Equality, Justice and Difference
Course Code: PUBLG033
Course Tutor: Dr John Filling (Department of Political Science)
Assessment: One 3,000 word essay
Credit Value: 15
About this course
The module examines one of the most pressing political problems facing contemporary pluralist societies: how can we ensure that all individuals are treated equally, whilst respecting the fact that each individual is different? It approaches this question through a critical assessment of the literature on 'the politics of difference'.
In recent decades, both traditional liberal policies (of toleration, pluralism, non-discrimination, and uniform legislation) and traditional liberal methods of justification (based on individualist, egalitarian, and contractarian assumptions) have been subject to radical critique, charged with ignoring the structural disadvantages suffered by members of minority groups. In their place, various forms of a ‘politics of difference’ have been proposed: these focus on various kinds of difference (including culture, religion, gender, class, and sexual-orientation); they identify various injustices (such as structural oppression and lack of recognition); and they proposing various remedies (such as group representation and minority rights). This modules asks whether justice and equality require the recognition of difference, or whether such recognition is a deviation from egalitarian justice. It asks how one may justify an inclusive and egalitarian conception of justice to citizens who have radically different needs, identities, and conceptions of the good life.
The module examines responses to the claims of 'difference' from a range of political ideologies: liberalism, feminism, multiculturalism, and critical theory. It critically examines the recent work of various political theorists, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, Brian Barry, Chandran Kukathas, Will Kymlicka, Susan Moller Okin, Anne Phillips, John Rawls, Charles Taylor, and Iris Marion Young. And it considers a series of concrete case studies, including affirmative action policies in the U.S., the Hijab controversy in French state schools, and language policy in Quebec.