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Relational Equality, Justice and the Boundary Problem

Amighetti, Sara; (2019) Relational Equality, Justice and the Boundary Problem. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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This thesis defends the idea that justice, appropriately conceived, requires a form of relational equality (anti-subordination) between persons that is obtained when the members of a society stand to each other in an overall social relation of equality characterised by the absence of subordinating relationships such as domination and marginalisation. In defending this conception of justice, I contribute to the debates in the egalitarian tradition of political philosophy about (i) the best way of conceiving equality as a social and political value, (ii) the appropriate scope of egalitarian concerns, (iii) the kinds of principles of justice and policies that egalitarians should defend. The idea of relational equality is often defined in opposition to distributive equality; the social objects on which relational egalitarians focus their normative assessments are not primarily to do with the distributive outcomes individuals are entitled to, but rather with the quality of the social relationships in which they are involved and take part in. In the first part of the thesis, I draw on this insight and argue that the distinctiveness of a conception of justice grounded on the idea of relational equality lies in its process-orientation. What matters for justice is not primarily the bundle of distributive shares that interacting individuals end-up with, but – crucially - the terms of their interaction; how they are treated by social and political institutions, and how they treat each other while they interact. On this view, a just society corresponds to one that fully realizes the ideal of democratic citizenship. However, does this commitment to justice as democratic citizenship entail that we restrict egalitarian demands to the community of citizens? That is, should justice-based concerns be constrained to the existing relations between co-citizens (and between them and the state) or could they be extended to those who do not enjoy the status of citizen in that community? The second part of the thesis is meant to give an answer to this boundary problem. By focusing on the case of irregular migrants, and the related question of how to treat them justly, I show that the concerns of social justice as anti-subordination arise across the existing boundaries of citizenship. More generally, I argue that my conception of relational equality does not entail scope-restricting implications for the application of egalitarian principles, but it understands the problem with scope in a more complex way.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Relational Equality, Justice and the Boundary Problem
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10083521
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