Spring 2012

What's So Great About (In)Equality?

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-214

Formerly listed as: LJST-14


David P. Delaney (Section 01)


In our world, commitment to "equality" in one sense/form or another is nearly uncontested.  At the same time, the form that it should take, its normative ground, scope, limits and conditions, the ways in which it may be realized, and much else are deeply contested.  It is also the case that the world in which we live is characterized by profound, enduring and intensifying inequalities and numerous exceptions to the principle.  These may be justified with reference to various countervailing commitments that are accorded ethical or practical priority (desert, liberty, efficiency, political stability, ecological integrity, pluralism, etc.). This suggests that while for many "equality" may be normatively compelling, its realization may be subordinated to any number of interests and desires; or, to put it bluntly, there may be such a condition as too much equality or not enough inequality, privilege and "disadvantage."  This course treats these themes as they have arisen in distinctively legal contexts, projects and arguments.  It will engage a range of debates within political philosophy and legal theory as to the appropriate limits of equality.  While many forms and expressions of inequality have fallen into relative disfavor, some seem virtually immune to significant amelioration.  Among these are those associated with social-economic class.  Following general investigations of egalitarianism and anti-egalitarianism in social thought and legal history, we will devote closer attention to the legal dimensions of class inequality in contexts such as labor law, welfare and poverty law, education and criminal justice.  We will conclude with an examination of the limits of legal egalitarianism vis-à-vis international class-based inequalities under conditions of globalization and cosmopolitan humanitarianism. 

Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

Cost: 25.00 ?


2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2013