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This subject examines the way in which egalitarian political philosophy offers moral guidance in a variety of policy-making contexts. After examining some philosophical treatments of the fundamental, abstract value of equality, our attention will turn to more specific ways in such philosophical theorising can influence public policy: How should a concern for equality guide policy about education, unemployment, and other important public services? Should unemployed people have their benefits cut if they refuse to take a job they don't want? Does affirmative action make society fairer, or discriminate against hard-working high achievers? Do private schools allow rich people to buy an unfair advantage for their children? General concepts to be discussed include egalitarian concerns about stigmatisation, shame, social integration, and oppression – as well as how policy might seek to address them.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who complete this subject will:
- Understand important philosophical analyses of the value of equality and its role in guiding the study of distributive justice;
- Be able to interpret these analyses so as to critically assess the case for and against policy proposals in areas such as education, unemployment, and religious toleration;
- Appreciate the relation between egalitarian thought and attempts to use public policies to address problems of stigmatisation, status hierarchy, unfairness, and others.
Last updated: 2 December 2019