On HumansFebruary 04, 202301:20:3473.77 MB

15 | A Deep History of Equality ~ Elizabeth Anderson

Why do we care about equality? Is it an invention of the European Enlightenment? Or is it something rooted in human nature? If so, why does equality require constant fighting for?

Elizabeth Anderson is a philosopher at the University of Michigan. She is one of the essential egalitarian theorists of our times. Her essay What's the Point of Equality is one of the must-reads of the contemporary philosophy of political equality. And her recent essay on the history of equality and social justice is a tour-de-force on using the long view of history to shed light on our contemporary condition. 

In this episode, Prof Anderson talks with Ilari about topics such as:

  • Are humans a naturally egalitarian species?
  • Can human nature explain the logic of social justice movements?
  • The ancient roots of democracy (beyond Athens)
  • How Native American critique of European society shaped the French Enlightenment

The conversation then turns to the question of modernity. The 2nd half touches upon topics from 19th Century utopian communes to 20th Century Marxism, including:

  • Challenges with anarchism, communalism, and Marxism.
  • Is social democracy the answer?
  • Are social benefits about pitying the poor?
  • Are taxes on the rich about envying the rich?
  • Economic equality versus other forms of equality

Names and work mentioned

  • Christopher Boehm (author of Hierarchy in the Forest)
  • David Graeber & David Wengrow (authors of Dawn of Everything)
  • Kent Flannery & Joyce Marcus (authors of The Creation of Inequality)
  • David Stasavage (author of The Decline and Rise of Democracy)
  • Adam Smith (18th Century Scottish philosopher)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne & Louisa May Alcott (19th Century American authors)
  • Thomas Piketty (author of Capital & Ideology, A Brief History of Equality, and Capital in the 21st Century)
  • Väinö Linna (author of Under The North Star)
  • Isabel Ferrares (author of Firms as Political Entities)
  • John Rawls (20th Century American philosopher)
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (18th Century Swiss philosopher)