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Amartya Sen on Equality - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 231
Equality/Sen/Lamont: in his influential lecture 'Equality of what?' (1980)(1), Amartya Sen addresses the question of what metric egalitarians should use to determine the degree to which a society realizes the ideal of equality. In his lecture, Sen was addressing a debate over two candidate metrics, welfare (or utility) on the one hand, and Rawlsian primary goods on the other. At issue
between these were questions about the extent to which the welfare metric unfairly caters to morally wrongful preferences or expensive tastes. Between these extremes, Sen introduced 'capability equality' , where capabilities refer to what various goods do for people, apart from the welfare they achieve (Sen, 1985(2); 1987(3)). This introduced another variable into the 'equality of what' literature which had been dominated by arguments between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity advocates (for more recent contributions see Bowie, 1988(4)).
A range of alternative variables for what should be equalized have since been introduced (Daniels,
1990(5)) and refined, including the resource egalitarians discussed above (Dworkin, 2000(6)), equal opportunity for welfare (Arneson, 1989(7); 1990(8); 1991(9)), equal access to advantage (Cohen, 1989)(10), and equal political status (Anderson, 1999)(11). >Justification/Lamont.


1. Sen, Amartya (1980) 'Equality of what?' In Sterling M. McMurrin, ed., Tanner Lectures on Human Values, vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 195-220.
2. Sen, Amartya (1985) Commodities and Capabilities. Oxford: Elsevier Science.
3. Sen, Amartya (1987) On Ethics and Economics. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. 4. Bowie, Norman (1988) Equal Opportunity. Boulder, CO: Westview.
5. Daniels, Norman (1990) 'Equality of what: welfare, resources, or capabilities?' Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 50 (Fall): 273-96.
6. Dworkin, Ronald (2000) Soveæign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
7. Arneson, Richard (1989) 'Equality and equal opportunity for welfare, Philosophical Studies, 56: 77-93.
8. Arneson, Richard (1990) 'Liberalism, Distributive Subjectivism and equal opportunity for welfare',
Philosophy and Public Affairs, 19: 159-94.
9. Arneson, Richard (1991) 'Lockean self-ownership: towards a demolition', Political Studies, 39 (l): 36-54.
10. Cohen, G. A. (1989) 'On the currency of egalitarian justice'. Ethics, 99 906_44.
11. Anderson, Elizabeth (1999) 'What is the point of equality?' Ethics, 109 (2): 287-337.

Lamont, Julian 2004. „Distributive Justice“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

EconSen I
Amartya Sen
Collective Choice and Social Welfare: Expanded Edition London 2017

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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