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Reading-up on Egalitarianism

Reading-up on Egalitarianism
August 18, 2011, 11:43:47 AM
Could anyone recommend me a book or books on the subject of egalitarianism? Both the history and philosophy of, either for or against. I'm finding it much harder to research than I had expected.

Re: Reading-up on Egalitarianism
August 19, 2011, 12:51:41 AM
Sure, you might start with this ancient text called "The Holy Bible: King James Version". 
After that, "The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation" by Priests for Equality (I SHIT U NOT).

Re: Reading-up on Egalitarianism
August 19, 2011, 06:28:59 AM
Try the works of John Locke; he codified the blank slate theory.

Re: Reading-up on Egalitarianism
August 20, 2011, 02:52:53 PM
I think I can help here, although egalitarianism is not really my area (I am more engaged in issues about property rights and liberty.) The three biggest names in academic philosophy associated with egalitarianism are probably John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and G.A. Cohen (Cohen was a full-blown socialist if I'm not mistaken.) Rawls's magnum opus, A Theory of Justice, is widely regarded as the most important and thoroughgoing philosophical defense of modern liberalism. It's definitely not a short read, though. You might want to begin with a shorter introduction to his philosophical thinking. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is your friend.

I can't really recommend anything specific by Dworkin or Cohen simply because I am not familiar enough with their work. I have read only certain articles by Cohen which were not really about egalitarianism. Your best bet is probably to just look up their names on Amazon, read the synopses for their books, and see which ones interest you. For a broad overview of egalitarianism in philosophy, see this article. The bibliography is a good resource for further reading, although if you want to access some of the articles that are listed, you'll probably have to be affiliated with a university.

Now, as far as objections to egalitarianism go, the situation is a bit more difficult. I think most academic philosophers are egalitarians of one sort or another (even right-libertarians are; they think people have equal rights of a certain kind, but not rights to equal shares of resources or anything like that.) Opposition to egalitarianism in philosophy usually comes from libertarian and classical liberal perspectives. The biggest name in this area is Robert Nozick whose best-known work, Anarchy, State and Utopia, deals a bit with egalitarianism in its objections to patterned and end-state distributive schemes. I don't think Nozick's arguments are ultimately successful (actually, I think the foundations of libertarian political philosophy are a big mess of conceptual confusions) but it's an extremely influential work and probably should count as essential reading if you're interested in political philosophy.

Another libertarian writer who has written a bit about egalitarianism is Jan Narveson. He has an article called "Egalitarianism: Partial, Counterproductive, and Baseless", and although I have never gotten around to reading it, Narveson is a pretty sharp guy and an entertaining writer, so it's probably a decent read at least. His magnum opus is The Libertarian Idea, but there's not much in there that directly addresses egalitarian arguments if my memory serves me correctly. And that brings me to a larger point: a lot of the opposition to egalitarianism in philosophy seems to me to be indirect. That is to say, anti-egalitarian writers will argue for an alternative view (libertarianism, classical liberalism) the implications of which supposedly entail the falsity of egalitarian normative claims. I don't know of a whole lot of direct challenges to specific arguments for egalitarianism. I don't even know if there really are many particularly rigorous arguments for egalitarianism broadly construed. Again, it's not really my area.

Well, there you go. I hope that helps somewhat.

Re: Reading-up on Egalitarianism
August 21, 2011, 05:02:55 AM
Thanks Ginungafap, that'll give me a good start I'm sure.