For centuries, ringing declarations about all men being created equal appealed to a shared human nature as the reason to consider ourselves equals. But appeals to natural equality invited gradations of natural difference, and the ambiguity at the heart of “nature” enabled generations to write of people as equal by nature while barely noticing the exclusion of those marked as inferior by their gender, race, or class. Despite what we commonly tell ourselves, these exclusions and gradations continue today. In Unconditional Equals, political philosopher Anne Phillips challenges attempts to justify equality by reference to a shared human nature, arguing that justification turns into conditions and ends up as exclusion. Rejecting the logic of justification, she calls instead for a genuinely unconditional equality.
Drawing on political, feminist, and postcolonial theory, Unconditional Equals argues that we should understand equality not as something grounded in shared characteristics but as something people enact when they refuse to be considered inferiors. At a time when the supposedly shared belief in human equality is so patently not shared, the book makes a powerful case for seeing equality as a commitment we make to ourselves and others, and a claim we make on others when they deny us our status as equals.
In this event we launch Unconditional Equals by Anne Phillips, who, alongside a panel of experts across gender and political theory will explore genuine unconditional equality and the commitment we make to ourselves and others.
Anne Phillips is the Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government at LSE. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003 and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2013. She is the author of several books including The Politics of Presence: the Political Representation of Gender, Race, and Culture (1995) and the forthcoming book Unconditional Equals.
Sumi Madhok is Professor of Political Theory and Gender Studies at the Department of Gender Studies.
Teresa Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory and Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford.
Nicola Lacey is School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy at LSE Law School.