When Race Counts investigates the use of race-conscious practices in social policy in Britain and America. It questions the distinction between affirmative action and preferential treatment, and evaluates the effectiveness of a range of education and employment policies designed to counteract both unintended and direct discrimination against ethnic minorities.
The book uses both empirical and moral analyses to examine the controversial dilemma of whether and in what circumstances preferential treatment may be used as a means of improving the condition of minority groups. John Edwards looks at justifications for overriding the merit principle, particularly in employment, and shows who bears the costs of such a policy, and where the benefits lie. He argues that the merit principle is in itself so flawed that to override it would cause no great damange to justice. He then sets out the requirements of an acceptable policy of minority preference tailored to the disadvantages of specific minority groups.