Caste wars : the morality of treating individuals as though they are members of groups
This thesis is about individuals and groups - and about judgements made of
individuals because of their membership of groups. I argue that the concept of caste
can illuminate our understanding of discrimination.
Chapter I adumbrates the properties of a group. Chapters" draws a distinction
between two types of statistical discrimination: between extrapolations based on
characteristics like race, sex or eye colour and those based on past behaviour. But
within the former category we feel more strongly about discrimination based on sex
than discrimination based on eye-colour. Chapters III explains why this is so.
attempt to show that the concept of caste is essential for making sense of our
Race and sex are not supposed to be relevant in a meritocracy - potential employees
and university applicants are supposed to be assessed on their individual worth. And
yet there are cases where an individual's worth to a company may be a function of a
characteristic like skin colour - such as when customers are racist and would rather
not be served by a black person. Chapter IV attempts to reconcile this tension within
merit. If we wish to break down caste, I argue, then far from pandering to the racist
attitudes of the customers, the employer may have an added reason to employ
somebody who is black. This brings us to Chapter V, and some reflections on how
caste can illuminate the impassioned debate on affirmative action.
But should we wish to break down caste? What is wrong with a society being rigidly
split? Chapter VI offers a tentative answer, in the liberal tradition. The answer has something to do with autonomy. Chapters VII and VIII then examine two final areas
where groups are relevant, and where caste can once again shed light: voting rights,
and animal rights.