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Equality and diversity

Equality and diversity: Value incommensurability and the politics of recognition

Steven R. Smith
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Equality and diversity
    Book Description:

    This important book explores the values of equality and diversity as promoted across liberal societies, drawing on various traditions of political and social philosophy, including liberal egalitarianism, existentialism, and elements of post-modernism and post-structuralism. These philosophies are applied to policy and practice debates, especially concerning disability issues, but also relating to gender and multiculturalism. It will be of interest to academics and postgraduate students across a range of social studies disciplines.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-608-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ONE Equality, diversity and radical politics
    (pp. 1-30)

    There are two central premises of this book: first, that the values worth promoting across communities, including those associated with equality and diversity, are often conflicting and incommensurable – so are values that pull in opposite directions and cannot be measured against one scale, or, most strongly, cannot be compared; and second, that individuals in these communities are agents who have lives that reflect commitments to many incommensurable ‘valued objects’ both between individuals and group members and across one individual’s life. My main argument is that this type of value conflict and incommensurability is philosophically defensible and, with some elaboration,...

  6. TWO Value incommensurability
    (pp. 31-58)

    Following in part Joseph Raz (1988, 1997, 2001), my central claim in this chapter is that understanding individual attachments opens up conceptual and normative space for promoting value incommensurability, given that individuals are attached to a range of incommensurable ‘valued objects’ as defined in Chapter One. However, these attachments raise various questions and issues concerning the character of valued objects, how and why these objects are imbued with value, and subsequently the nature and causes of individual attachments – which I explore via four main propositions and subsequent arguments.

    First, behind many of our moral intuitions about conflicting values, there...

  7. THREE Empathic imagination and its limits
    (pp. 59-82)

    In this chapter, I explore what might is meant by the plurality and separateness of persons with regard to notions of otherness, difference and agency, and relate this to my defence in Chapters One and Two of value incommensurability, and the suspension of judgments concerning the comparative worth of people’s lives and values held. For many liberal egalitarians, distributions of material resources to the disadvantaged or marginalised often presuppose a common understanding or empathic connection, eliciting, for example, the emotions of sympathy and pity for those people defined as ‘worse off ’. My main counter-argument here is that ‘first-order’ empathic...

  8. FOUR Critiquing compassion-based social relations
    (pp. 83-106)

    Following the themes explored in Chapters One, Two and Three, my main argument in this chapter is that individual persons understood as responsible agents have the capacity to turn ‘bad luck’ into incommensurable valued objects as explored in Chapter Two, where particular conditions and characteristics objectively understood to be disadvantageous, concerning the limited opportunities a person might have to live a range of potential lives in the future, can nevertheless often be positively incorporated into the subjective life of that person as it presently occurs. That is, a life experienced as rich, valuable and unpredictable that cannot be fully compared...

  9. FIVE Egalitarianism, disability and monistic ideals
    (pp. 107-130)

    In this chapter, I argue that the medical and social models of disability, while establishing clearly located poles for understanding competing interpretations of disablement, allow for a range of interpretations between these two extremes. In this light, the chapter outlines these various interpretations, to help clarify the different types of claim made by the disability rights movement (DRM) as related to the equality and diversity debate explored in previous chapters.

    Briefly put, the medical model is commonly regarded by the DRM as an inaccurate interpretation of disablement, reflecting and reinforcing the oppression, exclusion and exploitation of disabled people by non-disabled...

  10. SIX Equality, identity and disability
    (pp. 131-152)

    Consistent with social work codes of ethics and mainstream social policy objectives, the disability rights movement (DRM) promotes the universal values of equal rights and individual autonomy, drawing heavily on Kantian philosophy. However, I argue here that an anti-universalised Nietzschean perspective is also promoted via specific interpretations of the social model of disability, explored in Chapter Five, that challenge the political orthodoxy of rights-based social movements and the aspirations of social workers to empower disabled people. Developing and applying the philosophical themes explored in previous chapters, my main claim here is that these Kantian and Nietzschean strands within the DRM,...

  11. SEVEN Paradox and the limits of reason
    (pp. 153-174)

    A paradox is a proposition that may be empirical, philosophical or normative in character and appears to be based on uncontroversial assumptions and reasoning, but is also seemingly contradictory, so exposing possible problems when using conventional rules of logic and/or scientific observation (Blackburn, 1996, p 276; Palmquist, 2000, pp 64-102). Before exploring specific examples, I will outline two broad philosophical responses to paradox relevant to the wider themes of the book. First, paradox masks a mistake in reasoning and/or scientific investigation, and so is solvable by a clearer and more correct application of logic and empirical investigation. Second, a paradox,...

  12. References
    (pp. 175-186)
  13. Index
    (pp. 187-192)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)