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Relational Egalitarianism and Democracy

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
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Abstract

Relational egalitarians argue that democratic institutions are justified by appeal to relational equality. According to the skeptical challenge, equality of political power is not required for relational equality, and the relational egalitarian case for democracy fails. I defend the relational egalitarian justification of democracy. I develop an analysis of social status and show that inequalities of power will not entail inequalities of status. I then show that inequalities of power will robustly cause inequalities of status and argue that this vindicates the relational egalitarian case for democracy, because such theories have a much more pragmatic standard of success for the justification of democracy than conceptual necessity. I consider the objection that if inequalities of power robustly cause inequalities of status, then relational egalitarians should also oppose democratic institutions, because officials such as legislators or judges will have more power than citizens. In reply, I argue that relational egalitarians are only opposed to inequalities of status that mark a failure of recognition respect, and that inequalities of status that follow from democratically licensed inequalities of power will not mark such a failure. I conclude that the skeptical challenge is unsuccessful, and that the relational egalitarian justification of democracy is sound.

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