Equality--the battle cry of the French Revolution--has come to be accepted as everyone's birthright today. But what is equality? Is it a chimera in a world manifestly still abounding in inequality among individuals, nations, and races? To this eternally fascinating subject, eighteen outstanding political scientists, jurists, and philosophers address themselves with vigor and profundity in this important and illuminating work.
Part I deals with fundamental concepts of equality. The first paper in this section explores such issues as the meaning, the justification, and the dialectics of equality, wherein some of its manifestations are confronted and limited by others. While the second paper criticizes the first essay and examines the legal aspects of equality. Another paper pursues the notion of proportionate equality to what he views as its ultimate reality: that of a purely formal logical concept, while another argues that "egalitarianism" has reference to human interests, which in fact give it content. Another viewpoint considers how far different kinds of equality are compatible with one another and with the enlargement of freedom and fraternity in industrial society. The final paper in this section talks widely over basic issues raised by the various interpretations of equality.
Part II deals with sources of beliefs about equality. The papers in this section consider the implications for egalitarianism of Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. The final essay in this section surveys the treatment of and implications for egalitarianism in the thinking of the existentialists.
Part III is concerned with the political and legal applications of equality. One of the papers suggests that Tocqueville's "providential fact of the gradual development of the principle of equality" might possibly be on the eve of a reversal, and concludes with justification of political equality. Another attacks the notion of equality of opportunity, contending that it is not an authentic expression of the democratic ideal and temper, which requires instead an "affirmation of being and belonging." Following that the highly topical problem of equality in the administration of justice is discussed as well as, the deals with many subtle distinctions involved in the application of the idea of equality to the rule of law. The book concludes with the topic of treatments of the problem of equality in the realm of international politics and organization.
J.Roland Pennock was professor of political science at Swarthmore College for more than twenty-five years, as well as a fellow at the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
John W. Chapman is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pittsburgh.