Why Relational Egalitarians Should Care About Distributions

Social Theory and Practice 37 (3):365-390 (2011)
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Abstract

Relational views of equality put forward a social and political ideal of equality that aims at being a better interpretation of what social justice requires than the prevailing distributive conceptions of equality, especially luck egalitarian views. Yet it is unclear what social justice as relational equality demands in distributive terms; Elizabeth Anderson's view seems to vacate a large part of the terrain of distributive justice in favor of a minimalist, sufficiency view. Against that, this paper argues that relational equality, properly understood, requires setting stringent limits to distributive inequality, for both intrinsic and instrumental reasons. First, the relational egalitarian conception of society as a cooperative enterprise among equals gives rise to a presumption of equality in socially produced goods (and bads); inequalities in these goods have to be justified by justice-relevant reasons. Second, relational egalitarianism also delivers instrumental reasons to limit inequalities in income, wealth, and opportunities, because such inequalities may generate both opportunities for domination and inegalitarian status norms that threaten the social bases of self-respect of the worse off.

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