Friday, July 13, 2007

Questions on Inequality

What is inequality and what are its origins? Is some form of inequality necessary for societies to function?

[A variation of these questions were once asked, leading to Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality. I have been thinking about them recently and thought I might raise them in the broader forum.]


Samuel Douglas said...

I think what inequality is should be readily quantifiable, though in your asking I sense some sort of trap.

Letting that go for the moment and moving to its necessity, I'm inclined to go with some sort of neo-Rawlsian view - that it is necessary to achieve a certain kind of society, but that it is only justifiable when it benefits the least affluent members of that society.

MH said...

Quantifiability is an aspect that hadn't occurred to me. Thanks for giving me something else to think about.

Rawls is the more the area that I've been ploughing. What I keep digging at is the idea – aptly expressed by a line from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ – that ‘there will be poor always’ and the implications that such a view has for any movement (progress) toward equality. I am interested, I think, by the apparent acceptance in various accounts – Marx, Rawls, and Foucault, for example – that there is a role for inequality in a society. I’m not sure where I am going with this at the moment, other than trying to scrape some notes together for a paper on Rousseau’s discourse.

I think you might need to talk to some people about the paranoia though …

Rowan Blyth said...

For equality to work, there must be inequitable treatment to make all things even, as I doubt some one in a wheel chair has the same requirements as myself to have the feel that things are equitable. This is not saying much other than reaffirming Sam's comment.

For Foucault's violent history to work, there must be conflict and that conflict is inequality. I guess thats just the Hegelian in him.