Exploring employees' social constructions of affirmative action in a South African organisation : a discursive perspective.
The contoured logic of apartheid in South Africa constructed racial, economic, social and political segregation, the consequences of which are still experienced today. In an attempt to alter the demographic weighting of disadvantage, the South African government has made concerted efforts to ‘deracialise’ South Africa most notably through Affirmative Action (AA) measures. Subjective, contextualised approaches to AA have received little attention both locally and internationally. This study aimed to explore AA from a social constructionist orientation with a focus on Potter and Wetherell’s discursive psychology. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data from 17 participants. The sample included both male (5) and female (12) participants and representation from all major race groups in South Africa. The findings illustrate how participants engage in discursive devices that rationalise a racial order of competence. The discourses also reflected polarised views of affirmative action. By and large, Black participants maintain that racial inequality still exists. White participants, on the other hand, continue to feel marginalised and discriminated against, by the policy. Furthermore, the results identify the various flavours in which redress can be realised. As new knowledge, the study also suggests that despite the negative experiences associated with AA, participants were generally in favour of the principles embedded within the policy. Ultimately this study suggests that AA continues to be a controversial subject which traverses many segments of life.