This article suggests ways of demarcating a liberal-egalitarian family of conceptions within political philosophy. It seeks to accommodate diverse conceptions while nevertheless demarcating liberal egalitarianism in a way that is coherent, distinctive and attractive. Liberal egalitarianism (the article argues) is about the simultaneous strong defence of individual liberty and substantive equality. But because there are real tensions and sometimes contradictions between certain liberties and substantive equalities, liberal egalitarianism is also necessarily a set of theories about how to address these. Liberal egalitarians differ in their accounts of equality and in their proposals for addressing liberty-equality tensions. Even so, I argue, any attractive and distinctively liberal-egalitarian resolution of these tensions must require a strong but morally individualist account of substantive equality, protection of political and civil liberties from trade-offs with equality or welfare, weak protection of property rights and respect for a proceduralist-democratic minimum.
What Are Its Possible Futures in South Africa?
David Bilchitz and Daryl Glaser
Liberalism is associated by many with the protection of private property and the insulation of economic markets from state intervention. Yet the liberal tradition is very diverse, and some have taken its concern with equality and liberty in radically egalitarian directions that belie the reduction of liberalism to market-fundamentalist ‘neoliberalism’.
This essay explores two largely distinct discussions about equality: the 'luck egalitarian' debate concerning the appropriate metric of equality and the 'equality and difference' debate which has focused on the need for egalitarianism to consider the underlying norms in light of which the abstract principle to 'treat equals equally' operates. In the end, both of these discussions point to the importance of political equality for egalitarianism more generally and, in the concluding section, an attempt is made to show how the ideal of 'equal concern and respect' might best be pursued given the results of these important discussions.
Statists claim that robust egalitarian distributive norms only apply between the citizens of a common state. Attempts to defend this claim on nationalist grounds often appeal to the 'associative duties' that citizens owe one another in virtue of their shared national identity. In this paper I argue that the appeal to co-national associative duties in order to defend the statist thesis is unsuccessful. I first develop a credible theory of associative duties. I then argue that although the associative theory can explain why the members of a national community should abide by egalitarian norms, it cannot show that people have a duty to become or to continue as a member of a national community in the first place. The possibility that citizens might exercise their right to reject their national membership undermines the state's ability justifiably to coerce compliance with egalitarian distributive norms and, ultimately, the statist claim itself.
Exploring the Liberal Genealogy and the Changing Praxis of the Right of Access to Information
Towards an Egalitarian Realisation
Part of the popular attraction of transparent governance and freedom of information is that it has the potential to reconfigure venerable information asymmetries between state and citizen. Is this an expression of the liberal genealogy of the idea? Based on four foundational considerations, this article argues that the 'new' practice of the right of access to information (ATI) suggests that the idea can escape its liberal heritage to serve egalitarian socio-economic outcomes. The first explores the genealogy of ATI as a right, examining its 'liberal' roots. The second considers the idea that liberal rights are, per se, non-progressive or anti-egalitarian. Accordingly, the third examines the nature of the right. The fourth considers the praxis and the emerging empirical picture to see if it supports ATI's embryonic 'theory of change', which casts ATI as a 'power right', which in practice, and subject to certain conditions, enables ATI to adopt an egalitarian disposition.
Modern political theory, while defining a democratic political regime, puts an emphasis on institutions and procedures. According to this view, whether a particular country is democratic or not depends on the ability of the opposition to oust the incumbent government without leaving the framework of existing institutions and procedures. Cultural values that sustain the democratic polity, including the spirit of political equality, are given much less attention. These values are assumed to be already present, either as a reflection of our similar physical constitution or as a reflection of the presence of democratic political regimes. This research challenges both the monopoly of the procedural understanding of democracy and the lack of particular interest regarding the construction of egalitarian political culture. I claim, first, that the rise of an egalitarian political culture contributes to the establishment of a democratic political regime and, second, that the establishment of modern schools in the late sixteenth century contributed to the construction of this egalitarian political culture.
David Miller has objected to the cosmopolitan argument that it is arbitrary and hence unfair to treat individuals differently on account of things for which they are not responsible. Such a view seems to require, implausibly, that individuals be treated identically even where (unchosen) needs differ. The objection is, however, inapplicable where the focus of cosmopolitan concern is arbitrary disadvantage rather than arbitrary treatment. This 'unfair disadvantage argument' supports a form of global luck egalitarianism. Miller also objects that cosmopolitanism is unable to accommodate special obligations generated by national membership. Cosmopolitanism can, however, accommodate many special obligations to compatriots. Those which it cannot accommodate are only morally compelling if we assume what the objection claims to prove - that cosmopolitanism is mistaken. Cosmopolitanism construed as global luck egalitarianism is therefore able to withstand both of Miller's objections, and has significant independent appeal on account of the unfair disadvantage argument.
Liberalism in South Africa has attracted criticism from many quarters. A persistent objection focuses on the association between liberalism and capitalism, with liberals often cast as defenders of privilege and inequity and thereby as aligned with domination rather than liberation. This characterisation relies on a great deal of oversimplification. The length of the South African liberal tradition, and its diverse influences, means that South African liberalism resists easy definition. It is better seen as a family of resemblances than in terms of a lineage. The historical development of South African liberalism has therefore to be understood, above all, in terms of local conditions and contexts. By looking at its long history in this manner, it is possible to identify persistent strands of thought that are often disposed to support redistributive mechanisms. These may not be fully egalitarian and they may be pursued for pragmatic and prudential ends rather than as a matter of principle. Nevertheless, they include principled opposition to apartheid policies. Free-market ideologues have been exceptional within the long liberal tradition. An historical appreciation of the redistributive components of South African liberalism may help those who wish to revive modern liberalism as a social democratic movement.
These modern constitutions that have been adopted largely in the Global South enshrine a set of divergent values and rights that embrace both political philosophical concerns relating to liberty as well as distributive equality. This article seeks to grapple with the approach to distributive justice that can best give expression to the multiple normative commitments of these constitutions as well as key institutional features thereof. I argue for these societies to adopt what I term a two-tier theory of distributive justice: these theories require a set pattern or threshold to be achieved in a certain domain but also allow for a tolerable variation in resource distribution in another domain. I seek to show how two of the foremost egalitarian liberal theories of distributive justice – that of Ronald Dworkin and John Rawls – exemplify this structure as well as the resources they have to address the problems thereof. I then argue that a two-tier structure of a theory of distributive justice can help explain and reconcile key features of these modern constitutions. In particular, I shall seek to show the manner in which such theories conform to understandings of the role of a constitution, and the importance of preserving space for democratic decision-making. At the same time, two-tier theories assist in delineating the appropriate role constitutional courts should play in addressing the distribution of economic resources in society. These theories also have important implications for the role of the state and markets. Such a structure, I shall conclude, gives effect to a particular conception of equality as well as liberty and so manages to reconcile these two normative values.
democracy with participatory elements by drawing on a rich tradition of symbols, myths, and discourses that link civic republicanism, egalitarianism, secularism, militant citizenship, and participatory democracy with national identity. This article