Modernity, Anti-Racism and Ethnic Managerialism

Part of the Explorations in Sociology book series (EIS)


Tensions within the modernist themes of science, rational bureaucracy, civilisation and liberal democracy underlie many of the strategic responses to racism and the formulation of ethnic boundaries. Evidence of the persistence of racism, revival of ethnic conflict and embedded patterns of racial and ethnic discimination have challenged modernist conceptions of emancipatory progress. There is not only a need for critical reflection and reassessment of our understanding of the processes of racism and ethnicity, there is a related search for new ways to construct and frame policies, strategies and initiatives in response to social problems associated with these processes. An example of the latter is illustrated by the Commission for Racial Equality’s (CRE) new approach, turning to the use of management tools such as quality/equality assurance and citizens’ charters in search of the means for effective policy intervention. This reflects the pervasive influence of the ‘new managerialism’ (Pollitt, 1993) whose effects on the construction of ‘race’-related policies are likely to be far-reaching. This is not to deny, however, that there is an immense managerial and technocratic task involved in reducing racial and ethnic inequalities in the provision of employment and services, particularly in large organisations. The weakness of legal enforcement in the UK, compared to the USA for example, has encouraged this turn to managerial solutions which are often perceived as quicker and more productive. This chapter proposes the concept of ‘ethnic managerialism’ and examines its application to two public service organisations: the Benefits Agency and the NHS Ethnic Health Unit.


Ethnic Identity Liberal Democracy General Practitioner Housing Association Minority Ethnic Group 
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© British Sociological Association 1999

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  • Ian Law

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