13 votes

How do you convince someone of the value of egalitarianism?

An odd question to ask, I'll admit, but I think it's worth asking.

It's hard to have a public conversation today about political or politicised topics because people will pipe up and tell you that you're crazy and your ideas are completely backwards. And the reason why people say this is often driven by conflicts between personally held values rather than the ideas themselves. As a result, these conversations usually end up with both sides arguing past eachother and no concensus is ever made; nobody is happy.

One of the more common reasons for these arguements is typically because one party believes in egalitarianism - the belief that all people should be treated the same - and the other one does not. It's particularly strange to see given that so many countries have egalitarianism as a cornerstone to their government and laws. Yet we still see many people trying to take away rights and freedoms from certain classes of people.

Regardless of any particular conversation, what do you think is the best way to convince someone in the value of egalitarianism? How do you convince someone that they're not part of a higher class who has power over another?

8 comments

  1. [4]
    ibis
    Link
    I think everyone agrees that egalitarianism is important. The challenge, is agreeing on how equality is measured. Eg. Is it 'egalitarianism' to judge with the exact same criteria when accepting...

    I think everyone agrees that egalitarianism is important. The challenge, is agreeing on how equality is measured.

    Eg. Is it 'egalitarianism' to judge with the exact same criteria when accepting applications to universities or collages? or is it more equal to take into consideration unequal circumstances such as race or income?

    'Egalitarian' is a label often used by people who oppose feminism, and in my experience, it is generally used to argue in support of the status quo. The general idea is that feminism is inherently unequal because it only helps one gender. The fact that women are already disadvantaged is either ignored or denied by this school of thought.

    In fact, I can't think of a single circumstance where extra help is given to people who are disadvantaged, where more privileged groups don't complain that it is unfair and that they are receiving unequal treatment.

    10 votes
    1. patience_limited
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      The confusion here is that people think egalitarianism means everyone should be treated equally, when it really means that they should be treated equitably. Egalitarianism starts with the...

      The confusion here is that people think egalitarianism means everyone should be treated equally, when it really means that they should be treated equitably.

      Egalitarianism starts with the presumption that everyone is born equally worthy of human rights and dignity, regardless of the circumstantial advantages or disadvantages of their birth. The implication is that those deprived of equal treatment and opportunity from birth should be otherwise compensated or supported to ensure they have opportunities similar to those who did benefit from that advantage, or equitable treatment. The aim is to achieve broadly fair and just outcomes where everyone derives some benefit from the society in which they take part.

      There's a simple example here, and a more in-depth explanation of the principle here.

      This argument is a particularly hard sell in the U.S., because, taken to its logical extreme, equity can sound a lot like Karl Marx' slogan, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". On the other hand, more egalitarian nations do far better for their citizens, without necessarily having to achieve perfect socialist redistribution.

      10 votes
    2. [2]
      vivaria
      Link Parent
      Yeah, this is more or less where I'm at too! Egalitarianism is one of those ideals that sounds nice in a vacuum, but is often wielded in a way that ignores context. "Everyone should be treated the...

      Yeah, this is more or less where I'm at too!

      Egalitarianism is one of those ideals that sounds nice in a vacuum, but is often wielded in a way that ignores context. "Everyone should be treated the same" gets warped to "no one should receive special treatment or accommodations under any circumstances. You shouldn't help anyone out without simultaneously offering that same help to everyone."

      But, people have different backgrounds and perspectives, and have faced differing levels of adversity. And, right now, "treating people differently" is an integral part of the systems we live in whether we like it or not. So, that should be acknowledged in how we support and listen to different groups of people.

      Although, based on the context of the OP, "egalitarianism" might be the wrong word?

      Yet we still see many people trying to take away rights and freedoms from certain classes of people.

      How do you convince someone that they're not part of a higher class who has power over another?

      These seem like @Akir is less for "everyone should be treated exactly the same" and more against discrimination and prejudice. (Subtle difference there.)

      8 votes
      1. Akir
        Link Parent
        You can feel free to ignore the example and use your own. Some people do not believe in egalitarianism in any form, and they tend to be the most extreme examples and have likewise extreme...

        You can feel free to ignore the example and use your own. Some people do not believe in egalitarianism in any form, and they tend to be the most extreme examples and have likewise extreme positions. I was thinking that this would be the best way to change their minds on those topics (assuming long, long conversations, of course).

        Of course there is another maybe-not-quite-egalitarian position I would like to argue, which is that all people have inherent societal value, but I think that is largely an argument from my emotions.

        6 votes
  2. [2]
    patience_limited
    Link
    Innuendo Studios has some charmingly accessible YouTube videos that you could probably share with amenable friends, like this one. But really, you're not going to convert anyone without listening,...

    Innuendo Studios has some charmingly accessible YouTube videos that you could probably share with amenable friends, like this one.

    But really, you're not going to convert anyone without listening, building trust, and engaging their curiosity first. As long as they're convinced that they're not at the very bottom of a "natural" hierarchy, they'll cling to the system that keeps them there rather than risk falling.

    8 votes
    1. vivaria
      Link Parent
      That was a nice video. Thank you for sharing it. :)

      That was a nice video. Thank you for sharing it. :)

      3 votes
  3. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    Sorry if that sounds bleak, but why would you ever want to convince anyone of anything? Expecting others to be reasonable is a path that will only lead to sorrow. Make your points to the best of...

    Sorry if that sounds bleak, but why would you ever want to convince anyone of anything? Expecting others to be reasonable is a path that will only lead to sorrow.

    Make your points to the best of your ability. Answer any questions they might have. Point them to some relevant references if you think they will follow through.

    And move on.

    4 votes
  4. skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    I don't know what a good argument is but here are my thoughts: It seems to me that egalitarianism is a theoretical political ideal that is fairly incoherent if you look at it too closely. Compare...

    I don't know what a good argument is but here are my thoughts:

    It seems to me that egalitarianism is a theoretical political ideal that is fairly incoherent if you look at it too closely. Compare with the divine right of kings, government by the people, or "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

    It's true that it's one of our ideals. That doesn't mean it makes sense on its face. It requires interpretation. People are equal, except when they're not, and we are very used to applying it selectively. An alien observer would probably see it as a form of doublethink. That's obvious when you look at history, but I think it's still true today.

    When ideals catch on they can have huge consequences. In this case, when the American revolutionaries decided that "all men are created equal" their egalitarianism was very limited by our standards and yet radical. Before then, it was just common sense that people are not equal. All you have to do is look around. Do you see equality?

    Despite this I think it's an important ideal that many have lost sight of and needs shoring up, which is a reason I'm for UBI even though its equality is pretty much symbolic (it ignores the net effect from taxes) and limited (to citizens).

    It seems tricky to argue in favor of equality when people would lose something by applying it, and easier to argue for it when they would gain something. But you might say that it's a handy legal principle to have when you're on the defensive.

    4 votes