Workshop on "What Equality?" at University of Aberdeen, 28-29 June, followed by PhD summer school, 30 June-1 July 2011
Equality, slogan of choice in heady moments such as the 1790s and the 1960s, recedes into the background at other times like our present. All the more reason to ask, now, what ideas of equality there are, and whether there are equalities in practice. Ideas and practices of equality have, no doubt, been around for ever. Hunter-gatherers are often said to be egalitarian. Being equal in the eyes of God has for long been important to Judaeo-Christian traditions. But the workshop will focus on the ideas of equality associated with citizenship, with civil society and with rule of law. Citizenship, civil society and rule of law all include notions of equality, but it is far from clear what notions of equality, how they relate to each other, and what they do in practice. There are, to begin with, many notions of equality. For example, citizenship and rule of law share a notion of being equal as individuals in spite of other differences. One votes as a citizen rather than as a women, indigenous person or aristocrat, and one faces judgement as a legal subject equal to other legal subjects. But we will discuss, among other things, how the equality of citizens and equality before the law relate to each other, and how they stand in relation to other kinds of equality and inequality, such as the substantive distribution of rights, the socioeconomic disparities that concerned T.H. Marshall, access to the justice system, and cultural recognition. We will also ask how equality plays out in civil society, which has been accused of being unrepresentative and elitist yet often invokes some kind of equality as its objective.
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