October 2000, Polity
In this important new book, Alex Callinicos explores the meaning of equality in the contemporary world. He traces its origins as a political ideal in the great democratic revolutions of the 17th and the 18th century, and in the efforts of the socialist movement to force capitalism to live up to its promise of liberty, equality and fraternity. Callinicos also shows how the theories of egalitarian justice developed over the past generation by philosophers such as John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Amartya Sen and G. A. Cohen have given a much more precise meaning to the ideal of equality. Individuals are entitled to be protected from the consequences of circumstances beyond their control - for example, the socio-economic position and the natural talents they inherit - in order to have equal freedom to pursue their own well-being.
The implications of egalitarian justice are radical. Callinicos critically reviews the versions of this ideal - equality of opportunity and social inclusion - by supporters of the Third Way such as Gordon Brown and Anthony Giddens. He argues that the strategy pursued by New Labour to increase equality is riddled with contradictions and contains an underlying authoritarian dimension. Fundamentally, equality and the market are irreconcilable. Any attempt seriously to increase social equality will come into conflict with the logic of the capitalist economic system. Only a socialist society, organized along democratic and decentralized lines, can realize the ideal of equality.
This book will be of great interest to students of politics, philosophy and sociology, and all those interested in this key and controversial topic.
"Callinicos distinguishes himself from the majority of recent writers by his highly developed awareness of the historical and political context of philosophical enquiry ... Equality is a topical and provocative book." John Gray, Times Literary Supplement
"This is not just [a] book about ideas but about the political economy and sociology of capitalism underlying them." Millennium
"Overall, this is a book that has a lot to recommend it. It is short, highly readable, and provides an informed and critical perspective on recent normative theory while highlighting the salience of actual inequality...a well-argued and stimulating book that deserves a wide readership." Gary K. Browning, 'Democratization'
"Excellent contribution...Callinicos offers a timely and sustained critique of neo-liberal capitalism in general, and the Blair government in particular." Brian Morris, Anarchist Studies
"In this important book, Alex Callinicos explores the meaning of equality in the contemporary world." Philosophical Inquiry