Liberal Egalitarianism: Responsibility and Religion

Liberal Egalitarianism: Responsibility and Religion

One of the core values of liberal egalitarianism is to treat individuals as equals. However, many debates stem from clarifying what it means to treat people as equals, as treating people as equals can´t be systematically reduced to treating people equally. In particular, treating people as equals can demand differential treatment in two kinds of cases: cases that involve differences in individual responsibility and cases that involve religious freedoms. This panel will thus focus separately on the issues raised by these two kinds of cases for liberal egalitarianism.

Responsibility and Liberal Egalitarianism

The first session focuses on the role of responsibility in theories of justice. In particular, we will examine two sets of questions. Firstly, we will look at the familiar question of the specific role that responsibility should have in a theory of justice. Should it be the leading principle of a theory of justice or merely a subsidiary principle? Secondly, we will raise the question of what is the appropriate way to respect the value of responsibility. Luck egalitarians take the value of responsibility to be properly defended in a retributive way, by ensuring that individuals get the advantages they are responsible for. But this might not be the only way for us to show proper respect to the value of responsibility.  We will explore alternative ways to do so.

Religion and Liberal Egalitarianism

The second session focuses on the role of freedom of religion within the liberal egalitarian framework. Although religious freedom is part and parcel of the liberal rights catalogue, its specific role within the liberal framework has changed dramatically over the last century, and its new position is up to now under-theorized. A genealogical analysis of liberalism shows that religious freedom was originally considered to be the basic and distinctive first freedom in the liberal state as can be explained through the genesis of liberalism out of the confessional disputes and devastating inter-Christian wars during the Reformation. Such a liberty-based approach starts from a blanket defense of religious freedom against state intervention. In current debates, egalitarians like Cécile Laborde and Ronald Dworkin have presented an egalitarian defense of religious freedom which starts from the principle that the state should guarantee the equal status of all citizens, regardless of the particular (religious or secularist) beliefs and values they endorse and pursue. Characteristic for this egalitarian defense is that it no longer considers religious freedom to be a freedom sui generis. Laborde argues that religion might be paradigmatic of beliefs, identifications, and practices that people have a particular interest in pursuing, individually of collectively, but that it does not uniquely captures them. However, if the freedom of religion no longer has a privileged position in the liberal framework, these sessions discuss the question whether claims to religious freedom can be justified, since they typically provide specific privileges for some groups, such as exemptions from universal law. Moreover, these privileges sometimes trump the right to non-discrimination of other citizens, for example, when it allows religious organizations to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

We invite papers which discuss either of these topics (responsibility or religion) broadly conceived and its relation to liberal egalitarianism. If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please submit an abstract (up to 1000 words) to both convenors by Friday 31 May 2013. We intend to circulate the full versions of the papers to all the workshop participants. For that purpose, we would expect a full version of the paper by 25 August 2013.

Panel Convenors

Dr. Roland Pierik (Amsterdam)



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