Interview: The History of Equality [sic]: It’s Complicated

Source: The Nation
by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

“Books abound these days on the subject of inequality, spanning categories such as race, class, and nationality. But what is ‘equality’ in the first place? What does it mean, and for whom? Darrin McMahon’s new book, Equality: The History of an Elusive Idea, sets out to answer these questions by providing a truly global intellectual history of equality from the dawn of humanity until today. In doing so, McMahon, a professor of history at Dartmouth College, argues that ideas of equality invariably contain within them the exclusion of others from that state. This is why Marx and Engels remained critical of bourgeois notions of equality: Underlying such notions, they insisted, lies an individualist conception of rights that does not address class difference in a capitalist system. For Marx, McMahon contends, overcoming class division rather than inequality was the priority.” [editor’s note: Equality of opportunity, not “equity” (equality of outcome), should be the goal – SAT] (11/16/23)