Prabhat Patnaik at Stand With JNU, 9 March 2016. Photo by Subin Dennis.

Affirmative Action and the “Efficiency Argument”

Prabhat Patnaik

In this article, Prabhat Patnaik demolishes the “efficiency argument” which claims that affirmative action, including reservations, lowers the “efficiency”, or quality of output, in any sphere where it is practised. The basis for an analytical objection to affirmative action on the basis of the “efficiency argument”, he says, can only be provided by a rejection of the presumption of even distribution of talent across social groups, in favour of an alternative presumption that either talks of the all-round superiority of some groups over others (which underlies racialism and concepts like the herrenvolk), or talks of different groups having different kinds of talent (which is supposed to justify the caste system). If both of these alternative presumptions are rejected as they should be, then the analytical objection to affirmative action on the efficiency argument not only disappears, but becomes its very opposite, namely an argument for affirmative action[Read more]