Moral and Instrumental Rationales for Affirmative Action in Five National Contexts

Apr. 20, 2010

Source: Educational Researcher, 39: 211-228. (April 2010).

This article has two primary aims. The first is to clarify the differing rationales for affirmative action that have emerged in five nations—France, India, South Africa, the United States and Brazil. The second is to make the case for the most compelling rationales, whether instrumentally or morally based.

The author examines the different social contexts surrounding the establishment and public discussion of each nation’s policy.
Then, the author examines four justifications for affirmative action in these nations: remediation, economics, diversity, and social justice.

The author offers philosophical analysis of the justifications for affirmative action in each country and synthesizes federal and state legislation, court decisions, news media sources, and research-based scholarship.

The author argues that the social justice rationale ought to be invoked more centrally, underscoring affirmative action’s role in fostering a democratic society.

Updated: Oct. 19, 2010