THE NORM OF INTERPERSONAL EQUALITY
Not all egalitarians are equal.
The first distinction to be drawn is the one between those egalitarians
for whom socioeconomic equality is one value beside others, like
well-being or happiness, and those for whom equality is the sole value.
The second distinction to be drawn is the one between those egalitarians
for whom equality is an
intrinsic value subject to
considerations and those for whom equality is, if not the sole value, a
value which is merely to be balanced against other values of the same
As should have become plain from the anti-egalitarian objections discussed
above, egalitarianism of the
monistic type, and of the type
which does not allow for
cannot be seriously adhered to.
But even the egalitarians now left over, are not all equal.
A third distinction must be drawn: one between relevantistic
egalitarianism and the traditional form of what might be labeled
Traditional egalitarianism has been attacked because of its
absolute priority given to equality as an outcome. Yet, this
objection could only be raised after divorcing traditional
egalitarianism's principle of equality from that of
relevance which was often
implicit in it as well. In any adequate
egalitarian doctrine this interplay of the principle of equality and
the principle of relevance is of
paramount importance, however.
And it certainly is in the neutralistic doctrine with its
relevantistic interpretation of the principle of neutrality, and
thus of the principle of equality.
According to the
ananorm one should strive for nothing
else than neutrality, unless an unneutral end serves a more urgent
neutral end. In the present context this means that one should
strive for interpersonal equality, unless inequality serves the
ananormatively superior neutrality of a different aspect.
The other neutral end may be well-being in a neutral sense but also
a different form of equality, especially proportional equality.
It may be that it is reasonable not to distribute equal shares
but shares proportionate to people's merits, needs, and so on.
Nonetheless, such proportionality is itself a form of equality
again in another respect. For example, if one person has worked
10 hours for someone else or for some collective body, and the
other 5 hours, it would be equality in an absolute sense if they
were paid the same. To pay the first person twice as much as the
second, however, is to pay these people the same hourly wage,
starting from the assumption that not the mere fact that someone has
worked for someone else or for a collective body is what counts,
but the number of hours
'e has worked. This is not to
argue, of course, that the number of hours worked could be the only
relevant factor. The time worked, for instance, need not be the
same as the amount of work done.
Given that our equality is not necessarily an absolute
equality in outcome, some might suggest that our egalitarianism
is nothing else than relevantism without a principle of equality.
Those who would suggest this, however, would not have understood the
basics of the theory of relevancy and the considerations which have led us
principle of discriminational
the norm of inclusivity.
The role of the principle of equality (or the egalitarian interpretation)
vis-à-vis the principle of relevance is that it provides a basis of
Relevantism in itself does not tell us that we should opt for equality and
only deviate from equality if it can be justified; relevantistic
Within the confines of egalitarianism, any distinction made must be
relevant with respect to (another) end of equality, that is, some form of
proportionality; within the confines of neutralism in general,
any distinction made must be relevant with respect to (another)
end of neutrality. Neutral, unless neutral is the motto
of neutralism, equal, unless equal that of our relevantistic
Obviously, unless neutral is short for unless a distinction can
be drawn which is relevant to an ananormatively superior neutral end
and unless equal for unless a distinction can be drawn which is
relevant to an end of equality in the context concerned.
How does relevantistic egalitarianism relate to the theory that
there would be two different sorts of right to equality which
people (or citizens as individuals) are supposed to have?
Firstly, there would be 'the right of equal treatment', that
is, to an equal portion of some benefit or burden; and secondly,
there would be 'the right of treatment as an equal', that is,
'to be treated with the same respect and concern as anyone
else'. The latter right has even been described as "fundamental"
and the former one as "derivative", since the 'right to
treatment as an equal' may, but does not always, entail a 'right
to equal treatment'. This theory which proposes to cleave the
right to equality asunder into two rights, one fundamental and
one derivative, is really a muddled way of expressing what is
nothing else than the position of relevantistic egalitarianism
(except that the terminology of the proposal is more poetic than
analytic). What it all amounts to is that people should be
treated equally unless there is a relevant difference between
intrinsic right concerned is
simply one right.
(Note that it is said that people should be treated with the 'same'
respect and concern.
But what does same mean in
practise if it
is not related to equality or proportionality of treatment?
If there are three persons who are not different in any relevant
respect and the first two are each given one half, and the third
one nothing, of a certain product, then all three are still
treated as persons, assuming that their
rights of personhood are not
That they are not treated 'with the same
respect' is because they are not given their equal share. And
they are treated with the same respect nevertheless, even when
not given an equal share, if there are relevant differences
between them and if these differences justify the difference in
Some theorists have not only distinguished equal treatment
from treatment as an equal but also a so-called
'comparative and a 'noncomparative' notion of equality.
Thus, if a state tortured a person, it would violate the latter
type of equality. This violation would still occur if the state
in question tortured every person. The violation would, then,
only be multiplied — it is said. Equality understood in this
noncomparative way denotes, of course, nothing else than personhood;
and the principle connected with it is nothing else than
the metadoctrinal principle underlying
the right to personhood
or the 'right to treatment as a person'.
It is someone's right of personhood which is impinged upon when 'e is
tortured, regardless of whether other persons are tortured too.
noncomparative form of so-called 'equality' may indeed be termed
"constitutional", it is only moral in an extrinsic sense.
In the neutralistic doctrine, on the other hand, equality is a doctrinal
value and the right to equality an intrinsic right not to be confused with
the right to personhood.
Even when confining oneself to equality between people, that
is, interpersonal equality, the recognition of equality in
itself is evidently still subject to many different interpretations.
The principle of socioeconomic or interpersonal equality
is a principle common to widely divergent stripes of egalitarianism,
and it may therefore be advisable to underscore our
relevantistic position by speaking of "the (sub)norm of interpersonal
As a subnorm of
the norm of neutrality, this interpreted
principle of equality also stresses that if people are not treated equally
in an absolute sense, the difference in treatment should be relevant to
another end of equality, or more generally, another end of neutrality.
A very important goal in the social or interpersonal field is, then,
Theoretically, the overall situation in a state of absolute,
socioeconomic equality might be much worse than in a state in
which socioeconomic differences are allowed to exist. If these
modal conditions do indeed hold, then socioeconomic differences
are allowable if, and insofar as, they are relevant to people's
well-being (not merely correlate with it). But well-being is in
such a case not the sole intrinsic value; also equality in
itself remains an intrinsic value. Total well-being and equality
have in such a case to be balanced against each other as the
norm of well-being and the norm of interpersonal equality are
then contradictory. (In
the last chapter we will discuss how to
deal with conflicts between the subnorms of neutrality, and
between the norm of neutrality and other principles.)
Nanapolarity with respect to the norm of
interpersonal equality is interpersonal
The corresponding decision-theoretical values are intentional and
motivational, interpersonal difference-catenary
When anafactiveness in the field of interpersonal relations is a general
phenomenon, the unity of interests and feelings characterized by the
genuine concern for each other's well-being can be called "siblinghood" or
Siblinghood transcends the brotherhood or sisterhood
ideologies, and the brotherhood
and sisterhood of
irrelevantist ones, while
solidarity stresses the unity of the social whole.
(Solidum from which it derives, means whole sum and is akin
to holos which means whole or safe.)
The community of interests and objectives
so typical of solidarity does in the case of anafactive motives
not issue from the mere fact that people with selfish interests realize
that they are mutually interdependent nonetheless. Instead, it issues
from a solid adherence to neutral principles, and from a common
choice of neutral objectives. Anafactive members of a group,
community or society show solidarity of neutral purpose. In
interpersonal relations this solidarity consists first of all in
Where they have to confront anti-egalitarian ideologies or doctrines,
the siblings of
the ananorm shall not yield to the
imposition of any kind of inequality that cannot be justified in
Given that they will respect other people's rights of personhood so long
as their own rights of personhood will be respected too, they shall not
For there is no compromise between inequality and equality: those who
propose a compromise between inequality and equality, propose inequality.