Thursday, October 20, 2016

Affirmative action meets the era of pluralism

With the ethical appeal to create an equal and just world and a more cohesive society, affirmative action has been going on for many years around the world. Such measures go by various names depending on the context and perceived acceptability. In China, the term preferential policy is more popular. For years, affirmative action has attained its goals to varying degrees in different countries even though debates around such policies are never silenced. Nowadays this practice is experiencing ever-increasing opposition everywhere. The reaction to the cut of college admission quotas to national key universities in Jiangsu and Hubei Provinces several months ago is a recent example. With the rise of social assertiveness in China, it could be expected that affirmative action will surely encounter increasing challenges in the future. 

Why are the previously acclaimed affirmative policies becoming less desirable or even dubious now? The greatly changed context for policy development and implementation in light of governance is revealing. The current context is that a pluralistic society is already present and neoliberalism has been in fashion. As a result, multi-stakeholder involvement in both the development and the implementation of public policy has increasingly become a common scenario and more diversified interests have been brought into policy processes. Besides, because group preference inherent in affirmative action most probably contradicts individual preference intrinsic to neoliberalism in many ways, the conflicts between group-based preference and individual-based preference will bring new challenges in diversity governance. Such is the case around the world. 

Read more from the Global Times here.

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