In 1972, affirmative action became an inflammatory public issue.True enough, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already had made something called “affirmative action” a remedy federal courts could impose on violators of the Act.
The ebb and flow of public controversy over affirmative action can be pictured as two spikes on a line, the first spike representing a period of passionate debate that began around 1972 and tapered off after 1980, and the second indicating a resurgence of debate in the 1990s leading up to Supreme Court’s decisions in 20 upholding certain kinds of affirmative action.
The first spike encompassed controversy about gender and racial preferences alike.
Preferential policies, in her view, worked a kind of justice.
Nagel, by contrast, argued that preferences might work a kind of social good, and without doing violence to justice.
The other has been the path of public debate, where the practice of preferential treatment has spawned a vast literature, pro and con.
Often enough, the two paths have failed to make adequate contact, with the public quarrels not always very securely anchored in any existing legal basis or practice.
4, fully implementing the Executive Order, landed on campus by way of directives from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. 4, first promulgated in 1970, cast a wide net over American institutions, both public and private.
By extending to all contractors the basic apparatus of the construction industry “plans,” the Order imposed a one-size-fits-all system of “underutilization analyses,” “goals,” and “timetables” on hospitals, banks, trucking companies, steel mills, printers, airlines—indeed, on all the scores of thousands of institutions, large and small, that did business with the government, including a special set of institutions with a particularly voluble and articulate constituency, namely, American universities.
Philosophers might do “meta-ethics” but not “normative ethics.” This viewed collapsed in the 1970s under the weight of two counter-blows.
First, John Rawls published in 1971 , became self-conscious platforms for socially and politically engaged philosophical writing, born out of the feeling that in time of war (the Vietnam War) and social tumult (the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation), philosophers ought to do, not simply talk about, ethics.