The political significance of legal ambiguity: The case of affirmative action

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16 Scopus citations


During the past 20 years, the American politics of race has been characterized by fundamental disagreements over the legitimacy of racial preferences. I trace the development of these disagreements within the Supreme Court's jurisprudence of affirmative action. I argue that the content and endurance of the Court's ambiguous jurisprudence stems from the particular politics of constitutional adjudication. More specifically, I argue that the overarching task of the modern Court is to justify its actions against a baseline of interest-group politics. The uncertain logic of affirmative action creates a position for the Court within the group process, meeting the judicial challenge of self-justification even as it leaves the ultimate validity of racial preferences open to question.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-290
Number of pages28
JournalLaw and Society Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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