Reflections on Elizabeth Anderson
By Wade Lee Hudson
NOTE: Following is the text used in my January 12, 2020 “Democratic Equality and Democratic Dialog” PowerPoint presentation at the Humanists and Non-Theists committee of the San Francisco Unitarian church.
The article that had the biggest impact on me last year was “The Philosopher Redefining Equality” in The New Yorker. The subtitle reads: “Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society.” That profile of Anderson begins: [play audio]
She ended up studying political and moral philosophy at Harvard under John Rawls and teaching at the University of Michigan, where she stayed, despite being heavily recruited by other universities.
In 1999 the esteemed journal Ethics published her path-breaking, widely reprinted article “What is the Point of Equality?” She’s also written three books, including Value in Ethics and Economics, which argues that some goods like love and respect should not be sold on the market or otherwise treated as commodities, and The Imperative of Integration, which examines how racial integration can lead to a more robust democracy. Her many podcast interviews include a great one with Vox.com founder Ezra Klein.
Last year Anderson received the no-strings-attached $625,000 MacArthur “Genius” award. Included in their announcement was this [play video].
Anderson’s primary concern is social equality — equality not just in politics and economics but also equality in social relations throughout society — how to treat each other as equals, without trying to dominate, or being willing to submit. She calls this democratic equality.