Costly choices: gender and luck egalitarianism




Byrnes, Emma

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Does choice excuse inequality? Some contemporary egalitarians – often referred to as “Luck Egalitarians” – believe it does. However, many seemingly chosen inequalities obtain between men and women as a group. A recent surge of empirical literature has sought to demonstrate the role that individual choice plays in producing and maintaining a subset of existing gender inequalities (e.g. the gender wage gap). This thesis considers the status of such inequalities in the context of the Luck Egalitarian project. More precisely, it considers whether the claim that choice excuses inequality is appropriate to the phenomenon of gendered choice. In Chapter 1, I argue that Luck Egalitarianism, as it currently stands, does not adequately deal with the topic of gendered choice. I maintain that this is due largely to the fact that it is not sufficiently attentive to the social forces shaping gendered choices (e.g. socialization, hostile social climates). In Chapter 2, I discuss whether attending more fully to factors that facilitate autonomy gives Luck Egalitarianism a way to incorporate a more robust discussion of gender into its account of responsible choice. I argue that contextualizing the choice/circumstance principle is the key to ensuring that it tracks truly autonomous choice, and avoids treating choices shaped by gender norms as justifiably disadvantage-conferring. In Chapter 3, I begin the project of articulating a set of background conditions against which we can deem choices authentic. I draw on feminist approaches to the philosophy of autonomy to inform this project. I come to the conclusion that choice excuses inequality only if such choices are made against conditions which actively work against gender-specific constraints on choice.



philosophy, political philosophy, gender, autonomy, distributive justice, luck egalitarianism, choice