Color-blindness in rawls’s theory of justice

Date
2019-05
Advisor
Berges, Sandrine
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Bilkent University
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English
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Abstract

I argue that Rawls’s theory of justice cannot be a guide to rectify or even to address racial injustice. While critics of Rawls’s theory do not particularly focus on colorblind discourse, my critique builds on this problematic feature of Rawls's account. In particular, the original position, a central element of the motivation for Rawls's account, is constructed from a color-blind perspective. For the case of racial injustices, any ideal drawn from a color-blind perspective cannot be of any help, since it emphasizes equality and sameness of all human beings. This serves to cover up the deep causes of racial inequalities and contributes to maintenance of racial structure in society. In order to illustrate my point, I use Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s conceptualization of color-blindness as “color-blind racism”, which makes clear the negative impact of a focus on egalitarian considerations. Surely, Rawls’s conception of a perfectly just society is taken by him as a part of ideal theory. Yet, even though questions of racial injustices are part of nonideal theory, the fact that his ideal theory is the foundation of his normative theory renders this defense questionable, as Charles Mills also emphasizes. This is because it suggests that our actual society would become more just, if it approximates to his ideal society. And since ideal society is a color-blind one, my worry is that Rawls’s normative account is also color-blind and would give us a society where racial structures remain intact and keep producing racial inequalities.

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Keywords
Color-blind racism, Race, Racial Justice, Rawls, Theory of Justice
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Published Version (Please cite this version)