One of the foremost aspects of a post-industrial living is the fact that, as time goes by; the discourse on equality begins to affect socio-political dynamics in the world to an ever-higher extent. The validity of this statement can be well illustrated in regards to the rising popularity of left-wing Socialist parties in Latin America and Europe, for example. In its turn, this presupposes that the current state of affairs, in this respect, has been dialectically predetermined.
Apparently, there are a number of objective preconditions for the ideas of egalitarianism to continue growing increasingly attractive to more and more people.
In this paper, I will aim to outline these preconditions, while promoting the idea that, even though the practical implementation of the equality-endorsing policies in many countries has proven counter-beneficiary in the past, there are no good reasons to believe that this will continue to remain the case in the future.
After all, the very laws of history do predetermine people’s ever-increased preoccupation with the ideas of egalitarianism, as such that provide an additional momentum to the pace of the ongoing socio-cultural and technological progress in the world.
Body of the paper
When it comes to discussing the concept of equality/egalitarianism, it is important to understand what accounts for the ontological ground, out of which this concept emerged, in the first place.
However, in order for people to gain such an understanding, they will need to acquire an in-depth insight into the very essence of the representatives of Homo Sapiens species, as essentially hairless primates, whose existential modes continue to be strongly defined by a number of purely animalistic instincts.
One of these instincts is the sense of an irrational greed and the desire to be able to enjoy a comfortable living, while applying as less of an effort, as possible. In its turn, it explains why the professional careers of lawyers, diplomats and movie stars, for example, have traditionally been considered the most prestigious.
Individuals that pursue these careers can be defined as nothing short of highly paid ‘social parasites’, whose material well-being has nothing to do with them being de facto better than the rest of the citizens.
Just as it happened to be within the case in the societies of primates, where alpha-males preoccupy themselves with the bellyful idling, at the expense of exploiting others, people driven by their animalistic instincts do not have any other purpose in life, other than exposing their presumed ‘superiority’ socially.
Most commonly, they do it by the mean of affiliating themselves with luxurious lifestyles or pretending to be in a position to afford pursuing such lifestyles – all for the sake of humiliating the society’s less fortunate members – hence, satisfying the subliminal desires of their animalistic ego. Very often, such their tendency assumes rather grotesque proportions.
After all, it now represents a common practice among many disproportionately rich individuals to go as far as embellishing toilet-seats in their yachts with gold and lighting up cigars with the thousand dollar bills – the validity of this statement is being continually illustrated by the media.
Nevertheless, it is not only that people are in essence hairless ‘monkeys’, but also ‘monkeys’ endowed with intellect.
This is the reason why, it is in the very nature of ‘socially upstanding’ individuals to up come with social theories that justify people’s inequality, as a thoroughly natural state of affairs, so that less fortunate citizens would be less likely to strive to attain a social prominence, as well – hence, endangering the interests of the rich and powerful.
The emergence of neo-liberalism, during the course of the late 20th century, confirms the validity of the above statement. For example, as of today, it is not only that the concept of the ‘liberated free-market economy’, endorsed by neo-liberals, is now being referred to as not just one of the possible approaches to ensuring the vitality of economic relations within a particular society, but as only the legitimate one.
As Mawdsley pointed out, “Policies that further strengthen market incentives and market institutions are relevant for all economies – industrialized countries, emerging markets, and the developing world” (2007, p. 492).
Nevertheless, even though that the theoretical provisions of neo-liberalism are formally concerned with keeping humanity on the path of progress, they subtly imply that it is only a limited number of people in the world, who may immediately benefit from the process.
This simply could not be otherwise, because the proper functioning of free-market economies, advocated by the proponents of neo-liberalism, as such that makes it possible for people to enjoy an economic prosperity, can only be ensured at the expense of removing restrictions over the speculative capital’s free flow.
In its turn, this flow creates objective preconditions for capitalists to grow less and less concerned about investing in the development of the economy’s technologically-intense and people-oriented sectors.
This is because the paradigm of neo-liberalism (which justifies people’s inequality) presupposes that it is so much easier for investors to make quick money out of the thin air, such as by the mean of indulging in stock-exchange speculations, as opposed to making money in the economy’s industrial, technological or agricultural sectors.
Therefore, there is nothing odd about the fact that the practical implementation of neo-liberal economic policies, throughout the world, resulted in widening a gap between the rich and poor – just as it happened in the countries of Latin America and Russia, during the course of the 20th century’s nineties.
What is particularly disturbing about the earlier mentioned development is that the process of the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer does not have anything to do with the existential worth of the latter being significantly lower. As such, this process can be best referred to as fundamentally unjust.
In plain words, those who justify people’s inequality are not being driven by the considerations of a rationale, on their part, but rather by their irrational longing to remain in the position of imposing dominance upon others – just for the sake of doing it, as such that has a value of a ‘thing in itself’.
This alone exposes the sheer inappropriateness of the idea that it is impossible to create a socially fair society, in which individuals will be able to explore their existential potential to its fullest.
This, however, is only one side of the medal. The other side is being concerned with the fact that people’s strive towards equality cannot be discussed outside of what makes them human, in the first place. As it was mentioned earlier, there is a primeval ‘monkey’ residing within just about every person.
Nevertheless, the very outset of the socio-cultural progress, which eventually allowed humans to become dominant specie on Earth, was made possible by the fact that, along with being semi-animals, people can be simultaneously referred to as semi-gods.
The validity of this suggestion can be shown in regards to people’s tendency to concern themselves with purely abstract subject matters, such as philosophizing on what is the true nature of the surrounding reality and what accounts for our place within it, for example – without deriving any immediate benefits, as a result. However, as we are well aware of, philosophy is being commonly referred to as the ‘mother of all sciences’.
In its turn, science is what allows the continuation of the socio-cultural progress. Therefore, just as it happened to be the case with people’s tendency to indulge in abstract philosophizing, their innate attraction towards the concept of equality reflects their endowment with essentially an idealistic mindset, the workings of which have very little to do with what people happened to be, in the biological sense of this word.
Therefore, the phenomenon of idealistically minded people experiencing an unconscious urge to promote the concept of equality is nothing but the indication that they continue to evolve, while becoming ever more distanced from their biological ancestors.
As Nietzsche noted, “All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man?” (Nietzsche 2003, p. 8). Thus, there can be indeed only a few doubts that people’s fascination with the notion of equality correlates well with the objective laws of nature.
Unfortunately, there have been many instances throughout the course of history, when the advocates of equality used to prove themselves rather ineffective policy-makers. The decline of classical Marxism at the end of the 20th century confirms the full legitimacy of this suggestion.
What predetermined Marxists’ failure, in regards to how they used to go about ensuring a social fairness within the society, is their unawareness of the fact that, even though it is in people’s very nature to remain committed to the values of a social egalitarianism, they can never be referred to as being de facto equal, regardless of the particulars of their place on the ladder of an evolutional development.
For example, whereas, the average rate of citizens’ IQ in such countries as Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea accounts for 50, the average rate of citizens’ IQ in China and Japan accounts for 120 (Lynn & Vanhanen 2002).
This explains why, as the realities of a multicultural living in the West indicate, the governmentally sponsored measures to ‘equalize’ citizens artificially (such as by the mean of qualifying them to be able to take advantage of the ‘affirmative action’ policy) did not bring about the desired effects.
The earlier deployed line of argumentation suggests the following:
- The notion of equality is discursively legitimate, because it is nothing but an intellectual byproduct of the process of people remaining on the path of a progress;
- The practical implementation of the concept of social egalitarianism will prove most effective when ensuring people’s access to equal opportunities is being concerned;
- The state of citizens’ absolute equality can never be enforced by governmental decrees – especially if the latter do not take into considerations the Darwinian laws of evolution.
In light of the above-suggestions, it appears that it is specifically the ‘theory of justice’ by John Rawls, which can be regarded as such that contains discursively legitimate insights, as to how a particular society can function in accordance to the principle of ‘social fairness’, without having its developmental momentum slowed down, as a consequence. The main provisions of Rawls’s theory, in this respect, are as follows:
- Every citizen is endowed with the same scope of freedoms and responsibilities, as it happened to the case with his or her co-citizens;
- Social and economic inequalities within the society must be organized in a such manner so that they serve the purpose of benefiting the least privileged citizens;
- The inequalities in question cannot disproportionately affect the well-being of the representatives of a particular social strata, within the society (Rawls 1971).
In its turn, these provisions stress out that the principle of ‘equality of opportunities’ represents the fundamental discursive foundation, while define the qualitative essence of the dynamics within a particular society.
The mentioned provisions also stipulate that citizens’ freedom cannot be guaranteed by the mean of undermining the extent of their economic prosperity, and that there are certain circumstances, under which people’s social rights can be limited, as the prerequisite for them to be able to enjoy social freedoms in the long run.
According to Rawls, the society that functions in accordance with his major principles of a ‘social justice’ is virtuous, by definition. While living in the ‘socially fair’ society, its members naturally grow affiliated with the actual philosophy of its existence, which in turn increases the measure of the society’s overall stability.
The implementation of Rawlsian ‘justice principles’ does not prevent the society’s individual members from being able to attain self-actualization but on the contrary – it makes them more socially ‘equipped’, within the context of how they go about exploring the full extent of their existential uniqueness.
Given the earlier outlined provisions of the Rawlsian ‘theory of justice’, we can well speculate on how the ‘society of equal opportunities for all’ may be organized. The following are only the most basic considerations, in this respect.
First, the society’s functioning is based upon the principle of a ‘social contract’. This contract is being freely agreed upon by citizens and reflects their ability to rationalize their own self-interests, within the framework of the given social settings.
The essential part of the contract in question is that it presupposes the society members’ willingness to surrender some of their constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, in order to reduce the chances of the society’s disintegration, due to the forces of entropy.
Second, there can be no institutionally upheld explicit or implicit restrictions, in regards to the citizens’ undisputed right to take full advantage of the prospects of a social advancement, to which they are being entitled, as the contract signatories.
In its turn, this presupposes that in the Rawlsian society, there can be no privately owned educational institutions, to which only financially well-off young people may qualify for enrollment. The citizens’ ‘rights of advancement’ cannot also be limited due to what happened to be the specifics of the ethno-cultural affiliation, on the part of the concerned individuals.
Third, even though that the society’s institutions are there to ensure that it does turn meritocratic, there is nevertheless a certain consensus among citizens, as to what should be considered the indication of a particular citizen’s qualification to hold high governmental offices.
The most obvious indication, in this respect, would be the concerned person’s endowment with the idealistic mentality, which in turn should make him or her naturally inclined to serve others, as the foremost priority in its life – hence, making sure that this person is not prone to corruption.
Fourth, the legislative functions are delegated to ‘senators’, which are being periodically elected by a popular vote. In order to be qualified for the prospect of being elected ‘senators’, citizens must prove their ability to put the overall interests of the society above their personal ones, or the corporate interests of a particular social class that they represent.
Having served in the Armed Forces for no less than five years, while constantly facing the risk of being killed at the frontline, will be considered as the most legitimate indication of the potential office-seekers’ ability to benefit the society, if elected.
Fifth, both: executive and judicial functions are delegated to the members of the ‘Order of Justice’ – an order-type organization, which recruits young people from all the society’s strata, regardless of what happened to be the specifics of their socio-economic affiliation.
The order members’ primary function is to exercise a control over ‘senators’, while making sure that the latter do not advance their personal agendas, at the expense of the society’s less privileged members.
Prior to be given the Order’s full membership, recruits are being put through rigorous training (lasting for no less than ten years) and required to pledge their willingness not to get married, in order for them to remain unsusceptible to the temptations of a conventional living. After having reached the age of sixty, order members are able to retire and to get married/adopt children.
Sixth, the functioning of the society’s economy adheres to the free-market economic principles. At the same time, however, order members exercise a control over entrepreneurs, so that the latter never allow their sense of a blind greed to define their business-choices. In order for an individual to obtain a ‘business license’, he or she would have to agree to pledge no less than 40% of the potentially generated income to charities.
Seventh, the most important decisions, in regards to the society’s functioning (such as defining the rate of taxation) are being made by the mean of citizens casting their votes, during the course of all-national referendums.
If implemented practically, the above-mentioned considerations will simultaneously result in both: ensuring people’s equal access to the opportunities of a social advancement and creating objective preconditions for the ‘society of equal opportunities’ to remain thoroughly stable and yet in the state of a continual evolvement.
I believe that the earlier deployed line of argumentation, regarding the fundamental essence of the concept of a social egalitarianism, in general, and how this concept can be realized practically, in particular, is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.
Apparently, there is indeed a good rational in thinking that the very emergence of the ideals of egalitarianism and their consequential incorporation into the framework of currently predominant socio-political discourses has been objectively predetermined.
In its turn, this presupposes that, as time goes on, people will be growing increasingly preoccupied with contemplating on how these ideals can become the integral parts of their everyday living.
Lynn, R & Vanhanen, T 2002, IQ and the wealth of nations, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport.
Mawdsley, E 2007, ‘The millennium challenge account: neo-liberalism, poverty and security’, Review of International Political Economy, vol. 14. no. 3, pp. 487-509.
Nietzsche, F 2003 (1885), Thus spake Zarathustra: a book for all and none, Algora Publishing, New York.
Rawls, J 1971, A theory of justice, Harvard University Press, Harvard.