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The term “affirmative action” has its roots from the various public policies and initiatives that were executed to eliminate discrimination. Kowalski (2010) points out that, in the early 1960s, discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or country of origin was evident, especially, in America. According to him, this led to civil rights protest against discrimination leading to various constitutional amendments that were intended to help in the elimination of the past and present forms of discrimination. Further, he notes that US and the world viewed affirmative action as the legislation that advocated for equal human rights, particularly in the education sector and in the working environment.

However, Kowalski (2010) points out that affirmative action has still not fully captured the interest of the vulnerable people. He argues that even with equal participation, affirmative action has affected the women and other vulnerable persons like the disabled, whose performance is based on the general population performance. According to Kowalski (2010), this is what has triggered the societies to advocate for effective legislations that would device a way of realizing equal representations and participation. The work highlights the pros and cons of the affirmative action. It also highlights how affirmative action forms the basis of all the applied sociological theories.

Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action

According to Cosson (2010), public and private policies related to affirmative action were design to enhance special consideration towards the disadvantaged groups in society. He points out that these policies have both their advantages and disadvantages. Cosson (2010) notes that affirmative action policies have enabled the minority in the society to access basic requirements like education. He also argued that affirmative action has enabled students, especially those from the ethnic minority, to advance on their education. Additionally, Cosson (2010) writes that the policies provide a helping hand to the needy students enabling them to acquire advanced education offered by the higher educational system that they would never be able to access.

Cosson (2010) points out that affirmative action promote diversity among the minority both in education and work areas. He argues that, through this, affirmative action has helped instill individual’s confidence allowing them to participate equally in any civic process. Acknowledging that diversity does not happen automatically, Cosson (2010) argues that it can be instilled in a population by acknowledging and respecting individual’s diverse opinions and representation. He, therefore, points out that equal representation of the minority groups in the work place enables them to prove their capability to work just like the general population.

On the other hand, Cosson (2010) points out that affirmative action has given a rise to the discrimination, especially in education and workplace. His argument is based on the fact that the minority groups are discriminated in the work places because they are seen to have been helped in getting their positions. According to Cosson (2010), this affects the administrative obligations of the minority groups as their work capability is questioned by their corresponding colleagues.

Cosson (2010) notes that the adoption of affirmative action in education centers has lowered the education standards of the students from the minority groups. He argues that, because of the affirmation action, a number of policies favor students from the minority groups. They, thus, tend not to work as hard as their counterparts. This is happening because their entry into the higher education institutions is compromised by the affirmative action policies. The students, who enroll out of the affirmative action, do not perform well as they are normally unable to cope with the respective institution’s demands. Cosson’s underlying argument is that an individual normally feels satisfied with the success achieved from hard work and persistence rather than achievements based on sympathy and empathy as posed by affirmative action (Cosson, 2010).

How Social Theories Addresses the Affirmative Action

According to Hammond (2008), every internalized social behavior that is evident in a society, can be explained based on sociological theories. Key theories among the sociological theories that have been widely used to address wider societal aspects include Conflict, Symbolic Interaction and Functionalism. These theories have also contributed in the making of the policy framework for affirmative action. Hammond (2008) notes that, just like the affirmative action, the social theories also advocate for the need of equal participation and representation of the individuals in the society.

Hammond (2008) points out that the conflict theorists see the society as characterized by conflict that normally arise due to the competition for limited resources. Conflict theory explains the outrageous power that individuals in the society extensively use to get what they perceive as essential for their well being. The theory, therefore, addresses the discriminatory factors that have been evident in the society in terms of the wealthy, which it calls the bourgeoisies and poor, which it calls the proletariats. It, therefore, perceives affirmative action in terms of those policies that seek to address the concerns of the proletariats, who are normally exploited by the bourgeoisies. The proletariats are vulnerable due to their inability to access adequate resources. Cosson (2010) notes that just like affirmative action, the conflict theory addresses the need for equitable resources distribution to avoid societal conflicts.

According to Hammond (2008), the symbolic interaction theorists perceive the society as an avenue that continuously emulates individual’s interaction and communication networks. He points out that the symbolic theory defines the need to acknowledge ones identity as it encourages the value of communication between two or more groups. This implies that the theory points out to the importance of embracing one’s cultural identity.

According to Kowalski (2010), this theory also forms the basis of the affirmative action since affirmative action mainly advocate for equal representation and participation of the minority groups in various sectors not withstanding their cultural identities. Hammond (2010) admits that the symbolic interaction helps people to shape their understanding in different cultural points of view hence promoting good relationship. He notes that affirmative action plays an important role in initiating such communication networks as it enables the minority to interact with other groups in various sectors.

Functionalism theory explains the society’s stability as primarily based on each and every individual’s contribution in the society. According to Hammond (2010), the theory points out the various functioning elements of the society like socialization, economic recovery, and justice as tremendously contributing to the overall societal stability. He notes that the society is fragile, and a dysfunction of any one element can lead to its instability. This means that any unfair treatment of a section of the society symbolizes the dysfunction of at least one elementary function of that society. Kowalski (2010) points out that the affirmative action policy that enables and enhances diversity among the minority group in various sectors emulates the functionalism theory. He points out that affirmative action policies enable the minority group to exercise their ability to execute various job titles in a work place that, in turn, improves the society’s economic recovery.


In conclusion, the write up has made it clear that affirmative action has both its advantages and disadvantages. For example, the policies framework of affirmative action is essential both to the society’s economy and social well being as it enhances equal representation. Additionally, affirmative action instill self reliance among the community since the minority groups are allowed to educate and work, which, in turn, changes the moral and social aspect of the society. Affirmative action is also based on various social theories that define the society’s social and moral behaviors.

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