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David Miller on Egalitarianism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 417
Egalitarianism/Miller/Weinstein: Miller would resist being characterized as an egalitarian liberal; he would view this label as conflating 'simple' distributive equality with the 'complex' market socialist equality he favours.*
The former stipulates that people should be equal with regard to some X and thus limits debates about equality to disputes about 'equality of what?
Walzer: Following Michael Walzer, complex equality is not about distributing some X. Rather it is a 'social ideal' about how we should treat each other as equals.
Miller: But Miller remains an egalitarian liberal nevertheless: 'An egalitarian society must be one which recognizes a number of distinct goods', ensuring that each 'is distributed according to its own proper criterion [desert, need and equality]'. As long as no distributive sphere dominates others, complex equality is secured. The real 'enemy of equality is dominance' which must be politically regulated (1995(1): 203). And dominance is nefarious because it is so harmful to individual self-development. Cf. >Self-realization/Hobhouse.
Tradition: Miller readily concedes that his political theory draws on two political traditions: 'distributive equality from the tradition of liberalism, social equality from social democracy and socialism' (1999: 244). Consequently, Miller is a true heir to the new liberals. Equally for them, no justice principle is sovereign. Equality and need temper desert qua individual choice and responsibility, allowing all citizens real equal opportunity to develop their talents according to their own lights.
MillerVsDworkin/MillerVsSen: (...) Dworkin's and Sen's versions are egalitarian in what Miller pejoratively labels the 'simple' sense. Whereas Dworkin prefers equalizing resources, Sen prefers equalizing capabilities. >Life/Dworkin.

* For Miller, there is 'no profound antagonism between meritocracy' and a suitably regulated market because the more egalitarian a market economy is, the more likely it allocates rewards according to merit (1999(2): 179). Also see Miller's defence of market socialism in Market, State and Community (1989)(3) and Cohen (1995(4): ch. I l) for a critical response.


1. Miller, David (1995) 'Complex equality'. In David Miller and Michael Walzer, eds, Pluralism, Justice and Equality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 197-225.
2. Miller, David (1999) Social Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
3. Miller, David (1989) Market, State and Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4. Cohen, G. A. (1995) Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Weinstein, David 2004. „English Political Theory in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century“. 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.
Miller, David
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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