Political Equality of What?
Daniel Wodak (University of Pennsylvania)

March 23, 2023, 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Dianoia Institute of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

Level 4, room 460.4.28
250 Victoria Parade
East Melbourne 3002

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Australian Catholic University


Political egalitarians hold that democracy is justified when and because it instantiates political equality; a “beneficent dictatorship” which produced material equality would fail to instantiate this ideal because people would have “less or no political influence” (Brighouse 1996: 119). But what is political equality? The dominant view is that it is equality of opportunity for political influence, not equality of influence itself. On this view, it matters that citizens are equally able to vote, but does not matter if many citizens don’t exercise this opportunity. I challenge this orthodox position by drawing on an unusual example of discrimination. From 1962 to 1983, Australia’s First Nations citizens had the right to vote, but unlike other citizens they did not have the duty to vote. They were made unequal because they had less influence on electoral outcomes than other citizens, without being given any less opportunity for influence. I argue that the best responses to this challenge come with serious costs: they make egalitarianism misidentify what’s wrong with paradigmatic instances of undemocratic practices, or even require the state to engage in undemocratic practices. 

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