Defending relational egalitarianism and the two principles of equality

  • Tsz Chun CHOY

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This essay shall survey two streams of liberal egalitarianism, namely luck egalitarianism and relational egalitarianism, and argue that the latter is superior. The two streams have a substantive difference in terms of the essence of egalitarian justice, the role of individual responsibility, and the interpretation of the idea of treating citizens as equals. This essay shows that the idea of egalitarian justice is best understood by seeing it as an idea demanding the realization of egalitarian relationships. Principle of distribution is not methodologically self-sufficient but dependent on a broader understanding of equality.

This essay shall also advocate two principles of equality to show how we can derive principles of justice from a relational conception of equality. The negative principle of equality forbids social oppressions while the positive principle of equality demands the state to respect citizens equally and promote egalitarian values so that citizens are more willing to respect one another. A just society, regulated by the two principles, will be a society of equals in which conditions of freedom of citizens will be secured by the state. The two principles also see respect as an important idea in a theory of justice. Respect here is not only referring to the idea of making people responsible for the consequences of their free choices. Respect is conceived as multi-dimensional while the responsibility-based idea of respect is merely one face among many. Lastly, the two principles of equality will be compared with Elizabeth Anderson’s relational egalitarianism, with the hope to show that the two principles move a step forward than Anderson’s theory on some points.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Philosophy
SupervisorDerek Clayton BAKER (Supervisor)

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