A widely discussed and highly relevant question in political philosophy is the question of equality
A widely discussed and highly relevant question in political philosophy is the question of equality, when it comes to one’s political, social and economic standing within society. In principle, the concept can be defined as the state of having the same regard, socially, on a variety of different possible areas in society, and eventually translates into various theories proposed by different political philosophers throughout history, in which different levels of importance are placed on the equalisation of all members of said society, and the extent of the effort applied to achieve this. To contrast the two most extreme perspectives, there exists one idea that, politically, a great amount of effort should be placed upon providing absolute equality among all members of society, and another, stating that inequality benefits society more than any such effort, the proposition thus being to eliminate any additional attempts of equalisation of the people. For each degree of agreement or dissent between both extremes are other standpoints, which the aforementioned theories describe, and which will be discussed in the following essay.
As a forewarning, I believe it is important to note that, ultimately, there is no way to have a unanimous universal consensus on the “correct” answer to this philosophical issue, due to the individual opinions of every member of society in a global context. In fact, my own personal position on the matter is undoubtedly biased in accordance to my own political views as well.
Without further ado, let us begin by explaining the political context of the issue at hand more closely. The entire reason the question of equality is so often highlighted when speaking of politics is due to the way a system of societal functionality and justice is perceived in the majority of theories related thereto. Since the antiquity, it has often been theorised that justice and fairness in society are both directly proportional to the political equality that members of society possess, in the sense of the effect of their development in their future participation therein. In this context, fairness generally refers to equal treatment and standing in society, possessing equal opportunities, as well as the arrangement of social and economic inequalities to benefit all members of society, as described in John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. As for the purpose of all this, the general accepted explanation is that it is the only way for a society to develop efficiently and in harmony among all members of it, being the natural path people as an entity would fall into given the choice (known as the “social contract”, which, in a hypothetical context, is made at the start of a given civilisation). Whether or not this is truly the case will not be discussed, so let us assume the validity of the claim, and proceed with the specifics of the requirements for it.
For a fair society thus, equal opportunities must exist for all members of it, as mentioned previously. It is then logical to analyse just what these varying degrees of equalisation could be considered to be and, while many different forms to interpret this concept exist (due in part to the extent of equal opportunities in Rawls’ original concept being rather vague, considering a real and non-utopian context), it can be resumed into approximately seven main steps, as follows. For the first of these, as an extreme economic-right-wing position, one would set the level of “equal opportunity” in that one is born into a country and thus has the same rights as every other person living in that country, with the rest being up to themselves to resolve. For the second, there would be an openness and transparency within businesses, and advertisement that would inform members of society about existing options, allowing people to have the same starting point in careers for instance. The third brings upon the issue of reducing existing prejudices in the selection of people for work positions (based on the idea that people inherently have preconceived notions about what sort of people are favoured and what sorts are not), to allow fair treatment in that area.