Equality in India – Social and Political Scenario
This article is concerned with social and political equality. In its prescriptive usage, ‘equality’ is a loaded and ‘highly contested’ concept. Sociological and economic analyses of equality mainly pose the questions of how inequalities can be determined and measured and what their causes and effects are. In contrast, social and political philosophy is in general concerned mainly with the following questions: what kind of equality, if any, should be offered, and to whom and when? At least since the French Revolution, equality has served as one of the leading ideals of the body politic; in this respect, it is at present probably the most controversial of the great social ideals. There is controversy concerning the precise notion of equality, the relation of justice and equality (the principles of equality), the material requirements and measure of the ideal of equality (equality of what?), the extension of equality (equality among whom?), and its status within a comprehensive (liberal) theory of justice (the value of equality). Each of these five issues I am going to discuss by turn in the present article. I have also added the comparision between liberty and equality and the necessity of equality. I have put conclusion on basis of various aspects I am going to deal with.
Defining the Concept:
The terms “equality,” “equal,” and “equally” signify a qualitative relationship. ‘Equality’ (or ‘equal’) signifies correspondence between a group of different objects, persons, processes or circumstances that have the same qualities in at least one respect, but not all respects, i.e., regarding one specific feature, with differences in other features. ‘Equality’ needs to thus be distinguished from ‘identity’—this concept signifying that one and the same object corresponds to itself in all its features: an object that can be referred to through various individual terms, proper names, or descriptions. For the same reason, it needs to be distinguished from ‘similarity.’ Thus, to say e.g. that men are equal is not to say that they are identical. Equality rather implies similarity but not ‘sameness.’
‘Equality’ and ‘equal’ are incomplete predicates that necessarily generate one question: equal in what respect? Equality essentially consists of a tripartite relation between two (or several) objects or persons and one qualities. ‘Equality’ denotes the relation between the objects that are compared. Every comparison presumes a tertium comparationis, a concrete attribute defining the respect in which the equality applies—equality thus referring to a common sharing of this comparison-determining attribute. There is another source of diversity as well: As Temkin (1986, 1993) argues, various different standards might be used to measure inequality, with the respect in which people are compared remaining constant.
For this reason, it helps to think of the idea of equality or for that matter inequality, understood as an issue of social justice, not as a single principle, but as a complex group of principles forming the basic core of today’s egalitarianism. Depending on which procedural principle one adopts, contrary answers are forthcoming. Both equality and inequality are complex and multifaceted concepts. In any real historical context, it is clear that no single notion of equality can sweep the field.
The Value of Equality:
A conception of justice is egalitarian when it views equality as a fundamental goal of justice. L. Temkin has put it as follows: “an egalitarian is any person who attaches some value to equality itself (that is, any person that cares at all about equality, over and above the extent it promotes other ideals). In general, the focus of the modern egalitarian effort to realize equality is on the possibility of a good life, i.e., on an equality of life prospects and life circumstances.
At present, many egalitarians are ready to concede that equality in the sense of equality of life circumstances has no compelling value in itself; but that, in a framework of liberal concepts of justice, its meaning emerges in pursuit of other ideals: universal freedom, full development of human capacities and the human personality, the mitigation of suffering and defeat of domination and stigmatization, the stable coherence of modern, freely constituted societies. For those who are worse off, unequal circumstances often mean considerable disadvantages and many evils; and as a rule these disadvantages and evils are the source for our moral condemnation of unequal circumstances. But this does not mean that inequality as such is an evil. Hence, the argument goes, fundamental moral ideals other than equality stand behind our aspiring for equality. When we are against inequality on such grounds, we are for equality either as a byproduct or as a means and not as a goal or intrinsic value.
There is also a more suitable approach to the equality ideal: a constitutive egalitarianism. According to this approach, we aspire to equality on other moral grounds—namely, because certain inequalities are unjust. Equality has value, but this is an extrinsic value, since it derives from another, higher moral principle of equal dignity and respect. But it is not instrumental for this reason, i.e., it is not only valued on account of moral equality, but also on its own account. Equality stands in relation to justice as does a part to a whole. The requirement of justification is based on moral equality; and in certain contexts, successful justification leads to the above-named principles of equality, i.e., formal, proportional equality and the presumption of equality. Thus according to constitutive egalitarianism, these principles and the resulting equality are justified and required by justice, and by the same token constitute social justice.
Alongside the often-raised objections against equality mentioned in the section on “simple equality” there is a different and more fundamental critique formulated by first level non-egalitarians: that equality does not have a foundational role in the grounding of claims to justice. While the older version of a critique of egalitarianism comes mainly from a the right side of the political spectrum, thus arguing in general against “patterned principles of justice,” the critique’s newer version also often can be heard in liberal circles. This first-level critique of equality poses the basic question of why justice should in fact be conceived relationally and comparatively. Non-egalitarians object to the moral requirement to treat people as equals and many demands for justice emerging from it. They argue that neither the postulate nor these demands involve comparative principles—let alone any equality principles. They reproach first-level egalitarians for a confusion between “equality” and “universals.” Equality is thus merely a byproduct of the general fulfillment of actually non-comparative standards of justice: something obscured through the unnecessary inserting of an expression of equality. At least the central standards of dignified human life are not relational but “absolute.”
Instead of equality the non-egalitarian critics favor one or another entitlement theory of justice, such as Nozick’s (1974) libertarianism and Frankfurt’s (1987) doctrine of sufficiency, according to which “What is important from the moral point of view is not that everyone should have the same but that each should have enough. If everyone had enough, it would be of no moral consequence whether some had more than others.” Hence fulfilling an absolute or non-comparative standard for everyone frequently results in a certain equality of outcome, such a standard comprising not only a decent living but a good life. Consequently, the debate here centers on the basis—is it equality or something else? -- and not so much on the outcome—are persons or groups more or less equal, according to a chosen metric? Possibly, the difference is even deeper, lying in the conception of morality in general, rather than in equality at all.
Egalitarians can respond to the anti-egalitarian critique by conceding that it is the nature of some essential norms of morality and justice to be concerned primarily with the adequate fulfillment of the separate claims of individuals. In the view of the constitutive egalitarians, all the judgments of distributive justice should be approached relationally by asking which distributive scheme all concerned parties can universally and reciprocally agree to. Many egalitarians argue that a presumption in favor of equality follows from this justification requirement. In the eyes of such egalitarians, this is all one needs for the justification and determination of the constitutive value of equality.
If the standards of sufficiency are defined as a bare minimum, why should persons be content with that minimum? In Frankfurt’s definition, for example, sufficiency is reached only when persons are satisfied and no longer actively strive for more. Since we find ourselves operating, in practice, in circumstances far beneath such a high sufficiency level, we live in moderate scarcity. Egalitarians may thus conclude that distributive justice is always comparative. This would suggest that distributive equality, especially equality of life-conditions, is due a fundamental role in an adequate theory of justice in particular and of morality in general.
Equality Among Whom:
Justice is primarily related to individual actions. Individual persons are the primary bearers of responsibility. This raises two controversial issues in the contemporary debate.
One could regard the norms of distributive equality as applying to groups rather than individuals. It is often groups that rightfully raise the issue of an inequality between themselves and the rest of society—e.g. women; so-called racial and ethnic groups. The question arises of whether inequality among such groups should be considered morally objectionable in itself, or whether even in the case of groups, the underlying concern should be how individuals fare in comparative terms.
Do the norms of distributive equality apply to all individuals, regardless of where they live? Or rather, do they only hold for members of communities within states and nations? Most theories of equality deal exclusively with distributive equality among people in a single society. But there does not seem to be any rationale for that limitation. Can the group of the entitled be restricted prior to the examination of concrete claims? Many theories seem to imply this when they connect distributive justice or the goods to be distributed with social cooperation or production. For those who contribute nothing to cooperation, such as the disabled, children, or future generations, would have to be denied a claim to a fair share. The circle of persons who are to be the recipients of distribution would thus be restricted from the outset. Other theories are less restrictive, insofar as they do not link distribution to actual social collaboration, yet nonetheless do restrict it, insofar as they bind it to the status of citizenship. In this view, distributive justice is limited to the individuals within a society. Those outside the community have no entitlement to social justice. Unequal distribution among states and the social situations of people outside the particular society could not, in this view, be a problem of social distributive justice. Yet here too, the universal morality of equal respect and the principle of equal distribution demand that we consider each person as prima facie equally entitled to the goods, unless reasons for an unequal distribution can be put forth. It may be that in the process of justification, reasons will emerge for privileging those who were particularly involved in the production of a good. But prima facie, there is no reason to exclude from the outset other persons, e.g. those from other countries, from the process of distribution and justification. That may seem most intuitively plausible in the case of natural resources (e.g. oil) that someone discovers by chance on or beneath the surface of his or her property. Why should such resources belong to the person who discovers them, or on whose property they are located? Nevertheless, in the eyes of many if not most people, global justice, i.e., extending distributive justice globally, demands too much from individuals and their states.
Principles of Equality and Justice:
Equality in its prescriptive usage has, of course, a close connection with morality and justice in general and distributive justice in particular. From antiquity onward, equality has been considered a constitutive feature of justice. Throughout history, people and emancipatory movements use the language of justice to pillory certain inequalities. But what exactly is the connection between equality and justice, i.e., what kind of role does equality play in a theory of justice? The role and correct account of equality, understood as an issue of social justice, is itself a difficult philosophical issue.
Through its connection with justice, equality, like justice itself, has different justitianda, i.e., objects the term ‘just’ or ‘equal’ or their opposites can be applied to. These are mainly actions, persons, social institutions, and circumstances. The predicates “just” or “unjust” are only applicable when voluntary actions implying responsibility are in question. Justice is hence primarily related to individual actions. Individual persons are the primary bearer of responsibilities. Persons have to take responsibility for their individual actions and for circumstances they could change through such actions or omissions. The responsibility people have to treat individuals and groups they affect in a morally appropriate and, in particular, even-handed way has hence a certain priority over their moral duty to turn circumstances into just ones through some kind of equalization. Establishing justice of circumstances is beyond any given individual’s capacities. Hence one has to rely on collective actions. In order to meet this moral duty, a basic order guaranteeing just circumstances must be justly created. This is an essential argument of justice in favor of establishing social institutions and fundamental state structures for political communities; with the help of such institutions and structures, individuals can collectively fulfill their responsibility in the best possible manner.
1. Formal Equality
When two persons have equal status in at least one normatively relevant respect, they must be treated equally with regard to this respect.This is the generally accepted formal equality principle that Aristotle formulated: “treat like cases as like.” Some authors see this formal principle of equality as a specific application of a rule of rationality: it is irrational, because inconsistent, to treat equal cases unequally without sufficient reasons. But most authors instead stress that what is here at stake is a moral principle of justice, basically corresponding with acknowledgment of the impartial and universalizable nature of moral judgments.
2. Proportional Equality
According to Aristotle, there are two kinds of equality, numerical and proportional. A form of treatment of others or as a result of it a distribution is equal numerically when it treats all persons as indistinguishable, thus treating them identically or granting them the same quantity of a good per capita. That is not always just. In contrast, a form of treatment of others or distribution is proportional or relatively equal when it treats all relevant persons in relation to their due.
When factors speak for unequal treatment or distribution, because the persons are unequal in relevant respects, the treatment or distribution proportional to these factors is just. Unequal claims to treatment or distribution must be considered proportionally: that is the prerequisite for persons being considered equally.
Aristotle’s idea of justice as proportional equality contains a fundamental insight. The idea offers a framework for a rational argument between egalitarian and non-egalitarian ideas of justice, its focal point being the question of the basis for an adequate equality.
3. Moral Equality
Until the eighteenth century, it was assumed that human beings are unequal by nature—i.e., that there was a natural human hierarchy. This postulate collapsed with the advent of the idea of natural right and its assumption of an equality of natural order among all human beings. Against Plato and Aristotle, the classical formula for justice according to which an action is just when it offers each individual his or her due took on a substantively egalitarian meaning in the course of time, viz. everyone deserved the same dignity and the same respect. This is now the widely held conception of substantive, universal, moral equality. In the modern period, starting in the seventeenth century, the dominant idea was of natural equality in the tradition of natural law and social contract theory.
Hobbes (1651) postulated that in their natural condition, individuals possess equal rights, because over time they have the same capacity to do each other harm.
Locke (1690) argued that all human beings have the same natural right to both ownership and freedom.
Rousseau (1755) declared social inequality to be a virtually primeval decline of the human race from natural equality in a harmonious state of nature: a decline catalyzed by the human urge for perfection, property and possessions. For Rousseau (1755, 1762), the resulting inequality and rule of violence can only be overcome by tying unfettered subjectivity to a common civil existence and popular sovereignty.
Such Enlightenment ideas stimulated the great modern social movements and revolutions, and were taken up in modern constitutions and declarations of human rights. During the French Revolution, equality—along with freedom and fraternity—became a basis of the Revolution in France.
The principle of equal dignity and respect is now accepted as a minimum standard throughout mainstream Western culture. Some misunderstandings regarding moral equality need to be clarified. To say that men are equal is not to say they are identical. The postulate of equality implies that underneath apparent differences, certain recognizable entities or units exist that, by dint of being units, can be said to be ‘equal.’ Fundamental equality means that persons are alike in important relevant and specified respects alone, and not that they are all generally the same or can be treated in the same way.
Since “treatment as an equal” is a shared moral standard in contemporary theory, present-day philosophical debates are concerned with the kind of equal treatment normatively required when we mutually consider ourselves persons with equal dignity.
4. Presumption of Equality
Many conceptions of equality operate along procedural lines involving a presumption of equality. The presumption of equality is a prima facie principle of equal distribution for all goods politically suited for the process of public distribution. In the domain of political justice, all members of a given community, taken together as a collective body, have to decide centrally on the fair distribution of social goods, as well as on the distribution’s fair realization. Any claim to a particular distribution, including any existing distributive scheme, has to be impartially justified, i.e., no ownership will be recognized without justification. This presumption results in a principle of prima facie equal distribution for all distributable goods.
Since it is immoral to force someone to do something of which he or she does not approve, only reasons acceptable to the other person can give one the moral right to treat the person in accordance with these reasons. The impartial justification of norms rests on the reciprocity and universality of the reasons. Universal norms and rights enforced through inner or external sanctions are morally justified only if, on the one hand, they can be reciprocally justified, and if, on the other hand, they are justified with respect to the interests of all concerned parties, i.e., if everyone has good reasons for accepting them and no one has a good reason for rejecting them.
The presumption of equality provides an elegant procedure for constructing a theory of distributive justice. The following questions would have to be answered in order to arrive at a substantial and full principle of justice.
In the domain of public political distribution, the goods and burdens to be distributed may be divided into various categories. Such a division is essential because reasons that speak for unequal treatment in one area do not justify unequal treatment in another. What are the spheres (of justice) into which these resources have to be grouped? In order to reconstruct our understanding of contemporary liberal, democratic welfare states, four categories seem essential: 1. civil liberties, 2. opportunities for political participation, 3. social positions and opportunities, 4. economic rewards. Despite views to the contrary, liberties and opportunities are seen in this view as objects of distribution. For all four categories, the presumption of equality is the guiding principle. The results of applying the presumption to each category can then be codified as rights.
The equality required in the economic sphere is complex, taking account of several positions that—each according to the presumption of equality—justify a turn away from equality. A salient problem here is what constitutes justified exceptions to equal distribution of goods—the main subfield in the debate over adequate conceptions of distributive equality and its currency. The following sorts of factors are usually considered eligible for justified unequal treatment: (a) need or differing natural disadvantages (e.g. disabilities); (b) existing rights or claims (e.g. private property); (c) differences in the performance of special services (e.g. desert, efforts, or sacrifices); (d) efficiency; and (e) compensation for direct and indirect or structural discrimination (e.g. affirmative action).
These factors play an essential, albeit varied, role in the following alternative egalitarian theories of distributive justice. The following theories offer different accounts of what should be equalized in the economic sphere. Most can be understood as applications of the presumption of equality (whether they explicitly acknowledge it or not); only a few (like strict equality, libertarianism, and sufficiency) are alternatives to the presumption.
Conceptions of Distributive Equality:
Every effort to interpret the concept of equality and to apply the principles of equality mentioned above demands a precise measure of the parameters of equality. We need to know the dimensions within which the striving for equality is morally relevant. What follows is a brief review of the seven most prominent conceptions of distributive equality, each offering a different answer to one question: in the field of distributive justice, what should be equalized, or what should be the parameter or “currency” of equality?
1. Simple Equality and Objections to Equality in General
Simple equality, meaning everyone being furnished with the same material level of goods and services, represents a strict position as far as distributive justice is concerned. It is generally rejected as untenable.
Since egalitarianism has come to be widely associated with the demand for economic equality, and this in turn with communistic or socialistic ideas, it is important to stress that neither communism nor socialism—despite their protest against poverty and exploitation and their demand for social security for all citizens—calls for absolute economic equality. Marx rejects the idea of legal equality, on three grounds. In the first place, he indicates, equality draws on a merely limited number of morally relevant vantages and neglects others, thus having unequal effects; right can never be higher than the economic structure and cultural development of the society it conditions. In the second place, theories of justice have concentrated excessively on distribution instead of the basic questions of production. In the third place, a future communist society needs no law and no justice, since social conflicts will have vanished.
We thus arrive at the following desideratum: instead of simple equality, we need a concept of more complex equality: a concept managing to resolve the problems through a distinction of various classes of goods, a separation of spheres, and a differentiation of relevant criteria.
Libertarianism and economic liberalism represent minimalist positions in relation to distributive justice. Locke said, they both postulate an original right to freedom and property, thus arguing against redistribution and social rights and for the free market. They assert an opposition between equality and freedom: the individual (natural) right to freedom can be limited only for the sake of foreign and domestic peace. For this reason, libertarians consider maintaining public order the state’s only legitimate duty. They assert a natural right to self-ownership that entitles everybody to thus far unowned bits of the external world by means of mixing their labor with it. All individuals can thus claim property if “enough and as good” is left over for others.
A principal objection to libertarian theory is that its interpretation of the Lockean proviso—nobody’s situation should be worsened through an initial acquisition of property—leads to an excessively weak requirement and is thus unacceptable. With a broader and more adequate interpretation of what it means for one a situation to be worse than another, however, justifying private appropriation and, a fortiori, all further ownership rights, becomes much more difficult.
Another objection is that precisely if one’s own free accomplishment is what is meant to count, as the libertarians argue, success should not depend strictly on luck, extraordinary natural gifts, inherited property, and status. In other words, equal opportunity also needs to at least be present as a counterbalance, ensuring that the fate of human beings is determined by their decisions and not by unavoidable social circumstances.
In any event, with a shift away from a strictly negative idea of freedom, economic liberalism can indeed itself point the way to more social and economic equality. For with such a shift, what is at stake is not only assuring an equal right to self-defense, but also furnishing everyone more or less the same chance to actually make use of the right to freedom. In other words, certain basic goods need to be furnished to assure the equitable or ‘fair value of the basic liberties.’
It is possible to interpret utilitarianism as concretizing moral equality—and this in a way meant to offer the same consideration to the interests of all human beings. From the utilitarian perspective, since everyone counts as one and no one as more than one (Bentham), the interests of all should be treated equally without consideration of contents of interest or an individual’s material situation. For utilitarianism this means that all enlightened personal interests have to be fairly aggregated. The morally proper action is the one that maximizes utility. But this utilitarian conception of equal treatment has been criticized as inadequate by many opponents of utilitarianism. At least in utilitarianism’s classical form—so the critique reads—the hoped for moral equality is flawed: this because all desires are taken up by the utilitarian calculation—including “selfish” and “external” preferences (Dworkin), all having equal weight, even when they diminish the ‘rights’ and intentions of others. Equal treatment has to consist of everyone being able to claim a fair portion, and not in all interests having the same weight in disposal over my portion. Utilitarians cannot admit any restrictions on interests based on morals or justice. As long as utilitarian theory lacks a concept of justice and fair allotment, it must fail in its goal of treating all as equals.
4. Equality of Welfare
The concept of welfare equality is motivated by an intuition that when it comes to political ethics, what is at stake is the individual’s well-being. The central criterion for justice must consequently be equalizing the level of welfare. But taking welfare as what is to be equalized leads into major difficulties, which resemble those of utilitarianism. If one contentiously identifies subjective welfare with preference satisfaction, it seems implausible to count all individual preferences as equal, some—such as the desire to do others wrong—being inadmissible on grounds of justice. Any welfare-centered concept of equality grants people with refined and expensive taste more resources—something distinctly at odds with our moral intuitions. However, satisfaction in the fulfillment of desires cannot serve as a standard, since we wish for more than a simple feeling of happiness. A more viable standard for welfare comparisons would seem to be success in the fulfillment of preferences. A fair evaluation of such success cannot be purely subjective, rather requiring a standard of what should or could have been achieved. And this itself involves an assumption regarding just distribution; it is thus no independent criterion for justice.
5. Equality of Resources
It holds individuals responsible for their decisions and actions, not, however, for circumstances beyond their control—race, sex, and skin-color, but also intelligence and social position—which thus are excluded as distributive criteria. Equal opportunity is insufficient because it does not compensate for unequal innate gifts. What applies for social circumstances should also apply for such gifts, both these factors being purely arbitrary from a moral point of view and requiring adjustment.
According to Rawls, human beings should have the same initial expectations of “basic goods,” i.e., all-purpose goods; this in no way precludes ending up with different quantities of such goods or resources, as a result of personal economic decisions and actions.
Since Rawls’ Theory of Justice is the classical focal point of present-day political philosophy, it is worth noting the different ways his theory claims to be egalitarian: First, Rawls upholds a natural basis for equal human worth: a minimal capacity for having a conception of the good and a sense of justice. Second, through the device of the “veil of ignorance,” people are conceived as equals in the “original position.” Third, the idea of sharing this “original position” presupposes the parties having political equality, as equal participants in the process of choosing the principles by which they would be governed. Fourth, Rawls proposes fair equality of opportunity. Fifth, Rawls maintains that all desert must be institutionally defined, depending on the goals of the society. No one deserves his or her talents or circumstances—all products of the natural lottery. Finally, the difference principle tends toward equalizing holdings.
Dworkin’s equality of resources (1981b) stakes a claim to being even more ‘ambition-sensitive’ and endowment-insensitive’ than Rawls’ theory. Unequal distribution of resources is considered fair only when it results from the decisions and intentional actions of those concerned. Dworkin proposes a hypothetical auction in which everyone can accumulate bundles of resources through equal means of payment, so that in the end no one is jealous of another’s bundle. The auction-procedure also offers a way to precisely measure equality of resources: the measure of resources devoted to a person’s life is defined by the importance of the resources to others. In the free market, how the distribution then develops depends on an individual’s ambitions. The inequalities that thus emerge are justified, since one has to take responsibility for one’s “option luck” in the realm of personal responsibility. In contrast, unjustified inequalities based on different innate provisions and gifts as well as brute luck should be compensated for through a fictive differentiated insurance system: its premiums are established behind Dworkin’s own ‘veil of ignorance,’ in order to then be distributed in real life to everyone and collected in taxes. For Dworkin, this is the key to the natural lottery being balanced fairly, preventing an “slavery of the talented” through excessive redistribution.
6. Equality of Opportunity for Welfare or Advantage
Approaches based on equality of opportunity can be read as revisions of both welfarism and resourcism. Ranged against welfarism and designed to avoid its pitfalls, they incorporate the powerful ideas of choice and responsibility into various, improved forms of egalitarianism. Such approaches are meant to equalize outcomes, insofar as they are the consequences of causes beyond a person’s control, but to allow differential outcomes in so far as they result from autonomous choice or ambition. But the approaches are also aimed at maintaining the insight that individual preferences have to count, as the sole basis for a necessary linkage back to the individual perspective: otherwise, there is an overlooking of the person’s value. For Cohen, there are two grounds for egalitarian compensation. Egalitarians will be moved to furnish a paralyzed person with a compensatory wheelchair independently of the person’s welfare level. This egalitarian response to disability overrides equality of welfare. Egalitarians also favor compensation for phenomena such as pain, independent of any loss of capacity—for instance by paying for expensive medicine. But, Cohen claims, any justification for such compensation has to invoke the idea of equality of opportunity to welfare. He thus views both aspects, resources and welfare, as necessary and irreducible.
7. Capabilities Approaches
Theories that limit themselves to the equal distribution of basic means—this in the hope of doing justice to the different goals of all human beings—are often criticized as fetishistic, in that they focus on means, rather than on what individuals gain with these means. For the value goods have for someone depends on objective possibilities, the natural environment, and individual capacities. Hence in contrast to the resourcist approach, Amartya Sen proposes orientating distribution around “capabilities to achieve functionings,” i.e., the various things that a person manages to do or be in leading a life. In other words, evaluating individual well-being has to be tied to a capability for achieving and maintaining various precious conditions and “functionings” constitutive of a person’s being, such as adequate nourishment, good health, the ability to move about freely or to appear in public without shame, and so forth. Also important here is the real freedom to acquire well-being—a freedom represented in the capability to oneself choose forms of achievement and the combination of “functioning.” For Sen, capabilities are thus the measure of an equality of capabilities human beings enjoy to lead their lives.
Of the various kinds of inequality, political inequality is one of the most basic, intrinsically valuable and valuable as the key to equality in other realms. It is also a form of equality for which we, at least those of us who live in democracies, set a very high standard. All citizens are supposed to be equal—in terms of their rights, in terms of the consideration given to their interests—before the government. Yet it is a form of equality that is difficult to define precisely and difficult to measure.
By political equality we refer to the extent to which citizens have an equal voice over governmental decisions.
One of the bedrock principles in a democracy is the equal consideration of the preferences and interests of all citizens. This is expressed in such principles as one-person/one-vote, equality before the law, and equal rights of free speech. Equal consideration of the preferences and needs of all citizens is fostered by equal political activity among citizens; not only equal voting turnout across significant categories of citizens but equality in other forms of activity. These activities include work in a political campaign, campaign contributions, activity within one’s local community, and direct contact with officials, and protest. Equal activity is crucial for equal consideration since political activity is the means by which citizens inform governing elites of their needs and preferences and induce them to be responsive. Citizen participation is, thus, at the heart of political equality. Through their activity citizens in a democracy seek to control who will hold public office and to influence what the government does. Political participation provides the mechanism by which citizens can communicate information about their interests, preferences, and needs and generate pressure to respond.
Participatory Equality: Equality in all domains of social and political life is complex. It can be about many different valued goods (income, education, health, etc.) it can be across individuals or groups, it can be calculated with different measures, and on the basis of different criteria.
Political equality builds community: Societies are bound together by cooperative activity toward shared goals. This is how that precious commodity of social capital is formed. Since this involves horizontal connections, it implies the engagement of equals. Political participation creates legitimacy.
Equal political voice is inevitably equally weak voice: If each citizen has an equal voice—one vote, one small contribution—it gives great power to governing officials who can dominate. An equal polity is a mass polity not a democratic one.
Liberty and equality:
These two words are often linked when it comes to discussions of democracy and they are often seen as contradictory one with the other. Liberty creates the opportunity to become unequal. If people are free to develop their political capacity, the right kind of equality of citizen voice emerges—one that is pretty good and certainly good enough. Amartya Sen in a recent book turns the issue upside down. Equality, he argues, is crucial to create liberty. Unless individuals have the right and the capability to control their own lives they are not free. Sen stresses the need for basic resources (literacy, health, enough income) so that one can indeed be an equal participant.
We care about equality of political influence because it is important. Societies with healthy democracies in which there is real control by citizens over the government, as there is in the U.S. though it is hard to say how much—are better societies.
In distinction to numerical identity, a judgment of equality presumes a difference between the things being compared. According to this definition, the notion of ‘complete’ or ‘absolute’ equality is self-contradictory. Two non-identical objects are never completely equal; they are different at least in their spatiotemporal location. If things do not differ they should not be called ‘equal,’ but rather, more precisely, ‘identical,’ as e.g., the morning and evening star. Here usage might vary.
In this way we can conclude what the equality actually means that we have seen this project report. In may view, equality is very-very important for livelihood of any individual because then only he can give back to his or her society according to the capability as he is getting equal treatment and so the equal opportunity to do what he can.
Various philosophers have given their view and interpretation for the word equality and its importance in different parts of life, there are various oppositions also made by some persons with their own opinions. But I am strictly supporting equality, mainly in social and political sense because if anybody in the society is underprivileged then he will not be able to the nation that he can, so everybody must be treated equally in the society with equal political rights so he can elect the representative in the democratic government. There should not be any discrimination on basis of religion, caste, race, community etc.
I want to add further on basis of all the points, which we have discussed in this project that equality is very valuable because it make the people to feel that he is a part of the nation as others and he should contribute in its development processes. So indirectly this notion directly helping in the growth of society and nation and hence equality must be applicable for all.
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