IN DEFENSE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION by Barbara R. Bergmann

IN DEFENSE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Economist Bergmann (American Univ.; The Economic Emergence of Women, 1986) presents a persuasive case on behalf of a concept that is under fierce attack. Opponents of affirmative action claim there is no longer widespread discrimination against women and minorities; that affirmative action treats white males unfairly; that it elevates less-qualified candidates; and that it reintroduces the kind of quotas once used to discriminate against Jews and other minorities. Bergmann offers what is in essence an extended legal brief, considering these and other arguments against affirmative action in light of the evidence, and then presenting her case on affirmative action's behalf. She cites surveys proving the continued existence of discrimination and offers numerous examples of affirmative action no one finds objectionable: the preferences colleges show to children of alumni and to athletes, for example; or the way business owners may overlook more qualified candidates to hire members of their families. Bergmann maintains that programs aimed at improving the status of women and minorities promise far greater dividends, including a society made healthier by reduced poverty and an easing of tensions between races. Such dividends, she writes, justify occasional losses inflicted on individual white men by ""affirmative action's removal of white men's privilege of exclusive access to high-paying jobs."" She also argues that they justify numerical goals in hiring and admissions, because no other remedies have proved effective in ending discrimination. She acknowledges the ""quotalike aspects"" of such goals but insists that quotas used on behalf of the excluded are not the same as quotas used to exclude. Thanks to Bergmann's legalistic style, her book is not riveting. It is, however, convincing--a significant contribution to the debate over affirmative action.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1996
ISBN: 0465098347
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: New Republic/Basic