The fundamental debate about equality in the 21st century is not whether people should be equal; it is how far that principle should be applied. Equality means the removal of disadvantage. There are many relationships in society in which people might be said to be disadvantaged, and many different ways of looking at that disadvantage. Conventionally, these include inequalities of income and wealth, class, gender and ‘race’. Inequalities are pervasive. In broad terms, however, there are three main classes of explanation for inequality — pathological, structural and the idea of power. The chapter reviews the concepts of equality of persons, equality of rights, citizenship, access to the conditions of civilisation and equality of welfare. The chapter concludes that although there are differences, and potential contradictions, between the various understandings of equality, the effect of considering a broad range of concepts does not seem to me to undermine them.
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