Drawing on her forthcoming book Unconditional Equals, Anne Phillips explores the dangers of treating equality as conditional on some supposedly shared human characteristic.
The claim to be regarded as an equal, or to consider others as our equals, is often explained by reference to some quality all humans are said to possess, something like rationality, a capacity for autonomy, or a sense of justice. This sounds inclusive, but this kind of justification sets up a test. Historically, many millions have been deemed to fail the test: women, the enslaved, the colonised, and those too poor to be considered fully human.
The legacy of this way of understanding equality continues today: in philosophical argument, in public policy, and in everyday talk. One of the consequences is that we cannot be confident of a shared belief in even ‘basic’ human equality, not to mention support for the kind of socio-economic equality usually associated with those on the left.
This lecture explores whether we can think of an equality that is genuinely unconditional. That is, not based on supposed facts about human beings, not something we might forfeit through our actions or character, but something we ourselves enact through our commitments and claims.
Meet our speaker and chair
Anne Phillips is the Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government at LSE. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003 and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2013, She holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Aalborg and Bristol, and in 2016 received the Sir Isaiah Berlin Award for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies. She is the author of several books including The Politics of Presence: the Political Representation of Gender, Race, and Culture (1995) and the forthcoming book Unconditional Equals.
Robin Archer is Director of the Ralph Miliband Programme.
You can pre-order the book, Unconditional Equals (UK delivery only) from our official LSE Events independent book shop, Pages of Hackney.
More about this event
The Ralph Miliband Programme (@rmilibandlse) is one of LSE's most prestigious lecture series and seeks to advance Ralph Miliband's spirit of free social inquiry.
The Department of Government (@LSEGovernment) is home to some of the most internationally respected experts in politics and government; producing influential research that has a global impact on policy, and delivering world-class teaching to our students.
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Podcast & Video
A podcast of this event is available to download from Unconditional Equals.
A video of this event is available to watch at Unconditional Equals.
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