Policy problems

There is good reason to conclude that affirmative action is just the latest battle in a centuries-long conflict between two visions of human social reality and human possibilities. Affirmative action is a product of what Thomas Sowell calls an unconstrained vision of human moral and social possibilities, a vision ‘in which man was capable of directly feeling other people’s needs as more important than his own, and therefore of consistently acting impartially, even when his own interests or those of his family were involved’ (as cited in Sims, 2002, p. 212).

According to this vision, the egocentric predicament has resulted from particular social and economic arrangements and thus is not an essential or permanent feature of the human condition. A society can transcend the egocentric predicament by changing its social and political institutions. The structure of academic inquiry still makes little room for those with comprehensive visions. To the extent these assumptions are noticed at all, they are treated as self-evident truths. This suggests the need for a more penetrating and integrated philosophical approach to policy problems.

Clearly, affirmative action has become increasingly controversial, and some organizations’ attention to required goals and timetables has diminished. Affirmative action programs have become controversial with both politicians and the general public arguing the pros and cons of preferential hiring and promotion to address the historical under-representation of certain groups in the labor force. But at the same time, many organizations in recent years have voluntarily implemented various kinds of diversity programs designed to encourage and sup port a more diverse, multicultural workforce.

Much of the impetus for these programs has come from managers’ recognition of the demographic changes in the workforce toward more females and minorities. Core to the development of such approaches to employment discrimination is organizational learning, and it is through a diversity of approaches to the acquisition, dissemination and sharing of formal and tacit knowledge in relation to equal opportunities and diversity management that its acceptance is nurtured and grows.

Moreover, learning about diversity can be successfully built on knowledge and experience gained in many contexts such as through Total Quality Management or employee participation in the community. This holistic approach creates an environment in which equal opportunities and diversity issues are more clearly communicated and understood, facilitates employee involvement and creates an organizational environment in which continuous learning strategies allow for widespread dissemination and sharing of knowledge, providing the basis for continuous improvement and development of equal opportunities and diversity strategies.


1. Anthony, W. , Kacmar, M. & Perrewe, P. (2005). Human Resource Management: A Strategic Approach. Mason, Ohio: Thomson-South Western. 2. Barrett, R. (1998). Challenging the Myths of Fair Employment Practices. Westport, Connecticut: Quorum Books. 3. Burke, R. & Cooper, C. (Eds. ). (2004). Reinventing Human Resources Management: Challenges and New Directions. New York: Routledge.