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What does it mean to be disadvantaged? Is it possible to compare different disadvantages? What should governments do to move their societies in the direction of equality, where equality is to be understood both in distributional and social terms? Linking rigorous analytical philosophical theory with broad empirical studies, including interviews conducted for the purpose of this book, Wolff and de-Shalit show how taking theory and practice together is essential if the theory is to be rich enough to be applied to the real world, and policy systematic enough to have purpose and justification. The book is in three parts. Part 1 presents a pluralist analysis of disadvantage, modifying the capability theory of Sen and Nussbaum to produce the 'genuine opportunity for secure functioning' view. This emphasizes risk and insecurity as a central component of disadvantage. Part 2 shows how to identify the least advantaged in society even on a pluralist view. The authors suggest that disadvantage 'clusters' in the sense that some people are disadvantaged in several different respects. Thus identifying the least advantaged is not as problematic as it appears to be. Conversely, a society which has 'declustered disadvantaged'--in the sense that no group lacks secure functioning on a range of functionings--has made considerable progress in the direction of equality. Part 3 explores how to decluster disadvantage, by paying special attention to 'corrosive disadvantages'--those disadvantages which cause further disadvantages--and 'fertile functionings'--those which are likely to secure other functionings. In sum this books presents a refreshing new analysis of disadvantage, and puts forward proposals to help governments improve the lives of the least advantaged in their societies, thereby moving in the direction of equality.
Jonathan Wolff is the author of Robert Nozick (1991), An Introduction to Political Philosophy (1996), and Why Read Marx Today (2002) and, editor, with Michael Rosen, of Political Thought (1999) and with Martin Stone The Proper Ambition of Science, as well as papers on many topics within contemporary political philosophy. He works as a consultant on the ethics of risk for the railway industry, and has sat on public committees looking into the ethics of animal experimentation, the regulation of gambling, the law of homicide and the regulation of drugs. His present research concerns a number of issues connecting philosophical theory and practice, including safety, disability, health, and crime. His works have been translated into over ten languages. He is Professor of Philosophy at University College London.
Avner de-Shalit is the author of Why posterity Matters? (1995), Socialism (in Hebrew, 1997), The Environment: Between Theory and Practice (2000) and Power to the People: Teaching Political Philosophy in Skeptical Times (2006), and co-editor, with Daniel Bell, of Forms of Justice (2003). He has published numerous articles, mostly in the field of environmental political theory. de-Shalit is chairperson of the Public Council on Environment and Society in Israel. He is the Max Kampelman Professor of Democracy and Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Table of Contents
Part 1: The secure functionings approach
1. The pluralism of disadvantage
4. Opportunity and responsibility
Part 2: Applying theory to practice
5. The indexing problem
6. Measuring functionings
7. Clustering of disadvantage and empirical research
Part 3: Public policy
8. Declustering disadvantage
9. Priority to the least advantaged
10. Addressing disadvantage while respecting people
Appendix 1: Details of the interviews