Like theories of punishment, theories of reverse (positive) discrimination can usefully be divided into forward-looking (teleological) ones and backward-looking (compensatory/retributive) ones. One example of the former type of theory is Dworkin's, who defends the policy on the ground that it will (perhaps) produce ‘a more equal society’. Another is Sher's, who defends it on the ground that it increases equality of opportunity. This essay is an examination of the latter type of theory. Compensatory discrimination is related, then, to discrimination thus: discrimination is the genus, of which reverse discrimination is a species, of which compensatory discrimination is a sub-species. It will be convenient to proceed by examining successively the ideas of discrimination, of compensation, and of compensatory discrimination.
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