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Equality Renewed : Justice, Flourishing and the Egalitarian Ideal (Hardcover) (Christine Sypnowich)
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How should we approach the daunting task of renewing the ideal of equality?
In this book, Christine Sypnowich proposes a theory of equality centred on human flourishing, living well, or wellbeing. She argues that egalitarianism should be understood as seeking to make people more equal in the constituents of living well. Inequality is a social ill because of the damage it does to human flourishing. Unequal distribution of wealth can have the effect that some people are poorly housed, badly nourished, ill-educated, unhappy or uncultured, among other things. When we seek to make people more equal our concern is not just resources or property, but how people fare under one distribution or another. We care about inequality because of its effect on people and we lose interest in problems of inequality if the putatively unequal are doing equally well in their quality of life. Ultimately, the best answer to the question, ‘equality of what?’ is some conception of flourishing, since whatever policies or principles we adopt, it is flourishing, or wellbeing, that we hope will be more equal as a result of our endeavours.
Sypnowich calls for both retrieval and innovation. What is to be retrieved is the ideal of equality itself, which is both often assumed as a background condition of political philosophy, yet at the same time prey to dismissal as too abstract and rigid a criterion for political argument. We must retrieve the ideal of equality as a central political principle. In doing so, she rejects the idea of the neutral state that dominates contemporary political philosophy in favour of a view of the state as enabling the betterment of its citizens.