To what extent can it be claimed that “positive discrimination” towards disadvantaged ethnic groups is an advisable government policy? (25 marks) Positive discrimination or “affirmative action” is defined as policies and programs meant as a corrective measure to redress discrimination against certain groups in society in the name of fairness and equal opportunities. Ethnic Groups, as defined by Yinger, refer to:
“A segment of a larger society that is different in some combination of language, religion, race and ancestral homeland with its related culture” In order to decide to what extent Positive Discrimination in favor of disadvantaged ethnic groups is an advisable government policy, one needs to refer to the various sociological perspectives and their views of society. Functionalists such as David and Moore would argue against Positive Discrimination, on the basis that society rewards those who work hard and are capable- through the meritocratic system.
“New Right” “sociologists” arguing against Positive Discrimination would believe that ethnic minorities are disadvantaged because of their own doing, through laziness and a refusal to integrate. Marxist sociologists would argue in favor of Positive Discrimination on the basis that Racism is a social construction used to subjugate other classes. Left-wingers and social democrats would argue that Positive Discrimination is needed to cancel out the effects of racism and ethnic prejudice on the life chances of ethnic minorities.
Functionalists would argue that Positive Discrimination is not an advisable government policy. This is because it distorts the system of meritocracy and role allocation, as advocated by functionalist sociologists such as Davis and Moore- under which those who work hard and are talented will rise to the top of society. Because Positive Discrimination would give ethnic minorities a comparative advantage over others, this could mean that the most capable individuals would be handicapped against those who are less capable but belong to an ethnic minority.
Functionalists would argue that this is an ineffective allocation of roles, resulting in these roles, which are vital to society, being performed poorly. Functionalists would also point out that because Positive Discrimination in effect reverses social inequality, it would then reduce the incentive of people to work towards the highest jobs and roles and therefore undermine the effectiveness of society as a whole.
Functionalists such as David and Moore would furthermore argue that because Positive Discrimination adds race as a factor for role allocation and the allocation of services and resources, the allocation of such roles and resources according to capability and need would be diminished, henceforth creating even greater social inequality. This would clearly show that Positive Discrimination in favor of disadvantaged ethnic minorities is not an advisable government policy as it would create an obstacle preventing the best and most capable from attaining the best roles and jobs.
“New Right Sociologists” such as Jensen as well as Murray and Herrstein would argue that ethnic groups are disadvantaged because of their own doing and therefore do not deserve assistance from the government in the form of Positive Discrimination. “New Right Sociologists” such as Jensen would cite supposed 20-point IQ differences between white people and certain ethnic minorities as evidence proving that Ethnic Minorities are disadvantaged because of their lack of intelligence.
This point is further pushed in the “study” titled “The Bell Curve” by Murray and Herrstein, two “New Right Sociologists” who claim that ethnic minorities have lower IQ’s than those of white people. Murray and Herrstein, who advocated the elimination of welfare programs in “The Bell Curve” based on the argument that it allowed women with lower IQ’s to produce children with equally low IQ’s, would probably use the same argument to advocate the abolition of Positive Discrimination, as it would allow ethnic minorities with lower IQ’s to produce offspring of the same stripe.