Matthew Adams


I defend affirmative action on the ground that it increases certain people’s ability to exercise their basic liberties, rather than because it rectifies injustice in the narrow context of educational admission procedures. I present this justification using a Rawlsian contractualist framework to forge a “nonideal principle of justice.” Drawing on social science, I argue that this principle supports affirmative-action policies like those in the contemporary U.S., and blocks the objection that such policies are unfair. In closing, I show how my account can be used to refine some features of contemporary affirmative-action policies, and I reflect more generally on the value of nonideal principles of justice for tackling exigent topics.