Dissertation Defense: Daniel Threet
Candidate Name: Daniel Keith Threet
Advisor: Henry S. Richardson, Ph.D.
Title: Relational Egalitarianism and Informal Social Interaction
I identify and respond to a problem for liberal relational egalitarians. There is a prima facie worry about the compatibility of liberalism and relational egalitarianism, concerning the requirements of equality in informal social life. Liberalism at least involves a commitment to leaving individuals substantial discretion to pursue their own conceptions of the good. Relational equality is best understood as a kind of deliberative practice about social institutions and practices. Patterns of otherwise innocuous social choices (e.g., where to live, whom to befriend or marry) can create emergent, severe differentials in power, status, and influence, and when they do they can threaten relational equality. If relational equality required individuals to subordinate personal choices to egalitarian considerations, it would run into conflict with liberal commitments. In response, I defend the value of accepting an imperfect realization of relational equality. What I call fair relational equality demands that members of society treat some informal social norms and practices as part of the basic structure of society, in need of justification. Three practices are required to meet that demand. First, the relational-egalitarian society must develop institutional strategies to preempt or mitigate tendencies toward emergent inequality as they are identified. Second, members of society must engage in broad social deliberation about the norms and expectations of informal social interaction. Third, they must be willing to reform social practices where doing so does not impinge on important personal projects and values.
Wednesday, April 3 at 10:00am to 12:00pm
New North, 204
37th and O St., N.W., Washington
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