A shortening of the word equalitarian, suggesting a commitment to, or a state of,
equality. Egalitarian societies or groups are contrasted to hierarchical or class-based
societies or groups.
Egalitarian philosophies include Socialism, Communism, Anarchism, Left Libertarianism, Progressivism,
and Human Rights, which promote economic, political, and
Egalitarian ideas are supported by intellectuals. Communism is an egalitarian doctrine,
envisaging that everyone must enjoy material equality. Communists argue that political
egalitarianism is indispensable to material egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism can generally be found in children. One may be an egalitarian even if not
subscribing to equality in every area.
Egalitarianism is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as
equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights.
Egalitarianism as a social philosophy has been applied to society in many ways.
Common forms of egalitarianism include economic egalitarianism, legal egalitarianism, luck
egalitarianism, political egalitarianism, gender egalitarianism, racial equality,
asset-based egalitarianism, and Christian egalitarianism.
Utilitarianism and Egalitarianism are both forms of Consequentialism. Consequentialism holds that one must act
so as to maximize the overall intrinsic value of some population.
Consequentialism holds that one must distribute resources within some population
so as to maximize its overall intrinsic value.
Moral and legal egalitarianism
Universal egalitarianism has won wide adherence and is a core component of modern civil
rights policies. The United States Declaration of Independence includes a kind of moral
and legal egalitarianism. Because "all men are created equal," each man is to be
treated equally under the law. Similar to many other developed nations of the time, it was
not until much later that the U.S. society extended these benefits to slaves, women and
Egalitarianism in hunter-gatherer groups
Egalitarianism is found in modern hunter-gatherer groups. Without any motive many
returning hunters share meat with the rest of the group. These groups do not have a
defined leader. This is reflected in group discussions, where individuals with mastery in
one subject such as hunting will be respected, but not necessarily obeyed.
Equality before the law or equality under the law or legal egalitarianism is the principle
under which each individual is subject to the same laws, with no individual or group
having special legal privileges. Legal egalitarianism admits no class structures entail
separate legal practices. Thus, canon law, star chambers, and aristocracy are alike
forbidden, and the testimony of all persons is counted with the same weight. This
political development arose in the 18th century in both the United States and France after
their revolutionary periods. It was a radical development, as it negated the former feudal
and aristocratic foundations.
Luck egalitarianism is a view about distributive justice espoused by a variety of
egalitarian and left-wing political philosophers. According to this view, justice demands
that variations in how well off people are should be wholly attributable to the
responsible choices people make and not to differences in their unchosen circumstances.
This expresses the intuition that it is a bad thing for some people to be worse off than
others through no fault of their own.
Luck egalitarians therefore distinguish between outcomes that are the result of brute luck
(e.g. misfortunes in genetic makeup, or being struck by a bolt of lightning) and those
that are the consequence of conscious options (such as career choice or fair gambles).
Luck egalitarianism is intended as a fundamental normative idea that might guide our
thinking about justice rather than as an immediate policy prescription. The idea has its
origin in John Rawls's thought that distributive shares should not be influenced by
arbitrary factors, but Rawls was not himself a luck egalitarian. Luck egalitarians
disagree among themselves about the proper way to measure how well off people are (for
instance, whether we should measure material wealth, psychological happiness or some other
factor) and the related issue of how to assess the value of their resources.
Prominent advocates of luck egalitarianism have included Ronald Dworkin, Richard Arneson,
Gerald Cohen, John Roemer, and Eric Rakowski. An example of this would be a robber
offering someone a choice between their money and their life. She also claims that luck
egalitarianism expresses a demeaning pity towards the disadvantaged. Neither of these
criticisms is accepted by luck egalitarianism's proponents.
Many philosophers think that the term "luck egalitarianism" is a misnomer,
because many so-called "luck egalitarians" (of the 'resourcist' strand at least)
do not in fact want to equalize luck or eliminate uncertainty, but instead believe that
individuals should be equal in the amount of resources they have when facing luck or
Gender equality (also known as gender equity, gender egalitarianism, or sexual equality)
stems from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality. Many followers
of this philosophy would like to see this term come to replace feminism or
masculism, when used to describe a belief in basic equal rights and
opportunities for members of both sexes within legal, social, or corporate establishments.
They strive for ultimate fairness, and seek cooperative solutions so as to make things
better for both males, females and everything in between. While they may share a number of
critiques and analyses with self-described man haters and/or masculists, they feel that
egalitarianism is a better word for a belief in equality than any word that
focuses on one of the genders.
Asset-based egalitarianism is a form of egalitarianism which theorises that equality is
possible by a redistribution of resources, usually in the form of a capital grant provided
at the age of majority. Names for the implementation of this theory in policy include
universal basic capital, basic capital and stakeholding, and all are generally synonymous
within the equal opportunity egalitarian framework. - Cunliffe, J & Erreygers, G
(2004) The Origins of Universal Grants: An Anthology of Historical Writings on Basic
Capital and Basic Income.
Asset-based egalitarian policies, such as the Ackerman and Alstott proposals, are
often criticised as not being egalitarian. Due to different people having different
abilities and talents to utilise financial wealth, there is always a risk that those
without formal financial education would alienate their own freedom by dissipating their
capital or 'stakeblowing.' Stuart White argued that unless education corrected for this,
there would be an inegalitarian outcome, as people fundamentally have different
asset-management capacities. - White, S (2006) The Citizens Stake and
Paternalism in Ackerman, B et al (eds) Redesigning Distribution.
Christian Egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level),
also known as biblical equality, is a recent adaptation of the moral doctrine of
Egalitarianism which holds that people should be treated as equals. Ultimately,
Egalitarianism holds that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth and moral
Christian Egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ.
According to Christian Egalitarianism, gender equality in Christian church leadership
(including pastors) and in Christian marriage is biblically sound. Its theological
foundations are interpretations of the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and other New
Testament principles. It refers to the biblically-based belief that gender, in and of
itself, neither privileges nor curtails a believers gifting or calling to any
ministry in the church or home. It does not imply that women and men are identical or
undifferentiated. Christian Egalitarianism affirms that God designed men and women to
complement and benefit one another.
The opposing view is Complementarianism, a theological view held by some Christians that
differing, often non-overlapping roles between men and women, manifested in marriage,
church leadership, and elsewhere, is biblically required.
Complementarian and Christian Egalitarian views need not be mutually exclusive, according
to some recent proposals that one can subscribe both to Complementarianism and Christian
egalitarianism. This theoretically would allow men and women to complement each other
without any form of hierarchy. This view argues that the Bible prescribes both equality
and complementary positions and roles for both men and women. One academic book advocating
this position is Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. -
Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Gordon D. Fee (eds.), Discovering Biblical
Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.