The Socialism of the Rich: Egalitarianism, Wealth, and Privilege in Academic Philosophy

Social Philosophy and Policy 39 (2):169-187 (2022)
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Abstract

This essay explains the prevalence of egalitarian beliefs among academic philosophers, individuals who enjoy significant wealth and privilege. I argue that their egalitarianism does not present a “paradox of conviction,” as G. A. Cohen contends, but follows logically from the institutional structure of academic philosophy. This structure creates a “veil of insignificance” wherein philosophy is a moral performance that incentivizes the adoption of egalitarian beliefs. Philosophers also view the world from behind what is termed a “veil of privilege” that incentivizes a public commitment to egalitarianism as a means of distancing themselves from the role of privilege in their life and encourages the hubristic assumption that the practical problems of socialism can be easily overcome with effort or ingenuity. Identity-protective motivated reasoning means that evidence conflicting with egalitarian beliefs is avoided, ignored, or dismissed. These dynamics are reinforced by established actors who gatekeep the profession.

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