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The challenge of equal citizenship

This book provides a critical account of contemporary egalitarian theories. It challenges their focus on issues of choice and personal responsibility, and questions their ability to address the major inequalities that characterise the contemporary world, before presenting an alternative vision of egalitarian politics based on the challenge of a genuinely inclusive form of citizenship. This vision is defended through a critical discussion of four key issues in political theory: the recognition/redistribution debate, the connection between equality and responsibility, the ideal of equal opportunities, and the significance of ‘globalisation’ for the politics of equal citizenship. The book provides a critical account of the most important contemporary egalitarian theories, including the work of John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin and the luck egalitarians, Anne Phillips, Iris Young and Nancy Fraser. It also relates these theories to contemporary political (and especially citizenship) practice, assessing them in relation to the impact of neoliberalism on contemporary welfare states, and the shift from ‘social’ to ‘active’ forms of citizenship.

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Discourses of equality have come under sustained assault from at least two directions. On the one hand, the ideal of equality has been challenged from the political ‘right’, particularly as a result of a resurgent neoliberalism which from the 1970s mounted a serious attack on the limited equalities achieved within many contemporary welfare states. On the other hand, the ideal seems to have been steadily supplanted within what we might call the ‘radical imaginary’ by rival ideals such as inclusion, justice, the politics of difference or the politics of diversity, radical democracy, recognition or redistribution. This book explores the relationship between the concepts of equality and citizenship in contemporary egalitarian theory. It proposes an approach to equality that seeks to employ citizenship as an organising principle for egalitarian politics. Historically, citizenship has also functioned as a category of exclusion, hierarchy, and privilege. This book also discusses egalitarianism, culture and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality.

in Rethinking Equality
Rawls on equality

This chapter examines John Rawls's theory of justice and compares it with T. H. Marshall's account of social citizenship. Like Marshall, Rawls tried to integrate a concern for economic equality into the framework of liberal citizenship. As such, both accounts represent attempts to heal the dualism of what Karl Marx called bourgeois citizenship. The central problematic of Marshall's account was ‘how to reconcile the formal framework of political democracy with the social consequences of capitalism as an economic system'. Rawls, in A Theory of Justice (1971), seemed to share the widespread hope of mid-century social welfare politics that political strategies could ameliorate the hardship of the worst off without destroying the principle of productive labour’. Rawls's account recalls the aspirations of the post-war consensus, a corporatist dream where citizens would avoid conflict by accommodating themselves to the inevitable but essentially productive nature of inequality. Both Rawls and Marshall offer wholly inadequate accounts of inequalities organised around race and sex, and both inexcusably neglect the global inequalities which sustained the social citizenship regime of the rich West.

in Rethinking Equality
Dworkin on the insurance market

This chapter focuses on Ronald Dworkin's egalitarian theory and the resonances between liberal equality and the neoliberal conception of active citizenship. It looks at Dworkin's account of equality of resources, which is often taken as the point of departure for a hugely influential school of egalitarian thought, namely ‘luck egalitarianism’. The most significant element of the luck egalitarian literature is the foregrounding of notions of personal responsibility and individual choice, which according to its advocates not only give shape and force to egalitarian concerns, but also allow it to meet head-on the most significant opponent of equality — the ideology of the New Right. This chapter also scrutinises Dworkin's advocacy of a hypothetical insurance market, which closely parallels many of the shifts within welfare provision that have taken place since the rebirth of neoliberalism. Dworkin's achievement, at the level of political theory, has been precisely to incorporate liberal egalitarianism within a broadly neoliberal framework.

in Rethinking Equality

This chapter draws a brief comparison between the liberal emphasis on equality of opportunity and New Labour's rhetoric on social inclusion, to show how both have normalised neoliberal concerns. Specifically, both liberal equality of opportunity and the third way ideal of social inclusion foreground the importance of labour market participation as a cure for a range of social ills. Equality itself, rather than being seen as a precondition of democratic citizenship, is increasingly repackaged in terms of a right of inclusion to the labour market. Considerations of economic opportunity strongly inform political rhetoric not only on class, but also on the equality of women, ethnic minorities, and the disabled. Whilst the value of choice within both neoliberalism and liberal luck egalitarianism has largely functioned as a category of economic life, this chapter draws on feminist and socialist arguments to re-emphasise an opposing conception of active citizenship that focuses on democratic participation in collective decision-making.

in Rethinking Equality
Towards a more critical union?

This chapter considers the role(s) that responsibility might play in egalitarian theory and politics. Luck egalitarianism has largely ignored the possibilities for theorising responsibility differently, against the grain of neoliberal discourse. This chapter explores the peculiarities and exclusions inherent in the neoliberal conception of responsibility and examines what a more critical theory of responsibility might look like. Any moralised account of responsibility is framed by the kind of ‘irresponsibility’ it seeks to discourage, and to a large extent the neoliberal and liberal luck egalitarian discourse on responsibility places an image of the work-shy, dependent, and non-autonomous citizen centre-stage. In opposition to this, the chapter employs the notion of ‘privileged irresponsibility’ that is more prevalent in feminist theory, and which relates to those who disconnect from, or deny, responsibilities to vulnerable others. As such, it examines three ways in which the notion of responsibility might operate differently in an account of egalitarian citizenship, which relate to economic life, ecological duties, and duties of care.

in Rethinking Equality
Young and Phillips on equality

The hegemony of equality of opportunity of some kind is profound within the liberal literature, and even beyond. Liberal egalitarianism has focused on equal opportunities to earn income within a market economy, and has offered an insufficient interrogation of the systematic inequalities that characterise contemporary societies. This chapter examines two responses to this. Specifically, it critically analyses Iris Young's and Anne Phillips's approaches to egalitarian politics. Both theorists want to challenge the methodological individualism of liberal egalitarian theory, to challenge its identification of inequality with choice, and to reinsert a concern with systematic inequalities based around, for instance, race and sex. In their critiques of liberal egalitarian theory, both theorists turn towards the value of democratic participation and communication. In support of Phillips, this chapter argues that the commitment to equality is ill served by an exclusive focus on opportunities and claims that the goal of a critical egalitarian politics should be to end substantial inequalities in incomes and social roles such as caring aggregating around hierarchical constructions of race or ethnicity and binary constructions of sex and sexuality.

in Rethinking Equality
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Recognition, redistribution and citizenship

This chapter examines the inter-relation of economic and cultural or symbolic inequalities, focusing on Nancy Fraser's work on ‘recognition and redistribution’. Fraser's work initially suggested a limited role for the ideal of equality: whereas equality provided a crucial language for the advancement of claims for economic redistribution, such language seemed to be out of place in claims for cultural or symbolic recognition. Fraser's assertion that diverse claims of justice can be best played out under the banner of what she calls parity of participation is to be welcomed. Such an ideal is clearly egalitarian, and also gestures towards an account of egalitarian citizenship. On the other hand, the usefulness of the recognition/redistribution framework is far from certain, and this signifies a failure, ultimately, to transcend the dualism between culture and economy. Instead, this chapter argues that a commitment to equal citizenship or parity of participation may be better served by a focus on oppression and hierarchy, categories which span these putative categories.

in Rethinking Equality

This chapter examines the prospects for egalitarian citizenship at a global level. Both citizenship and the hopes of a substantive egalitarian politics are tied to the fate of the nation-state. Andrew Linklater asserts that a nascent global citizenship regime is epitomised by the universal system of human rights, an ethic of global responsibility, and a worldwide public sphere or ‘global civil society’. This chapter examines this latter narrative in order to investigate the potential of such a citizenship regime to serve as a vessel for democratic egalitarian politics. In the global South and also in the rich West, neoliberalism has, if anything, widened and entrenched the dualism of liberal citizenship: whilst civil rights (and property rights in particular) are aggressively extended, there is serious resistance to the realisation of socio-economic rights. This chapter concludes by pointing to some of the ways in which a putative regime of global citizenship is being contested to more radical ends, in an attempt to make ‘global’ citizenship a category of equality rather than one of hierarchy.

in Rethinking Equality
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This book attempts to reframe or reorient the political theory of equality. It begins by drawing a distinction between two such framings: the approach which is prevalent in the ‘equality of what?’ literature, and an alternative approach that is made possible by conceiving equality and inequality in relation to the ideal of equal citizenship. It considers a number of diverse criticisms levelled at the theories of John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and proponents of luck egalitarianism. Whilst political gains are supposedly made by incorporating the values of choice and responsibility from New Right or neoliberal rhetoric, the protagonists in the luck egalitarian debate have not properly interrogated the ways in which these ideas are deployed within neoliberalism. The book also argues that the development of post-Rawlsian liberal egalitarian theory clearly parallels the transition from social citizenship to the neoliberal vision of active citizenship. Moreover, it cast doubt on Nancy Fraser's theory on recognition and redistribution, and argued instead for the centrality of hierarchy and oppression as the key targets of egalitarian politics.

in Rethinking Equality