The Transition Problem: Comparative analysis of racial inequality South Africa and the USA

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW1.3.03 (Tower One)
Patricia Agupusi, Brown University, Providence, RI
This study will reflect upon the interconnections between socio-economic marginalization and racial discrimination in South Africa, and the implications of the public policies introduced to address this phenomenon. The approach of this study is both normative (seeking to reconcile policies of racial justice and the promotion of racial neutral society; and considering the morality of alternative policy responses), and conceptual (attempting to explore the subtle process that sustains racial inequality, drawing from Glenn Loury’s "The Anatomy of Racial Inequality”.)The emphasis will be on the overarching philosophical commitments that inform and structure thinking about this problem in South Africa (SA) and the USA, and on their implications for the future of race relations in these countries. The study begins from this conviction: that the most challenging public policy problems are never merely technical since rightly deciding how to govern means confronting unavoidable questions of ethics and values. Moreover, public policies are not only instrumental. Policies are, invariably, also expressive and constitutive. They, at least, implicitly, convey a legitimating and justifying narrative which establishes the significance of the nation’s history for its present-day agenda of public action. Public policies, when undertaken on a national scale, effectively ask and answer the question: what manner of people are we? They promote or retard the framing of key moral judgments by the citizenry. They set an agenda for public action, and define a boundary between civic and communal responsibility. This certainly has been the case with respect to public policies designed to deal with the legacy of racial oppression in South Africa and in the United States. That is why the debates about affirmative action in both countries are so important. And that is also the reason why the social scientist’s proper role in such social policy discussions is not self-evident.