The Illusions of Egalitarianism

The Illusions of Egalitarianism

by John Kekes


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In this systematic and scathing attack on the dominant contemporary version of liberalism, John Kekes challenges political assumptions shared by the majority of people in Western societies. Egalitarianism, as it's widely known, holds that a government ought to treat all citizens with equal consideration. Kekes charges that belief in egalitarianism rests on illusions that prevent people from facing unpleasant truths.

Kekes, a major voice in modern political thought, argues that differences among human beings in the areas of morality, reasonability, legality, and citizenship are too important for governance to ignore. In a rigorous criticism of prominent egalitarian thinkers, including Dworkin, Nagel, Nussbaum, Rawls, Raz, and Singer, Kekes charges that their views present a serious threat to both morality and reason.

For Kekes, certain "inegalitarian truths" are obvious: people should get what they deserve, those who are good and those who are evil should not be treated as if they had the same moral worth, people should not be denied what they have earned in order to benefit those who have not earned it, and individuals should be held responsible for their actions. His provocative book will compel many readers to question their faith in liberalism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801441905
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 12/15/2003
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John Kekes is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York, Albany. He is the author of eleven previous books, most recently Pluralism in Philosophy: Changing the Subject and The Art of Life, both from Cornell.

What People are Saying About This

Jude P. Dougherty

"Egalitarianism, Kekes finds, is grounded in an optimistic but unwarranted faith in the basic goodness of human beings. The egalitarian moral vision of society presupposes good and reasonable people who cooperate to design and maintain political arrangements that provide equal freedom, rights, and resources, thereby enabling everyone to live according to a wide plurality of different conceptions of the good life. This attitude Kekes takes to be the product of wishful thinking, a vision he regards as dangerous not only because it denies evil but because it is meant to serve as a practical guide to politics.... Frequent appeals to justice, compassion, fraternity, and community are illusory, says Kekes, apart from an inherited culture, a legacy symbolized by attachment to land, village, and the local churchyard where one's ancestors have lived for generations.... Western societies, as this volume makes clear, are confronted with ubiquitous and ill-defined appeals to the priority of freedom, choice, and human dignity, all unanchored in a coherent account of nature and human nature."

Myron Magnet

"Argued with relentless logical rigor, The Illusions of Egalitarianism is that rare phenomenon—a work of philosophy that is not only profound but also gripping, lucid, impassioned, and utterly timely."

Anthony O'Hear

"The Illusions of Egalitarianism is an excellent and much-needed criticism of the egalitarianism that dominates contemporary Anglo-American ethics and political philosophy. John Kekes does a thorough and comprehensive job of exposing the threadbare nature of the assumptions of many of the most admired figures in the field. He is devastating in showing how egalitarian thinkers attempt to impose an inappropriately theoretical template on the real world which highlights just one moral consideration above all others and is highly intolerant of diversity or world pluralism."

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