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Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality$
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Henry Phelps Brown

Print publication date: 1988

Print ISBN-13: 9780198286486

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198286481.001.0001

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Issues and Influences Reviewed

Issues and Influences Reviewed

(p.246) 8 Issues and Influences Reviewed
Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality

Henry Phelps Brown

Oxford University Press

The differences between people are so conspicuous in all sorts of ways that it may well be wondered that the notion of human equality has ever been entertained. The preceding chapters have shown how it has come to be so, and the purpose of this present chapter is to review that account. It begins with the reasons for accepting or justifying inequality of treatment, status, or condition, which may be grouped under three heads: people are unequal in all sorts of ways, not least in their ability to acquire wealth and income; the need for order in every society requires a structure of ranks and an allocation of functions accompanied by appropriately differentiated standards of living; and inequalities arise from the working of the market, but this, if left unimpeded, will do more to harmonize self‐interest and raise the general level of welfare than will intervention. The next three sections deal with each of these aspects in turn, setting out the influences in the realms of thought or material circumstance that have loosened the hold of inequality and strengthened that of egalitarianism, in principle and in practice. The last section of the chapter considers the causes of the historical changes that have taken place.

Keywords:   egalitarianism, equality, history, income, inequality, market, rank, self‐interest, social structure, standard of living, wealth, welfare

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