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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2013

Frej Klem Thomsen
Pages 120-146
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract20133915

But Some Groups Are More Equal Than Others
A Critical Review of the Group-Criterion in the Concept of Discrimination

In this article I critically examine a standard feature in conceptions of discrimination: the group-criterion, specifically the idea that there is a limited and definable group of traits that can form the basis of discrimination. I review two types of argument for the criterion. One focuses on inherently relevant groups and relies ultimately on luck-egalitarian principles; the other focuses on contextually relevant groups and relies ultimately on the badness of outcomes. I conclude that as neither type of argument is convincing, the criterion is morally arbitrary, and as such untenable. Finally, I suggest both some of the conceptual and some of the practical implications of abandoning the criterion.

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