Equality

the history of an elusive idea
Darrin M McMahon
Book - 2023

"We live at a time of soaring global inequalities and a concerted challenge to the very notion that human beings can live as equals. Equality, in short, is in crisis. Yet surprisingly little work has been done to understand this complex ideal. Far from being a modern aspiration, as is commonly thought, equality has a long history stretching back to the ancient world. Across the ages, we have also been profoundly ambivalent toward-and even skeptical of-equality: we have both desired equality and questioned how much of it exactly we want and for whom. Today's anxiety about equality is the historic norm. In Equality, historian Darrin M. McMahon offers the definitive intellectual history of equality. McMahon traces equality's global origins in early human societies before he turns to its ideological development from antiquity, through the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment, into the modern period. Taking a close look at how equality has been imagined over time-as justice in ancient Greece, for instance, or fraternity in the age of the Enlightenment-McMahon finds that across the ages our ambivalence about what equality means and who deserves to be equals has led to dramatic transformations in the very concept. While equality is today associated with the political left's fight for social justice, the concept has been reimagined by every generation, and put to many different uses over time by actors from across the political spectrum. The ideal has in fact served just as often to consolidate the position of elites in fraternity as to contest their power. Ancient Athenians and Haitian revolutionaries built a more levelled political system through appeals to equality; 19th-century Marxists used the idea to wage class warfare; fascists and Nazis divided the world into equals and unequals, with horrific results; and postwar civil rights reformers, feminists, and gay activists built a more just society by advocating equality for all. Today, socioeconomic inequality is spiraling globally, and the dream of an equal world seems threatened. Only by studying equality's deep history, McMahon concludes, might we make it anew for our own age. Spanning centuries of history, this is a magisterial history of equality, revealing how we came to value the ideal and why we continue to reimagine what it means"--

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Bibliographic Details
Main Author: McMahon, Darrin M. (Author)
Format: Book
Language:English
Published: New York : Basic Books, 2023.
Edition:First edition.
Subjects:

MARC

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520 |a "We live at a time of soaring global inequalities and a concerted challenge to the very notion that human beings can live as equals. Equality, in short, is in crisis. Yet surprisingly little work has been done to understand this complex ideal. Far from being a modern aspiration, as is commonly thought, equality has a long history stretching back to the ancient world. Across the ages, we have also been profoundly ambivalent toward-and even skeptical of-equality: we have both desired equality and questioned how much of it exactly we want and for whom. Today's anxiety about equality is the historic norm. In Equality, historian Darrin M. McMahon offers the definitive intellectual history of equality. McMahon traces equality's global origins in early human societies before he turns to its ideological development from antiquity, through the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment, into the modern period. Taking a close look at how equality has been imagined over time-as justice in ancient Greece, for instance, or fraternity in the age of the Enlightenment-McMahon finds that across the ages our ambivalence about what equality means and who deserves to be equals has led to dramatic transformations in the very concept. While equality is today associated with the political left's fight for social justice, the concept has been reimagined by every generation, and put to many different uses over time by actors from across the political spectrum. The ideal has in fact served just as often to consolidate the position of elites in fraternity as to contest their power. Ancient Athenians and Haitian revolutionaries built a more levelled political system through appeals to equality; 19th-century Marxists used the idea to wage class warfare; fascists and Nazis divided the world into equals and unequals, with horrific results; and postwar civil rights reformers, feminists, and gay activists built a more just society by advocating equality for all. Today, socioeconomic inequality is spiraling globally, and the dream of an equal world seems threatened. Only by studying equality's deep history, McMahon concludes, might we make it anew for our own age. Spanning centuries of history, this is a magisterial history of equality, revealing how we came to value the ideal and why we continue to reimagine what it means"--  |c Provided by publisher. 
504 |a Includes bibliographical references and index. 
505 0 0 |g Introduction:  |t imaginary equality. --  |g Part I.  |t Reversal : the deep history of equality --  |t Loss : the human surrender to slavery and exploitation --  |t Fellowship : the invention of equality in the axial age. --  |g Part II.  |t Justice : the equality of equals in ancient Greece --  |t Recovery : Christian equality and the image of the trinity --  |t Fraternity : the reinvention of equality in the age of enlightenment --  |t Leveling : the scythe of equality and the French Revolution. --  |t Part III.  |t Illusion : from each according to ability, to each according to need --  |t Domination : the equality of the volk --  |t Balance : Sovereign equality and the peoples of the world --  |t Dream : the guiding hand of equality and the moral arc of the universe. --  |g Conclusion:  |t the crisis of equality. 
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