The Society of Equals

The Society of Equals

Pierre Rosanvallon
translated by Arthur Goldhammer
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Society of Equals
    Book Description:

    Society's wealthiest members claim an ever-expanding share of income and property--a true counterrevolution, says Pierre Rosanvallon, the end of the age of growing equality launched by the American and French revolutions. Just as significant, driving this contemporary inequality has been a loss of faith in the ideal of equality itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72644-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: The Crisis of Equality
    (pp. 1-11)

    Democracy is manifesting its vitality as a regime even as it withers as a social form. The sovereign citizenry has steadily increased its ability to intervene in government and magnified its presence. Citizens are no longer content to make their voices heard sporadically at the ballot box. They exert an increasingly active power of oversight and control. They assert themselves not just as diffuse opinion but as active minorities and communities of shared ordeals in order to pressure those who govern them and express their expectations and exasperations. The very vigor of their criticism of the representative system demonstrates their...

  4. 1 The Invention of Equality
    (pp. 12-74)

    To understand how the idea of equality came, in 1789, to be identified with the visceral rejection of privilege, there is no better guide than Abbé Sieyès, the author ofQu’est-ce que le tiers état?(What Is the Third Estate?). “The privileged individual,” Sieyès wrote, “considers himself, along with his colleagues, as constituting a distinct order, a nation of the select within the nation…. The privileged actually come to see themselves as another species of man.”¹ Half a century later, Tocqueville significantly hit upon the same words to describe the aristocracy: “They scarcely even think of themselves as belonging to...

  5. 2 The Pathologies of Equality
    (pp. 75-164)

    In the history of equality we find a constant tension between achieved forms of equality and resistance to the egalitarian idea. The ambiguity of that idea was partly responsible for this, as were the political battles and social demands connected with it. The Industrial Revolution and the advent of capitalism decisively inflected this tension, however. These developments ended the hope of minimizing the importance of economic differences and imposing social limits on the market—a hope that had played a central role in shaping the revolutionary idea of equality in both France and America. The prospect of a society of...

  6. 3 The Century of Redistribution
    (pp. 165-208)

    In the nineteenth century, the idea of equality was turned against itself by negation and perverse redefinition. A long crisis slowly came to an end as welfare states came into being in the early twentieth century. Thus began a century of redistribution, as universal suffrage spread throughout Europe. Within a few de cades, inequalities had been spectacularly reduced. Three major reforms were responsible for this reversal: the institution of a progressive income tax, the advent of social insurance to protect individuals from life’s risks, and improvements in working conditions stemming from the introduction of collective representation and regulation of labor....

  7. 4 The Great Reversal
    (pp. 209-254)

    It is tempting to interpret the current state of developed societies in the Age of the Second Globalization as a spectacular reversal of fortune. Indeed, the case is easy to make. Once again, the market is king. Inequality of wealth and income has nearly returned to the colossal levels of a century ago. Equally symptomatic and troubling, reactions to the second globalization have reproduced some of the social and identitarian pathologies of the late nineteenth century. Today, national protectionism and xenophobia have returned in a variety of troubling po liti cal forms. The idea of the nation has also made...

  8. 5 The Society of Equals: A Preliminary Outline
    (pp. 255-302)

    Equality of opportunity is the dominant idea of equality today. As we have seen, however, it has the paradoxical consequence of ending in the consecration of inequality. The more its proponents advocate its “real,” “strong,” or “radical” versions, the more powerfully the justifications they offer for unequal outcomes. In other words, equality of opportunity underwrites a theory of justice that legitimates certain kinds of inequality. There is nothing inherently unacceptable about the equal opportunity approach, but if we are to gauge its applicability and limitations correctly, we must be aware of three blind spots.

    First, equality of opportunity tends to...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 303-364)
  10. Index
    (pp. 365-376)