In this paper I discuss a frequent reply to what is usually called ‘the harshness objection,’ or “the abandonment objection” to luck egalitarianism. This objection has been used by Elizabeth Anderson to argue that luck egalitarianism is not, in any of its versions, an adequate interpretation of the ideal of social justice. According to the luck egalitarian reply discussed in this paper, luck egalitarianism can be saved from the harshness objection by value pluralism. After a few short (...) considerations on luck egalitarianism, on the harshness objection invoked by Anderson, and on pluralism as a strategy of dealing with this objection, I will try to show that, in fact, luck egalitarianism cannot be saved from the harshness objection by value pluralism. (shrink)
I review Shlomi Segall's book 'Why Inequality Matters'. I argue that it conclusively establishes that alongside egalitarians, prioritarians and sufficientarians must sometimes regard a prospect as better (in at least one respect) when it is not better (in terms of well-being) for anyone. Sufficientarians and prioritarians must therefore relinquish a treasured anti-egalitarian argument. It also makes a powerful case that among these three views, egalitarians are in the best position to explain such departures from what is in each person’s prudential (...) interest. For egalitarians can point to the natural idea that it is unfair when, due to pure chance, some fare much better than others. By contrast, it remains unclear what value, if any, sufficientarians or prioritarians can appeal to in order to justify their departures from what best promotes people’s well-being. (shrink)
Equality is a key concept in our moral and political vocabulary. There is wide agreement on its instrumental value and its favourable impact on many aspects of society, but less certainty over whether it has a non-instrumental or intrinsic value that can be demonstrated. In this project, Shlomi Segall explores and defends the view that it does. He argues that the value of equality is not reducible to a concern we might have for the worse off, or to ensuring that (...) individuals do not fall into poverty and destitution; instead he claims that undeserved inequalities, wherever and whenever we might find them, are bad in themselves. Assessing the strength of competing accounts, such as sufficientarianism and prioritarianism, he brings together for the first time discussions of the moral value of equality with luck- or responsibility-sensitive accounts of distributive justice. His book will interest readers in political and moral philosophy. (shrink)
Shlomi Segall’s Why Inequality Matters contains many novel ideas. It should engage researchers with an interest in debates between luck egalitarians and two of their principal opponents, prioritarians and sufficientarians. While, as I shall argue below, not all of its arguments succeed, it also makes contributions which deserve to profoundly influence debates on distributive justice. I proceed as follows. In Section 1, I summarize the book’s central points; in Section 2, I evaluate some of its arguments.
The opponents of egalitarianism insist that distributional equality can never have intrinsic value, because it is hard to find how equal distribution could benefit people intrinsically. In this paper, we attempt to demystify the intrinsic value of distributional equality and suggest a possible direction of vindicating egalitarianism. First, we propose the principle that it is (epistemically) reasonable to regard x as an intrinsic value for a person S if S rationally desires x for its own sake. Second, we (...) argue by thought experiment that people can rationally desire equal distribution of certain goods for its own sake in certain circumstances. (shrink)
The paper extends a result in Dutta and Ray's (1989) theory of constrained egalitarianism initiated by relying on the concept of proportionate rather than absolute equality. We apply this framework to redistributive systems in which what the individuals get depends on what they receive or pay qua members of generally overlapping groups. We solve the constrained equalization problem for this class of models. The paper ends up comparing our solution with the alternative solution based on the Shapley value, which (...) has been recommended in some distributive applications. (shrink)
By distinguishing between contributory values and overall value, and by arguing that contributory values are variable values insofar as they contribute diminishing marginal overall value, this article helps to establish the superiority of a certain kind of maximizing, value-pluralist axiology over both sufficientarianism and prioritarianism, as well as over all varieties of value-monism, including utilitarianism and pure egalitarianism.
Axiological egalitarianism claims that an outcome improves at least in some respect if the value it contains is more evenly distributed. In this paper I defend this form of egalitarianism and identify some of its corollaries. First, I consider and reject the levelling down objection. I then point out that egalitarianism casts doubt on the traditional view of the value of life in terms of maximization. Further, I argue that this theory also questions anthropocentric conceptions of value.
This paper draws on Friedrich Nietzsche’s work to defend the (admittedly non-Nietzschean) conclusion that a non-liberal egalitarian society is superior in two ways: first, as a moral ideal, it does not rest on questionable claims about essential human equality and, second, such a society would provide the optimal psychological and political conditions for individual wellbeing, social stability, and cultural achievement. I first explain Nietzsche’s distinction between forms of egalitarianism: noble and slavish. The slavish form promotes equality, defined negatively as (...) the elimination of privilege. It is non-liberal in its prioritization of equality over the interests of the advantaged. Nietzsche rejects both slavish egalitarianism and liberalism for the same reasons: they questionably assume the equal value of all persons, and they harm cultural achievement, sacrificing the potential of those who are most valuable to cultural development to the interests of the majority. Noble egalitarianism, in contrast, exemplifies Nietzsche’s conception of justice as ‘equality among equals’. It demands that individuals of equal worth or power (such as members of an artistic or political elite) treat each other as what they, in fact, are: equals. It avoids asserting essential equality, demanding instead—against both slavish and liberal forms—respect on the basis of shared superiority. And it escapes the charge of harm to cultural development, commanding respect only where equality already exists. Although Nietzsche quickly assumes that ‘noble egalitarianism’ requires the rejection of all forms of universal egalitarianism, concluding that we should ‘never make equal what is unequal’, in fact it only entails the rejection of slavish methods: equalization through harm to the advantaged. However, non-liberal forms of egalitarianism can be ‘noble’, promoting equality without harm to the advantaged—through, for example, unequal distribution of resources, the equalization of economic opportunities, and economic regulation to prevent the creation of substantial wealth disparities. If egalitarianism can ‘make equal’ without slavish methods, then Nietzsche’s demand for ‘equality for equals’ applies to the newly equal, too. More importantly, his moral psychology of power—the view that our source of happiness and incentive to self-development is the feeling of power in relation to equal resistance or ‘opponents who are our equals’ —supports the superiority of a nobly-achieved, non-liberal egalitarian society. For achieved, practical equality of wealth and opportunity would optimize conditions for the feeling of power: a balance of equal, oppositional powers serving as mutual limitation and resistance. Such a society is superior in three ways. First, it maximizes social happiness by promoting and maintaining the feeling of power in all. Liberal and aristocratic societies, in contrast, allow radical inequalities that not only diminish the power of the disadvantaged, but diminish the opportunities of the advantaged to encounter equal resistance, thus undermining the happiness of all. Second, it promotes social stability by preserving a balance of powers that prevents domination and exploitation, in contrast to the inevitable class conflicts of aristocratic and liberal societies. Finally, it promotes cultural achievement, since the feeling of power in relation to proportional resistance is the psychological incentive for self-development and cultural achievement. (shrink)
Derek Parfit has argued that (Teleological) Egalitarianism is objectionable by breaking a person-affecting claim to the effect that an outcome cannot be better in any respect - such as that of equality - if it is better for nobody. So, he presents the Priorty View, i.e., the policy of giving priority to benefiting the worse-off, which avoids this objection. But it is here argued, first, that there is another person-affecting claim that this view violates. Secondly, Egalitarianism can be (...) construed as person-affecting in a weaker sense. Thirdly, it is possible to construct a Relational version of the Priority View which incorporates the Egalitarian value of just equality in this sense. Two reasons are given for why this Relational View and Egalitarianism are superior to the Parfitian Absolute Priority View. However, no attempt is made to abjudicate between the first two views, the main point being that they both accept the value of just equality in the same sense. (shrink)
Samuel Scheffler has recently argued that some relationships are non-instrumentally valuable; that such relationships give rise to “underived” special responsibilities; that there is a genuine tension between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities; and that we must consequently strike a balance between the two. We argue that there is no such tension and propose an alternative approach to the relation between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities. First, while some relationships are non-instrumentally valuable, no relationship is unconditionally valuable. Second, whether (...) such relationships give rise to special responsibilities is conditional on those relationships not violating certain moral constraints. Third, these moral constraints arise from within cosmopolitan egalitarianism itself. Thus the value of relationships and the special responsibilities to which they give rise arise within the parameters of cosmopolitan egalitarianism itself. The real tension is not between cosmopolitan equality and special responsibilities, but between special responsibilities and the various general duties that arise from the recognition, demanded by cosmopolitan egalitarianism, of a multiplicity of other basic goods. Indeed, even the recognition of special relationships itself gives rise to general duties that may condition and/or weigh against putative special responsibilities. (shrink)
Distributive egalitarians believe that distributive justice is to be explained by the idea of distributive equality (DE) and that DE is of intrinsic value. The socio-relational critique argues that distributive egalitarianism does not account for the “true” value of equality, which rather lies in the idea of “equality as a substantive social value” (ESV). This paper examines the socio-relational critique and argues that it fails because – contrary to what the critique presupposes –, first, ESV is not conceptually distinct (...) from DE, and second, the idea of ESV cannot serve as a “foundation” or “root” of distributive egalitarianism. (shrink)
This article attacks the view that global justice should be understood in terms of a global principle of equality. The principle mainly discussed is global equality of opportunity – the idea that people of similar talent and motivation should have equivalent opportunity sets no matter to which society they belong. I argue first that in a culturally plural world we have no neutral way of measuring opportunity sets. I then suggest that the most commonly offered defences of global egalitarianism (...) – the cosmopolitan claim that human lives have equal value, the argument that a persons nationality is a morally arbitrary characteristic, and the more empirical claim that relationships among fellow-nationals are no longer special in a way that matters for justice – are all defective. If we fall back on the idea of equality as a default principle, then we have to recognize that pursuing global equality of opportunity systematically would leave no space for national self-determination. Finally, I ask whether global inequality might be objectionable for reasons independent of justice, and argue that the main reason for concern is the inequalities of power that are likely to emerge in a radically unequal world. (shrink)
Many recent political philosophers have attempted to demonstrate that choice and responsibility can be incorporated into the framework of an egalitarian theory of distributive justice. This article argues, however, that the project of developing a responsibility-based conception of egalitarian justice is misconceived. The project represents an attempt to defuse conservative criticism of the welfare state and of egalitarian liberalism more generally. But by mimicking the conservative’s emphasis on choice and responsibility, advocates of responsibility-based egalitarianism unwittingly inherit the conservative’s unsustainable (...) justificatory ambitions, unattractive moralism, and questionable metaphysical commitments. More importantly, they misrepresent the nature of our concern with equality as a value. (shrink)
Egalitarians think that equality in the distribution of goods somehow matters. But what exactly is egalitarianism? This article argues for a characterization based on novel principles essentially involving risk. The characterization is then used to resolve disputed questions about egalitarianism. These include: the way egalitarianism is concerned with patterns, in particular its relationship to strong separability; the relationship between egalitarianism and other distributive views, such as concerns with fairness and with giving priority to the worse off; (...) and the relationship between egalitarianism and evaluative measurement. But egalitarianism is subject to a particularly severe form of the levelling-down objection, and is claimed to be false. (shrink)
Valuing -- Morality and reasonable partiality -- Doing and allowing -- The division of moral labour : egalitarian liberalism as moral pluralism -- Is the basic structure basic? -- Cosmopolitanism, justice, and institutions -- What is egalitarianism? -- Choice, circumstance, and the value of equality -- Is terrorism morally distinctive? -- Immigration and the significance of culture -- The normativity of tradition -- The good of toleration.
Luck egalitarians typically hold that it is bad for some to be worse off than others through no fault or choice of their own. In this paper I want to address two complaints against standard luck egalitarianism that do not question responsibility-sensitivity. The first objection says that equality itself lacks inherent non-instrumental value, and so the luckist component ought to be attached to a different pattern, say prioritarianism. The second objection also endorses luckism but worries that luck egalitarianism (...) as conventionally formulated is committed in fact to neutralizing not just brute luck but also option luck. And this would mean, among other things, compensating unsuccessful gamblers, which is something many egalitarians find counterintuitive. My aim is to show that there is a way for luck egalitarianism to meet both criticisms; that it can maintain its egalitarian credentials while avoiding the counterintuitive consequences of compensating unsuccessful gamblers. To do so, I propose, we ought to understand luck egalitarianism as resting on the disvalue of being arbitrarily worse off compared to others. In addition, I suggest, the badness of luck egalitarian inequality – that of arbitrary disadvantage – has both an inter-personal and an intra-personal dimension. (shrink)
This article presents two interlocking arguments for epistemic political egalitarianism. I argue, first, that coping with multidimensional social complexity requires the integration of expertise. This is the task of political parties as collective epistemic agents who transform abstract value judgments into sufficiently coherent and specific conceptions of justice for their society. Because parties thus severely lower the relevant threshold of comparison of political competence, citizens have reason to regard each other as epistemic equals. Drawing on the virulent “peer disagreement (...) debate,” I then analyze the epistemic significance of political disagreement. I contend that citizens ought to pursue epistemic conciliation, an idea I contrast to the ideals of compromise and of consensus. Subsequently, I introduce insights from public choice theory and empirical findings which show that and why multi-party electoral competition coupled with equal rights to participation tends to produce conciliatory outcomes. We thus have reason to endorse political egalitarianism on epistemic grounds. (shrink)
Recently in this journal, Michael Huemer has attempted to refute egalitarianism. His strategy consists in: first, distinguishing between three possible worlds ; second, showing that the first world is equal in value to the second world; third, dividing the second and third worlds into two temporal segments each, then showing that none of the temporal segments possesses greater moral value than any other, thereby demonstrating that the second and third worlds as a whole are equal in value; and finally, (...) concluding that none of the three worlds has more value than any other. The present article rebuts Huemer’s critique of egalitarianism first, and most importantly, by showing that his core argument rests upon an equivocation, and second, by refuting his supplementary arguments. (shrink)
In this thesis I defend the principle of global egalitarianism. According to this idea most of the existing detrimental inequalities in this world are morally objectionable. As detrimental inequalities I understand those that are not to the benefit of the worst off people and that can be non-wastefully removed. To begin with, I consider various justifications of the idea that only those detrimental inequalities that occur within one and the same state are morally objectionable. I identify Thomas Nagel’s approach (...) as the most promising defence of this traditional position. However, I also show that Nagel’s argument does not even justify the elimination of detrimental inequalities within states. A discussion of the concept of political legitimacy rather shows that egalitarian justice is not a necessary condition of the justifiability of the exercise of coercive political power. I, then, consider other, more Rawlsian approaches to the question of detrimental inequalities. These views appear more plausible than Nagel’s position and argue that egalitarian duties also arise in certain international contexts. But also these more global theories of distributive justice suffer from shortcomings. Since they make the application of duties of justice dependent on the existence of social practices they cannot adequately account for the justified interests of non-participants that are affected by these practices. The counter-intuitive implications of practice-dependent theories lead me to investigate the plausibility of a theory that does not limit justice to existing practices and that argues for the inherent value of equality. This theory is global egalitarianism. I defend global egalitarianism by debilitating three objections that opponents of this idea frequently present in the relevant literature. Finally I also address two particular objections to the idea that global egalitarian duties are institutionalizable with the help of coercive global authorities. (shrink)
Equality, diversity and radical politics -- Value incommensurability -- Empathic imagination and its limits -- Critiquing compassion-based social relations -- Egalitarianism, disability and monistic ideals -- Equality, identity and disability -- Paradox and the limits of reason.
Topics of equality and justice have been a part of pragmatist discussions from early on. Rondel's Pragmatist Egalitarianism is an important contribution to these discussions. In the book, Rondel reflects on former pragmatists' work, continues ongoing discussions, and provides a new conceptualization of a political-philosophical field called pragmatist egalitarianism. It is a reconciliatory project with a historicist approach to pragmatism, forming a picture of a clear political-philosophical pragmatist tradition. It rejects arguments based on "ideal-theoretical" first principles and questions (...) the value of traditional conceptual analysis. In the course of forming pragmatist egalitarianism, Rondel brings forth claims... (shrink)
In recent years, a number of philosophers have argued that much theorizing about the value of equality, and about justice more generally, has focused unduly on distributive issues and neglected the importance of egalitarian social relationships. As a result, relational egalitarian views, according to which the value of egalitarian social relations provides the grounds of the commitment that we ought to have to equality, have gained prominence as alternatives to more fundamentally distributive accounts of the basis of egalitarianism, and (...) of justice-based entitlements. In this paper, I will suggest that reflecting on the kind of explanation of a certain class of our justice-based entitlements that relational egalitarian considerations can offer raises doubts about the project, endorsed by at least some relational egalitarians, of attempting to ground all entitlements of justice in the value of egalitarian social relationships. I will use the entitlement to healthcare provision as my central example. The central claim that I will defend is that even if relational egalitarian accounts can avoid implausible implications regarding the extension of justice-based entitlements to health care, it is more difficult to see how they can avoid what seem to me to be implausible explanations of why individuals have the justice-based entitlements that they do. To the extent that I am correct that relational egalitarian views are committed to offering implausible explanations of the grounds of justice-based entitlements to healthcare, this seems to me to provide at least some support for a more fundamentally distributive approach to thinking about justice in healthcare provision. (shrink)
The levelling-down objection rejects the egalitarian view that it is intrinsically good to eliminate the inequality of an outcome by lowering the relevant good of those better off to the level of those worse off. Larry Temkin suggests that the position underlying this objection is an exclusionary version of the person-affecting view, in which an outcome can be better or worse only if persons are affected for better or worse. Temkin then defends egalitarianism by rejecting this position. In this (...) essay, I avoid Temkin's conclusion by arguing that the levelling-down objection is best understood as resting on an alternative position, which involves a distinction between those non-person-affecting ideals that posit value as tied to individuals in a particular manner and those that do not. Taken as the basis of the levelling-down objection, this position allows us consistently to reject egalitarianism while accepting many plausible non-person-affecting ideals. (shrink)
This essay argues that David Miller's criticisms of global egalitarianism do not undermine the view where it is stated in one of its stronger, luck egalitarian forms. The claim that global egalitarianism cannot specify a metric of justice which is broad enough to exclude spurious claims for redistribution, but precise enough to appropriately value different kinds of advantage, implicitly assumes that cultural understandings are the only legitimate way of identifying what counts as advantage. But that is an assumption (...) always or almost always rejected by global egalitarianism. The claim that global egalitarianism demands either too little redistribution, leaving the unborn and dissenters burdened with their societies' imprudent choices, or too much redistribution, creating perverse incentives by punishing prudent decisions, only presents a problem for global luck egalitarianism on the assumption that nations can legitimately inherit assets from earlier generations – again, an assumption very much at odds with global egalitarian assumptions. (shrink)
The debate over the nature of egalitarianism has come to dominate political philosophy. As ever more sophisticated attempts are made to describe the principles of an egalitarian distribution or to specify the good or goods that should be distributed equally, little is said about the fundamental basis of equality. In virtue of what should people be regarded as equal? Egalitarians have tended to dismiss this question of fundamental equality. In the first part of the paper I will examine some (...) of these strategies of marginalisation and assess whether the issue of fundamental equality matters. Jeremy Waldron has criticised this strategy of avoidance in his recent book God, Locke and equality. He argues that Locke’s turn to a theistic grounding for fundamental equality provides a better approach to the problem than the approach taken by contemporary liberals such as John Rawls. I will examine Waldron’s critique of Rawls and show that it is wanting. I will conclude by suggesting that Rawls’s approach to the issue has a bearing on the way in which equality should be understood as a political value. This argument for the primacy of a political conception of egalitarianism has a bearing on the interconnection between core liberal values and the idea of the state that has been emphasised by Rawls, Dworkin and Nagel. (shrink)
Equality is the central value for egalitarians. It is the value that distinguishes egalitarianism from other political theories. However, if equality is the central value for egalitarians, then why it is of value should be an obvious starting point for any discussion of egalitarianism. This article seeks to clarify the ways in which equality has been valued in philosophical discussion. I discuss the standard ways of valuing equality and argue that an understanding of equality as valuable because it (...) is part of other values offers an important new insight into how we value equality especially in relation to the traditional understanding of equality as either intrinsically or instrumentally valuable. (shrink)
This paper introduces a novel approach to evaluating theories of the good. It proposes evaluating these theories on the basis of their compatibility with the most plausible ways of calculating overall intrinsic value of a world. The paper evaluates the plausibility of egalitarianism using this approach, arguing that egalitarianism runs afoul of the more plausible ways of calculating the overall intrinsic value of a world. Egalitarianism conflicts with the general motivation for totalism and critical-level totalism, which is (...) that independent contributions of each individual’s life should be counted separately. It conflicts with the most plausible version of averagism because only the highly implausible simultaneous life-segment version of egalitarianism can make sense of inequality being disvaluable at a time. Egalitarianism combined with a diminishing marginal value theory also fails because it holds that, other things equal, the world is a better place when we reduce inequality by adding many people whose lives go very badly but whose sheer numbers lessen inequality. The discussion moves the debate about egalitarianism forward by circumventing the oft-discussed, but intractable, debate concerning the leveling down objection. It also reveals a promising new approach to critiquing theories of the good. (shrink)
This article integrates empirical and normative discussions about why global economic inequalities matter in critically examining an approach known as derivative global egalitarianism . DGE is a burgeoning perspective that opposes excessive global economic inequality not based on the intrinsic value of equality but inequality's negative repercussions on other values. The article aims to advance the research agenda by identifying and critically evaluating four primary varieties of DGE arguments from related but distinct literatures, which span a number of disciplines, (...) including economics, international relations, and political philosophy. Overall, DGE offers a number of persuasive arguments as to why current levels of global inequality are of concern, but aspects of DGE beg further philosophical and empirical examination. By situating DGE within the wider theoretical and empirical contexts, this article provides resources for its critical assessment and theoretical development. (shrink)
Philosophy, as we know, is an abstract expression of worries, sentiments and longings that move people and societies. Philosophical debates are often innovative, but sometimes we have reason to ask ourselves why they develop at all and what general social trends they follow. An example of such a philosophical discussion-one that seems bewildering to many-is the current dispute between egalitarians and anti-egalitarians which has also reached German-speaking countries and which divides philosophers into opposing camps. Given feminist arguments against egalitarianism (...) that seem initially to have the potential to erode the social responsibilities of societies, the debate must seem especially strange to those feminist philosophers who have considered the European welfare state as a reasonable normative standard. The political shifts of the last decade, especially the change in former communist countries and the globalization of markets, provide the general social background for these challenges to egalitarian thinking. Yet a look at these causal factors does not answer compelling questions such as, Are the normative demands of a strict egalitarianism really binding? Are these demands morally compelling? Are the arguments with which we justify people's acess to certain social and economic goods in fact egalitarian? Do we have to base an acceptable conception of society and its fundamental institutions on the ideal of equality at all? In this talk I shall not address in detail the debate between egalitarians and anti-egalitarians. Instead I shall argue for an autonomy-based political theory that defines a specific structure among basic political values like universal respect, freedom, and equality. My claim is that such a theory integrates the value of equality in a form that allows us to leave behind the dispute between egalitarianism and anti-egalitarianism. Finally I shall try to show that an autonomy-oriented political theory is attractive from a feminist point of view. (shrink)
The paper considers some differences in the ways that economics and philosophy study equality and egalitarianism in general. First, economics tends to understand a value simply as an ordering over outcomes while philosophy attempts to find a deeper explanation of the ordering in terms of intuitive ideas about the value. Sometimes the supposedly deeper explanation turns out to be insightful, but, in other cases, it is misleading or fails to be explanatory. Second, economists often propose impossibility results intended to (...) show that apparently innocuous ideas about a value can have surprising consequences when they are combined. However, the significance of the results can be difficult to interpret and, sometimes, they do not establish as much as they initially seem to. Third, economists often criticize philosophical work about equality for making misguided assumptions about the possibility of measuring utility or well-being. The paper does not attempt to answer this criticism, but it points out some specific ways in which the scepticism about measurement might be exaggerated. (shrink)
Some critics have understood environmental egalitarianism to imply that human and animal lives are generally equal in value, so that killing a human is no more objectionable than killing a dog. This charge should be troubling for anyone with egalitarian sympathies. I argue that one can distinguish two distinct versions of equality, one based on the idea of equal treatment, the other on the idea of equally valuable lives. I look at a lifeboat case where one must choose between (...) saving a human and saving a dog, and using the work of Peter Singer and Tom Regan, I show why equality understood as equal treatment does not entail that lifeboat cases are moral toss-ups. But the view that all lives are equally valuable does entail this, and so egalitarians should reject this alternative account of equality. The upshot is that egalitarians need to be more careful about distinguishing between these two versions of equality. The failure to insist on this distinction has led many to believe that egalitarianism generally has counter-intuitive implications when in fact only one version of egalitarianism has this problem. (shrink)
I consider two difficulties which have been presented to egalitarianism: Parfit’s “Levelling Down Objection” and my “Paradox of the Baseline”. I show that making things worse for some people even with no gain to anyone is actually an ordinary and indeed necessary feature of our moral practice, yet nevertheless the LDO maintains its power in the egalitarian context. I claim that what makes the LDO particularly forceful in the case against egalitarianism is not the very idea of making (...) some people worse off with no gain to others, but the disrespect for value inherent in egalitarianism; and similarly that the POB is a reductio of choice -egalitarianism because of its inversion of the intuitively correct attitude to the generation of value. I conclude that in the light of the absurdity and paradox so frequently lurking in moral and social life, and particularly with the complexity of modern life and obliquity of change, we need to be much more modest than egalitarians have been in putting forth ambitious moral and social models. (shrink)
Since its publication in 1971, John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice has defined the terrain of political philosophical debate concerning the principles, scope, and material implications of social justice. Social justice for Rawls concerns the principles that govern the operation of major social institutions. Major social institutions structure the lives of citizens by regulating access to the resources and opportunities that the formulation and realization of human projects require. Rawls’ theory of social justice regards major institutions as just when they (...) distribute what he calls “primary goods” in a manner that he regards as egalitarian. Hence, the subsequent social justice debate has been shaped by and large as a debate about the meaning and implications of egalitarianism. While on the surface a debate about egalitarianism as a distributional principle seems to uncover the core problem of social justice—how much of what everyone should get as a matter of right—the entire history of the debate has been conducted in abstraction fr om what matters most to people’s lives. It is as a corrective to such abstractions that the life-value approach to social justice has been developed. (shrink)