Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Affirmative Action: Between the Oikos and the Cosmos

72 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2014 Last revised: 11 Dec 2014

Harry G. Hutchison

Centre for the Study of Law & Public Policy at Oxford; Regent University - School of Law

Date Written: June 11, 2014


This essay reviews Sander & Taylor’s book, MISMATCH: HOW AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HURTS STUDENTS IT’S INTENDED TO HELP, AND WHY UNIVERSITIES WON’T ADMIT IT (MISMATCH) by situating its claims within a context. Context is supplied by examining three things: first, by reflecting on the contradictions embedded in the modern world; second, by exploring the paradoxes of Supreme Court jurisprudence; and finally, by observing the gulf between the cosmopolitan ideal predicated on appeals to Americans as citizens of the world who are provoked by reason and love of humanity and bounded only by universal moral obligations on the one hand, and a vision that sees citizens of the United States as individuals who are bounded by the primacy of their commitment to the nostos comprised by the local community of birth and the particularities of family and nation, on the other.

Several reasons spark this review of MISMATCH. First, the authors contend that they have “demonstrated that the present system of racial admissions preferences has grave problems and has shown a remarkable incapacity to heal itself,” a thesis that is made all the more puzzling given their corresponding claim that the United States “Supreme Court seems to be the only hope for serious and stable reform” of our current affirmative action system. Second, William Kidder and others have raised a number of serious issues that indicate Sander & Taylor have too often relied on either questionable data or incomplete data analysis. Third, the Court’s recent decision upholding the state of Michigan’s ban on racial preferences. Fourth and finally, the possibility that diversity as practiced within leading American universities has been transmuted into racial commodification. These factors, taken together, suggest that it is a propitious time to review the authors’ scholarship.

Keywords: academic freedom, cosmopolitanism, empirical evidence, Equal Protection Clause, Grutter v. Bollinger, higher education, race, Richard Sander, Stuart Taylor Jr., universality, university admissions

JEL Classification: J78, K10

Suggested Citation

Hutchison, Harry G., Affirmative Action: Between the Oikos and the Cosmos (June 11, 2014). South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 66, pp. 119-189, 2014; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 14-20. Available at SSRN:

Harry G. Hutchison (Contact Author)

Centre for the Study of Law & Public Policy at Oxford

Belsyre Court, 57 Woodstock Road
Oxford 0X2 6HJ
United Kingdom

Regent University - School of Law ( email )

1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views