- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 11, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199812144
- ISBN-13: 978-0199812141
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.3 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,574,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bottlenecks: A New Theory of Equal Opportunity 1st Edition
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"This breakthrough book rethinks equality from the ground up, turning the spotlight on unexplored bottlenecks in the pursuit of a more just society. A fundamental contribution." --Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University
"Joseph Fishkin develops the 'bottleneck' metaphor into a powerful lens for understanding the structure of opportunity in our society, and thereby recasts the 'equal opportunity' project in a way that is both novel and resonant with deeply rooted intuitions about fairness." --Cynthia Estlund, Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
"Bottlenecks breaks a major step forward in conceptualizing how to promote meaningful opportunities for human flourishing in a world of pluralism as well as inequality. It is a breath of fresh air amidst stale debates over abstract conceptions of equaliy-but more importantly, it charts a path of conceptual and policy development that has enormous promise." --Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
"Joseph Fishkin offers a new and important framework for defining equal opportunity - one that gets beyond questions of 'merit.' If what looks like 'merit' is more often than not a result of advantages that can be bought, how can opportunities ever be 'equal'? Fishkin provides an original answer, suggesting new ways to open up opportunities by loosening the bottlenecks that are holding people back." --Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
"Bottlenecks reinvigorates the concept of equal opportunity by simultaneously engaging with its complications and attempting to simplify its ambitions. Fishkin's observations about human development also advance the social model of disability, in which disability is seen not as fundamentally physiological but rather as socially constructed." --Michigan Law Review
About the Author
Joseph Fishkin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas School of Law, where he teaches and writes about the law of discrimination and equal opportunity in areas from employment to voting rights.
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This is a story about equal opportunity with far more emphasis on opportunity than on equality. Fishkin argues that we should care about equality to the extent that it serves the goal of expanding individual opportunities (and inclinations) to pursue diverse concepts of the good. Bottlenecks—where many people have to pass through the same narrow passageway to achieve many diverse goods—are a problem both for those who fail to surmount them and for those who succeed. Those who fail to pass through the bottleneck should obviously be concerned about losing the tangible goods on the other side, but even those who succeed have cause for concern: their preferences have been shaped along paths that may be unrelated to the ultimate goods they seek. Reducing the limitations imposed by bottlenecks is therefore important to enhancing freedom as well as equality.
Interestingly, for the parents out there, Fishkin’s story also manages to convey sympathy, even empathy, for parents of all stripes. In his analysis of the unequal developmental opportunities children encounter, the parents of high and low SES children both come off as eminently understandable in their paths with regard to their children. Few writers concerned with equality can resist the popular sport of mocking high SES parents for their “helicopter,” activity-rich, educationally ambitious parenting style. Fishkin instead uses his theory to offer these parents some empathy, observing that, in a society with important tests that operate as bottlenecks, “of course parents pass whatever advantages they can to their children….It would be irrational to do otherwise, given that the test is the bottleneck through which one must pass to reach any path that anyone (without very idiosyncratic preferences) would value.” Where basic necessities like decent health care, as well as opportunities for diverse forms of flourishing, emerge principally from two main competitive bottlenecks (college degrees and money), what could be more rational than to help your children succeed on those tests? This, Fishkin shows, is why we need structural solutions rather than individual judgments.
And the structural solutions he proposes are varied and sometimes quite surprising. Well worth the read for anyone interested in theories of equality, education, parenting, or freedom.