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Regarding people as subordinates: inequality and social subordination

Grant number: 19/11988-3
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Post-doctor
Effective date (Start): October 11, 2019
Effective date (End): October 10, 2020
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Ethics
Principal researcher:Ricardo Ribeiro Terra
Grantee:Lucas Cardoso Petroni
Supervisor abroad: Stephen Leicester Darwall
Home Institution: Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (CEBRAP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Yale University, United States  
Associated to the scholarship:17/21346-3 - The claims of injustice: poverty and opression, BP.PD


My research takes place inside the philosophical inquiry - and the recent debates on - the value of equality. I intend to move around the new theoretical possibilities brought up by the philosophical controversy between social egalitarians and distributive egalitarians to address the normative nature of certain relations of social inequality. More specifically, the question about what (if anything) is distinctively wrong in forms of informal social subordination among democratic citizens and, if so, what is the moral anatomy of relations of social subordination. My working argument is that regarding/treatment someone as a subordinate entails a second-personal power-based inequality in which subalterns have the quality and/or range of their practical identities unjustly controlled by social others. Framing the question of social equality as matter of social subordination has at least two virtues. The first one is purely methodological. Fixing my efforts on relations of social subordination allow me to get social egalitarianism's benefits, that is, the opportunity to work through thick social concepts such as oppression, poverty, domination, and so forth, without having to engage into its epistemological problems, i.e., the (thin) ideal/non-ideal debate. Second, it is broadly accepted by social egalitarians that unjust social hierarchies are to be among the main concerns of egalitarianism: relations of inferiority/superiority are not only a key conceptual notion for egalitarians, but they also ground the most natural and maybe most compelling objection against inequality in our societies. Rejecting treatments and attitudes of inferiority to others is, according to Thomas Scanlon, an especially strong reason to support equality as an intrinsic moral value. (AU)

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