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ETHICSOC 378B: Unequal Relationships (PHIL 378B, POLISCI 338B)

Over the past three decades, a relational egalitarian conception of equality has emerged in political philosophy. Proponents of the view argue that the point of equality is to establish communities where people are able to stand and relate as equals. This entails building societies free from a variety of modes of relating that are thought to be detrimental to our status as moral equals. The list of those inegalitarian relationships is long and includes oppression, domination, exploitation, marginalization, objectification, demonization, infantilization, and stigmatization. The relational approach to equality departs from the more distributive conceptions of equality that were offered in the 70s and after. The theories of justice proposed in response are still comparatively underdeveloped and need further elaboration, but they all concur in rejecting both the overly distributive paradigm and the preoccupation with individual responsibility central to most other egalitarian accounts. Thi more »
Over the past three decades, a relational egalitarian conception of equality has emerged in political philosophy. Proponents of the view argue that the point of equality is to establish communities where people are able to stand and relate as equals. This entails building societies free from a variety of modes of relating that are thought to be detrimental to our status as moral equals. The list of those inegalitarian relationships is long and includes oppression, domination, exploitation, marginalization, objectification, demonization, infantilization, and stigmatization. The relational approach to equality departs from the more distributive conceptions of equality that were offered in the 70s and after. The theories of justice proposed in response are still comparatively underdeveloped and need further elaboration, but they all concur in rejecting both the overly distributive paradigm and the preoccupation with individual responsibility central to most other egalitarian accounts. This graduate seminar will introduce students to the rich literature on equality in contemporary political philosophy, with a special focus on identifying and scrutinizing unequal relationships. Each week will be centered on a specific type of such unequal relationship, trying to understand how it operates, what social function it serves, and what makes it specifically harmful or wrongful to groups and individuals. Although there are no formal pre-requisites, this class is primarily designed for students considering writing a thesis in political or moral theory as well as for students in other disciplines who want to advance their understanding of equality as a moral value. Seniors in philosophy and political science with a substantial training in political theory will also be considered and should email the PI to communicate their interest. 2 unit option only for Phil PhDs beyond the second year.
Terms: Win | Units: 2-4
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