’s ban on racial preferences. Fourth and finally, the possibility that diversity as practiced within leading American universities has been transmuted into racial commodification. These factors, taken together, suggest that it is a propitious time to review the authors’ scholarship.