From relational equality to personal responsibility

Philosophical Studies 179 (4):1373-1399 (2022)
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According to relational egalitarians, equality is not primarily about the distribution of some good but about people relating to one another as equals. However, compared with other theorists in political philosophy – including other egalitarians – relational egalitarians have said relatively little on what role personal responsibility should play in their theories. For example, is equality compatible with responsibility? Should economic distributions be responsibility-sensitive? This article fills this gap. I develop a relational egalitarian framework for personal responsibility and show that relational equality commits us to responsibility. I develop two sets of arguments. First, I draw on relational theories of moral responsibility – particularly Strawsonian views – to show that valuable egalitarian relationships require responsibility. Second, I show why relational equality sometimes requires that economic distributions be sensitive to responsibility and choice. I also defend a seemingly paradoxical result: being committed to responsibility, relational egalitarianism not only justifies some distributive inequalities but some relational inequalities too. Overall, relational egalitarianism gives a nuanced and coherent answer as to why and how responsibility matters from within egalitarianism. That it does should be an important argument in its favour.



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Andreas T. Schmidt
University of Groningen

Citations of this work

Relational Justice: Egalitarian and Sufficientarian.Andreas Bengtson & Lasse Nielsen - 2023 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 40 (5):900-918.
Am I Socially Related to Myself?Andreas Bengtson - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-18.
Unjust Equal Relations.Andreas Bengtson - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-21.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.

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