The Politics of Affirmative Action
'Women', Equality and Category Politics
- Carol Lee Bacchi - University of Adelaide, Australia
Feminist Theory | Women's Studies (General)
This timely and incisive book brings a theoretical lens to the debates around affirmative action. It presents a comparative analysis of those countries reputed to be leading the way in policies for women - the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, The Netherlands and Norway.
Carol Lee Bacchi draws upon current social and feminist theory to present a lucid analysis of the implementation of reform. Taking account of the particular historical context of affirmative action policies, she considers why expressed commitment to affirmative action for women has failed to translate into meaningful reform. She describes how conceptual and identity categories are given meanings and positioned in debate in ways which work to contain the effects of the reform. Bacchi concludes that proponents of affirmative action need to direct more attention to the political uses of categories than to their abstract content, and to concentrate their efforts upon exposing the effects of category politics.
`The Politics of Affirmative Action: 'Women', Equality and Category Politics is a comprehensive study and clearly compares different applications of categories and political practices. Bacchi offers a useful study of historical contingencies and in this rich material she highlights the complexities very well' - Australian Journal of Political Science
`This book makes a major contribution to an issue of central concern to feminists. It is well written, thoroughly researched and thoughtfully argued. Wide-ranging and comprehensive in scope, the book is carefully structured, using different countries to illustrate the specific ways in which affirmative action is co-opted and contained in practice' - Jeanne Gregory, Middlesex University
`Affirmative action, as a means of increasing access to education, jobs and public life, is under attack internationally. Carol Bacchi's illuminating analysis of policies for women in Australia, Canada, The Netherlands , Norway, Sweden, and the United States over the past twenty years reframes the debate by raising new questions - about citizenship; the politics of identity; the category of "women"; and the continued resistance of traditional system to women's claims. Bacchi's argument about the political uses of categories will engage readers across a broad spectrum from poststructuralist to empiricists, and from policy-makers to activists' - Hester Eisenstein, SUNY
`Bacchi takes a social constructionist view of categories such as "women" and "men" and explores the political uses of such categories. By looking at affirmative action, a policy that attempts to advance women's opportunity, in a variety of progressive national contexts, Bacchi takes only positive examples - yet shows the limits that such efforts face. For the many people who have wondered why affirmative action so often yields disappointing progress, Bacchi's examinations are a goldmine of insights. The variety of her national cases combined with the subtlety of her analysis offers a rich and textured picture of how such helping policies become entangled in definitions of women as marginal, deficient, and needy people. This is deconstruction at its best' - Myra Marx Ferree, University of Connecticut