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Encyclopedia of Political Theory

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Encyclopedia of Political Theory

Mark Bevir

Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Affirmative Action

Andrew Valls

Although there is no universally agreed upon definition of affirmative action, the phrase usually refers to policies aimed at ensuring that members of historically disadvantaged groups are among those selected for competitively awarded benefits, such as college or university admission, employment, and government contracts. Affirmative action originated during the civil rights movement in the United States as a policy to end discrimination against African Americans. Since then, other groups have been targeted to benefit from affirmative action, such as women, Native Americans, Hispanics, and some other immigrant groups. Always controversial, affirmative action polices have been accompanied by philosophical, legal, and political battles that largely have developed into a stalemate. In its original sense, affirmative action meant taking active steps to ensure nondiscrimination. The phrase affirmative action was first used in an executive order by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, directing federal contractors to employ applicants without regard to In ...

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