Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice

Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice

Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice

Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice


For some time, the United States has been engaged in a national debate over affirmative action policy. A policy that began with the idea of creating a level playing field for minorities has sparked controversy in the workplace, in higher education, and elsewhere. After forty years, the debate still continues and the issues are as complex as ever. While most Americans are familiar with the term, they may not fully understand what affirmative action is and why it has become such a divisive issue.

With this concise and up-to-date introduction, J. Edward Kellough brings together historical, philosophical, and legal analyses to fully inform participants and observers of this debate. Aiming to promote a more thorough knowledge of the issues involved, this book covers the history, legal status, controversies, and impact of affirmative action in both the private and public sectors -- and in education as well as employment.

In addition, Kellough shows how the development and implementation of affirmative action policies have been significantly influenced by the nature and operation of our political institutions. Highlighting key landmarks in legislation and court decisions, he explains such concepts as "disparate impact," "diversity management," "strict scrutiny," and "representative bureaucracy." Understanding Affirmative Action probes the rationale for affirmative action, the different arguments against it, and the known impact it has had. Kellough concludes with a consideration of whether or not affirmative action will remain a useful tool for combating discrimination in the years to come.

Not just for students in public administration and public policy, this handy volume will be a valuable resource for public administrators, human resource managers, and ordinary citizens looking for a balanced treatment of a controversial policy.


[Affirmative action] is a term familiar to most Americans but one not always well understood. Over time, it has signified a variety of strategies designed to enhance employment, educational, or business opportunities for groups, such as racial or ethnic minorities and women, who have suffered discrimination. However, the manner in which these efforts are implemented, the types of action they require, and the broader implications they carry for our society may vary from one specific program to another. The purpose of this book is to examine the concept of affirmative action, to review its history, to consider the different approaches undertaken, and to evaluate arguments offered by proponents and opponents. As is widely known, affirmative action has been one of the most controversial and divisive issues ever placed on the national agenda in the United States. People disagree on whether affirmative action should be permitted or, if it is judged to be necessary, on the specific types of efforts that should be included. The argument has continued in one form or another since the policy began over four decades ago.

The persistent nature of the debate over affirmative action is indicative of the policy's significant implications. Alternative interpretations of such fundamental values as justice and equality lie at the heart of the dispute. Employment, educational, and business prospects are at stake, not only for groups targeted to benefit from the policy, but also for others who wish to compete for a share of those opportunities. The importance of the issues . . .

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