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John Rawls has been sharply criticized, most notably by Charles Mills, for not sufficiently addressing questions of racial justice. Specifically, Mills has argued that it is a deep flaw in Rawls’s framework (and in much liberal theory that has followed Rawls’s example) that it cannot account for the legitimacy of reparations claims for past racial injustices. In response to this influential charge, the present chapter argues that reparations for racial injustice can be understood and defended within the framework of justice as fairness. It discusses the political morality of reparations and its relation to racial justice. It also explores the often-misunderstood relationship between reparative justice and distributive justice.
Through a critical engagement with Lawrence Blum’s theory of racism, I defend a “social criticism” model for the philosophical study of racism. This model relies on empirical analyses of social and psychological phenomena but goes beyond this to include the assessment of the warrant of widely held beliefs and the normative evaluation of attitudes, actions, institutions, and social arrangements. I argue that we should give political philosophy theoretical primacy over moral philosophy in normative analyses of racism. I also show how conceptualizing racism as an ideology gives us a unified account of racism and helps us to see what is truly troubling about racism, both in the past and today.
Lawrie Balfour and Robert Gooding-Williams have written superb books. Reading Du Bois's texts creatively and carefully, both treat Du Bois as a living political thinker, someone we can learn from and profitably argue with and whose thought is relevant to contemporary political theory. There is more in these books that I could praise and much in them that I agree with, but I will focus my remarks on areas of disagreement.
From Class to Race: Essays in White Marxism and Black
Radicalism. By Charles W. Mills. Lanham, MD: Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers, 2003. 312p. $75.00 cloth, $26.95 paper.
The author of the influential The Racial Contract (1997) has
gathered together a provocative collection of his essays. These
disparate papers do not form an argument for an overarching thesis. Nor
do they converge on a single theme, for example, the need to shift away
from a focus on class toward race, as the title might suggest. Rather,
the essays reveal the recent changes in Charles Mills's
philosophical interests, away from core problems in orthodox Marxism
toward the project of developing a critical race theory. One constant
throughout is Mills's attempt to demonstrate that the methods of
analytic philosophy are not inherently “bourgeois,” as many
radicals have supposed, but can be usefully applied to problems that
concern leftists. Yet unlike much of analytic philosophy, these essays
are never boring but instead are generously laced with the
author's characteristic biting sarcasm and bold humor.
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