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Political Liberties and Social Equality

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This paper examines the link between political liberties and social equality, and contends that the former are constitutive of, i.e. necessary to secure, the latter. Although this constitutive link is often assumed in the literature on political liberties, the reasons why it holds true remain largely unexplored. Three such reasons are examined here. First, political liberties are constitutive of social equality because they bestow political power on their holders, leaving disenfranchised individuals excluded from decisions that are particularly pervasive, coercively enforced, hard to avoid, monopolistic, and final. Second, they are constitutive of social equality due to their positional value, such that those who are denied such liberties are socially downgraded because and to the extent that others enjoy them. Third, they are constitutive of social equality due to their expressive value, in the sense that, by disenfranchising some individuals, the state publicly fails to recognize their equal moral agency. While unpacking these reasons, we address some criticisms of this constitutive link recently raised by Steven Wall and Jason Brennan.

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Correspondence to Jahel Queralt.

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Previous versions of the paper were presented in Oxford, Zurich, Mexico City, and Barcelona. We are grateful to those audiences and, for written comments, to Charles Beitz, Chiara Cordelli, Carina Fourie, José Juan Moreso, Christian Schemmel, and two anonymous reviewers.

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González-Ricoy, I., Queralt, J. Political Liberties and Social Equality. Law and Philos 37, 613–638 (2018).

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