The policy of affirmative action, today, more so than in the Civil Rights era, is under severe scrutiny. Nicholas Capaldi's Out of Order typifies the present-day criticism of affirmative action and shows how we have shifted from equality of opportunity and individual merit to the concept of group entitlement and statistical quality of result. Capaldi contends that affirmative action has not solved the problem of equal opportunity for which it was presumably designed, it has instead created a new moral dilemma in the form of reverse discrimination.
Out of Order highlights key affirmative action issues from the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Bakke decision, the Weber case of 1979, and beyond. Capaldi illuminates not only the historical/judicial complexion of affirmative action policies but also their philosophical and social implications. Capaldi questions the necessity of affirmative action, whether its creation was based upon a valid definition of the nature and extent of discrimination, and whether it is a suitable policy for dealing with discrimination.
Capaldi maintains that the creation of affirmative action evolved more out of social theory than social reality. By carefully documenting the legislative and judicial history of the Civil Rights Act, the author argues that affirmative action is a bureaucratic fabrication, that it is not a solution to a problem but a policy in search of problems.
The crux of Capaldi's thesis boldly claims that affirmative action is perpetuated by the self-interest of "modern liberals" who "guide and control the system from their superior vantage point." Moreover, affirmative action is centered on education and has its roots in doctrinaire liberalism. Since that social philosophy attaches a crucial role to education, and since the conflicting demands made upon the modern American university have exposed its inability to generate coherent policies, doctrinaire liberalism has undergone a crisis of confidence.