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feminism_multicu - Justice Fall 2003 Feminism and...

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Justice, Fall 2003 Feminism and Multiculturalism 1. Equality: Form and Substance In his account of justice as fairness, Rawls argues that treating the members of a society as free and equal—achieving fair cooperation among free and equal persons—requires much more than ensuring that everyone has the same set of legal rights and faces the same set of legal opportunities. Such “formal equality” is not enough when it comes to treating people as equals: to achieving the ideal of a society of equals. Not enough, because people’s real circumstances are so different: some are born into social advantage, and some are endowed (let’s say) with abilities—or a relative ease in acquiring abilities—that command a high price in the market. As Blake said, “some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night.” 1 Given these real differences, fairness to individuals as free and equal moral persons requires more than formal equality of rights and legally-defined opportunities because people will be so unequally able to make use of these rights: the worth of their liberties and opportunities will be so unequal. Even if they are all endowed with equal rights and liberties, individuals will be able legitimately to complain that the society does not fully acknowledge their equal importance—as persons with a capacity to make something good of their lives. In addition to ensuring equal rights, then, we need to respond to real differences in social and natural circumstances through laws and policies that 1 “Auguries of Innocence”
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Justice, Spring 2006, 2 establish fair equality and the satisfy the difference principle. According to Rawls, the fundamental requirement that we be fair to people as free and equal—that we show them respect as such—demands no less. Similarly, Dworkin argues that equal concern for persons requires a combination of sensitivity to choices (to acknowledge the special responsibility that each person has for her own life) and insensitivity to endowments (to acknowledge the equal importance of each person’s life, that the success of each life matters equally). But in a world of unequal social starting positions and unequal natural endowments, the combination of choice sensitivity and endowment insensitivity requires more than a system of markets in which each person has a right to make choices about what to do with her endowments. More than such formal equality, equal concern requires equality of resources, which means both equality at the starting gate and a set of laws and policies modeled on a hypothetical insurance market. Once more, treating people as equals requires no less. 2. Further Beyond Formal Equality: Preferences and Culture But does it demand more? GA Cohen argues that it does, in the case of economic justice. Rawls’s view, he says, is insufficiently egalitarian, and the limits on its egalitarianism come from its failure to see that principles of justice founded on the equality of persons apply not only to our laws and institutions but also to the preferences that guide our conduct. By excluding the personal from
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