SSHA Presidential Address: The Pathways to Disadvantage

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My presidential address identifies the pathways to disadvantage that complicate our understanding of purposive action. The article explains that (1) first, deception can deepen inequality; (2) disadvantages can emerge in midcourse, as new and unanticipated distributions of resources, sanctions, and opportunities unfold during the course of action; (3) the rules targeting one area of social life can disadvantage groups of people in other areas; and (4) disadvantaging policies can emerge through isomorphism (isomorphic disadvantage), sometimes by virtue of what other policy commissions across the globe are doing about the same social problem. Finally, (5) when there is an unlucky turn of events that leads to a deepening of disadvantage, its consequences depend on more than mere chance to make those disadvantages durable. My article concludes with a brief discussion of the implications for reparations and repair. While these pathways may not be exhaustive, they systematize the sociological intuition that things are not as they appear. And although my discussion of repair is brief, it gestures toward the possibilities that the past offers for understanding the process and the rules of remedy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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