Monday, 4 July 2011

On equality (again)

I've written before about what I think is a split within the Left regarding the socialist preference for a society with more income equality. In Wilkinson's 'Unhealthy Societies', he explicitly articulates this division, which I think is worth repeating here:

The social and health effects of larger income differences provide a powerful reason for reducing them. Greater equality has traditionally been a socialist aim. But even among those who continue to advocate it, we find their rationale has been infected by the logic of economic relations. Greater income equity was originally seen as a way of furthering social harmony and reducing the structural basis for conflict between people: so much so that the same aspiration was also expressed in the socialist practice of referring to their fellows as 'brother' or sister'. But increasingly, income redistribution has been advocated - not for how it might benefit social relations - but simply as a demand for a fairer share-out of goods and services among societies assumed to be made up of self-interested individuals. The change is an important indication of how far economic ideology has penetrated: even those who at least partly reject the market have lost sight of our social core and unwittingly translated the socialist aims to fit a marketised humanity The uninspiring vision is, at best, of competitive, desocialised equity.

Now I am not saying that 'Blue Labour' has purchase on this rationale for greater equality, but I do think the communitarian issues it highlights draw us back to these (what I think are) stronger arguments for equality.

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