Constructing a Contractualist Egalitarianism: Equality after Scanlon

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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T. M. Scanlon’s work on the value of equality provides the resources for developing a powerful and distinctive contractualist egalitarian view. This view acknowledges a range of egalitarian concerns, of a diverse nature, and points us towards a picture of the place of equality in the normative landscape that is richer and more complex than some other alternative views. I describe the outlines of this contractualist egalitarian view, addressing questions regarding its strength and scope. I then discuss the relationship of equality to other values, such as fairness and community (or fraternity), and examine the contrast between contractualist egalitarian and luck egalitarian views. I conclude with a sketch of some of the practical implications that might follow from further pursuit of Scanlon’s insights on the value of equality, in the hope that this may suggest an interesting direction of travel for further work.

Constructing a Contractualist Egalitarianism: Equality after Scanlon

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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  • 4

    Scanlon“The Diversity of Objections to Inequality” p. 208 (My emphasis.).

  • 5

    Scanlon“The Diversity of Objections to Inequality” p. 208.

  • 6

    Scanlon“The Diversity of Objections to Inequality” p. 218.

  • 8

    Derek Parfit“Equality of Priority?,” The Lindley Lecturedelivered at the University of Kansas (Lawrence KA: University of Kansas 1995) reprinted in Matthew Clayton and Andrew Williams eds. The Ideal of Equality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2000) pp. 81–125. References to Parfit’s article are to this reprinting. The characterization of Telic egalitarianism comes at p. 84 of Parfit’s discussion.

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  • 16

     See Parfit‘Equality or Priority?’ pp. 8-9 for the introduction of the term Deontic Egalitarianism (i.e. deontological egalitarianism). For a discussion of Parfit’s demarcation of the category of deontic egalitarian views see my “What Should Egalitarians Believe?” esp. pp. 130-1. See also A. J. Julius “Basic Structure and the Value of Equality” Philosophy & Public Affairs 31 (2003) 321-55 esp. at fn. 4 p. 323.

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  • 20

     See Brian BarryWhy Social Justice Matters (Cambridge: Polity2005) Chs. 4-8. For a brief presentation of the straightforward thought that a high degree of background material equality may be a precondition for fairness in terms of the distribution of opportunities see Martin O’Neill “Death and Taxes: Social Justice and the Politics of Inheritance Tax” Renewal 15.4 (2007) 62-71 esp. at pp. 67-8 and Martin O’Neill “Fairness Responsibility and Social Mobility” Fabian Essay (The Fabian Society 2012) online here: http://www.fabians.org.uk/fairness-responsibility-and-social-mobility/. For an earlier manifestation of similar thoughts see also R. H. Tawney Equality revised edition (London: George Allen & Unwin 1952) esp. Ch. 3. (Jonathan Wolff’s article in this issue further explores the relationship between Scanlon’s work and that of R. H. Tawney.) For a more technical examination of the relationship between background inequalities and inequality of opportunity see Dan Andrews and Andrew Leigh “More inequality Less social mobility” Applied Economics Letters 16 (2009) 1489-1492.

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  • 34

     See Nagel“The Problem of Global Justice,” Philosophy & Public Affairs33 (2005): 113-47. For the elaboration of a related view see also Michael Blake “Distributive Justice State Coercion and Autonomy” Philosophy & Public Affairs 30 (2002): 257–96.

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  • 36

     See Peter Singer“Famine, Affluence and Morality,” Philosophy & Public Affairs1 (1972) 229-243; and Peter Singer One World: The Ethics of Globalization (New Haven CT: Yale University Press 2002).

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  • 48

     See Larry TemkinInequality (Oxford: Oxford University Press1993) e.g. at p. 13. The phrase occurs here in the context of a revealing discussion of (what Temkin takes to be) the relationship between justice fairness and equality: “I believe [this] book is about inequality but to be about inequality it must also be about justice and fairness. On my view inequality is a subtopic of the more general – and even more complex – topics of justice and fairness. Specifically concern about inequality is that portion of our concern about justice and fairness that focuses on how people fare relative to others. Thus I think there is an intimate connection between people’s views about inequality and certain of their views about justice and fairness. In particular I believe egalitarians have the deep and (for them) compelling view that it is bad – unjust and unfair – for some to be worse off than others through no fault of their own.” See also Larry Temkin “Inequality: A Complex Individualistic and Comparative Notion” Philosophical Issues (a supplement to Noûs) 35 (2001) 327-53 esp. at pp. 336 and 339; Larry Temkin “Egalitarianism Defended” Ethics 113.4 (2003) 764-82 esp. at pp. 768-9; and Larry Temkin “Inequality” Philosophy & Public Affairs 15.2 (1986) 99-121 esp. at p. 101.

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  • 61

     See also Martin O’Neill“The Facts of Inequality,” Journal of Moral Philosophy7 (2010) 397-409esp. at p. 405 discussing the treatment of labor unions and closely-related issues in Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett The Spirit Level (London: Penguin/Allen Lane 2009).

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