For relational egalitarians, equality is about how individuals relate to one another: equality requires that individuals regard and treat each other as equals. Different relational egalitarians have fleshed out this idea in different ways and use of the umbrella term “relational equality” should not detract from the differences between relational egalitarian views on offer. One question about relational equality is whether its requirements apply to individuals, institutions, or both. Some relational egalitarians focus primarily on what it means for individuals, or co-citizens, to relate to one another as equals, highlighting, for example, the problematic nature of status hierarchies and stigmatization of certain groups, or the need to give equal consideration to everyone’s interests. Such accounts sometimes also emphasize the importance of certain self-regarding attitudes, especially self-respect, as a component or requirement of relational equality. For other relational egalitarians, relational equality applies—primarily or additionally—to how institutions, especially states, relate to individuals. Institutional requirements can arise instrumentally (which institutions are best suited to produce egalitarian relations among individuals?) or because the demands of relational equality apply to institutions directly. A second crucial distinction, cutting across the first, is whether relational equality is taken to issue requirements about our treatment of others, our attitudes toward them, the attitudes expressed toward them, or a combination of these. Specifying where relational equality applies is important, not least because egalitarian treatment, egalitarian attitudes, and expression of egalitarian attitudes need not run together. Relational egalitarians have offered different views as to why relational equality matters in the first place. Relational equality may be valuable instrumentally (i.e., it promotes values such as self-respect); or because it has non-instrumental, impersonal value (i.e., the world is better if relationships are egalitarian); or because it expresses a deontic requirement about how individuals must treat each other. Relational egalitarians initially developed their views in response to distributive accounts of equality (such as luck egalitarianism), which assume that equality requires the equal distribution of a metric such as welfare. While relational egalitarians reject that assumption, they emphasize that distributions matter for equality for several reasons, for example when they interfere with egalitarian relationships, or when they are caused by relational inequality. Relational egalitarians have explored the real-world implications of their views, often opposing markets in favor of state provision of social services such as education or healthcare. Questions about the scope of relational equality are particularly crucial when it comes to determining its requirements: while relational egalitarians typically focus on requirements arising within political communities, it is not clear that relational equality can or should be limited by state boundaries; some relational egalitarians have begun to explore the possibility of a global relational egalitarianism. Similarly, tying requirements of relational equality to reciprocity may limit the theory to individuals with specific cognitive capacities. One striking aspect of the literature is the pluralism to which relational egalitarians are committed, for example when it comes to the reasons why relational equality is valuable, or the criteria used to identify when relational equality obtains. This does not make relational equality incoherent, but it creates the possibility of conflicting requirements.
Sufficientarianism is a principle of distributive justice according to which it is important that everyone has enough of some relevant form of advantage. Many, but not all, sufficientarian theories accept both the positive thesis, which holds that there is a level of advantage such that it is especially important that people reach it, and the negative thesis, which holds that there is a level of advantage such that above it, distributive justice concerns do not arise. Sufficientarians disagree on a number of questions: whether it is welfare, resources, or capabilities (or something else) that constitutes the relevant form of advantage; whether the incidence of sufficiency should be maximized or the extent of insufficiency should be minimized; whether the threshold should be high or low; whether there should be more than one threshold; and whether sufficiency should have a wide scope, temporally and spatially. Most sufficientarians agree, however, that absolute levels of advantage are morally important, that equality is not intrinsically valuable, and that advantage need not be maximized.
A wide range of issues in moral, political, and legal philosophy fall under the heading of “intergenerational justice,” such as questions of justice between the young and the old, obligations to more-or-less distant past and future generations, generational sovereignty, and the boundaries of democratic decision-making. These issues deserve our attention first because they are of great social importance. Solving the challenges raised by aging, stable pension funding, and increasing healthcare costs, for example, requires a view on what justice between age groups demands. Climate change, resource depletion, environmental degradation, population growth, and the like, raise serious concerns about the conditions under which future people will have to live. What kind of world should we bequest to future generations? Second, this debate has theoretical significance. Questions of intergenerational justice force reconsideration of the fundamental commitments (on scope, pattern, site, and currency) of existing moral and political theories. The age-group debate has led to fundamental questions about the pattern of distributive justice: Should we care about people’s lives considered as whole being equally good? This has implausible implications. Can existing accounts be modified to avoid such problematic consequences? Justice between nonoverlapping generations raises a different set of questions. One important worry is about the pattern of intergenerational justice—are future generations owed equality, or should intergenerational justice be cast in terms of sufficiency? Another issue is the currency of intergenerational justice: what kind of goods should be transferred? Perhaps the most puzzling worry resulting from this debate translates into a worry about scope: do obligations of justice extend to future people? Most conventional views on the scope of justice—those that focus on shared coercive institutions, a common culture, a cooperative scheme for mutual advantage—cannot easily be extended to include future generations. Even humanity-based views, which seem most hospitable to the inclusion of future generations, are confronted with what Parfit called the nonidentity problem, which results from the fact that future people are mostly possible people: because of the lack of a fixed identity of future people, it is often impossible to harm them in the comparative sense.
Iwao Hirose and Shlomi Segall
Equality is an undisputed political and moral value. But until quite recently, political philosophers have not fully explored its complexity. The literature on equality and egalitarianism is vast, complex, and multilayered—with over thirty-five years of philosophical discussion. Specifically, there are three major questions to ask about equality. First, what is equality? This question can be unpacked into two sub-questions. Distinguishing first between formal and distributive accounts of equality, we may ask what the currency of egalitarianism can be. The article goes through currencies such as welfare, resources, and capabilities, showing their respective strengths and weaknesses. A second important sub-question here is: what are the relevant scope and temporal dimensions of equality? Among whom is equality valuable, and precisely in what time frame is it valuable? This hints at the second major question, namely concerning the value of equality. Is equality indeed valuable, or are we confusing it with some other value, be it giving priority to the worse-off, or lifting individuals above a certain threshold of deprivation? The article goes through some famous criticisms of equality’s purported lack of value (e.g. the leveling down objection), explores some potential answers, and then examines the relative strength of equality’s two main rivals, namely priority and sufficiency. The third major question concerns what the proper account is of egalitarian justice. In particular, setting aside the question of currency, should our conception of distributive justice be informed by responsibility-sensitive accounts, or rather be focused on a responsibility-insensitive accounts that moreover place an emphasis on equality of relations rather than individuals’ holdings? We explore this in the two final sections, one devoted to understanding luck egalitarianism, and the other to its rival, relational egalitarianism.
Liberalism in politics is associated with nonauthoritarianism, the rule of law, constitutional government with limited powers, and the guarantee of civil and political liberties. A liberal society is tolerant of different religious, philosophical, and ethical doctrines and allows individuals to freely form and express their conscientious convictions and opinions on all matters and live according to their chosen purposes and life paths. In economic terms, liberalism is associated with an unplanned economy with free and competitive markets, as well as private ownership and control of productive resources. The basic institutions that are characteristic of a liberal society are constitutionalism and the rule of law; equal basic rights and liberties; formal equality of opportunity; free, competitive markets with private property in means of production; government’s obligation to provide public goods and a social minimum; and the fiduciary nature of political power to impartially provide for the public good. Liberals interpret these basic institutions differently. Classical liberalism regards extensive property rights and economic liberties as basic, while libertarians see all rights as property rights and as absolute. High liberalism regards economic liberties as subordinate to personal and political liberties and subject to regulation, with redistribution of income and wealth to mitigate gross inequalities and provide all citizens with adequate resources to guarantee the worth of their basic liberties and opportunities.