16th Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Parisi

Eva Maria Parisi, Ludwig Maximilian Universität Munich.

What – if Anything – is Unjust about Parental Resources Influencing Children’s Access to Advantages?


The proposed paper inquires from the theoretical perspective of relational egalitarianism into the relationship between individuals’ differential access to advantage and social equality. Concretely, I ask what – if anything – is unjust about parental resources influencing children’s access to advantage and addresses the question by critically engaging with egalitarian literature.
I look at two different egalitarian approaches to the topic: the luck egalitarian and the relational egalitarian. Their responses to the challenge of children’s differential access to advantage due to parental resources, I state, seem to be quite far from one another: while luck egalitarians approach the challenge of inequality as a matter of unfair distribution, relational egalitarians address it as a matter of individuals’ unequal participation in society. Following, while luck egalitarians primarily aim at reducing the practical impact of bad brute luck on children’s lives, and object to differential access to advantage due to arbitrary inequality, relational egalitarians acknowledge moral wrongness in parental resources impacting children’s access to advantage only when this prevents them from enjoying equal status within society.
However, I claim that – if loyal to their core principles – Luck Egalitarianism and Relational Egalitarianism should both answer to the presented question by stating that it is unjust, according to the egalitarian viewpoint, for children’s opportunities to be dependent on the resources of the origin family. Indeed, Relational Egalitarianism should be allied to Luck Egalitarianism when objecting to children’s arbitrary access to advantage. It is unjust if parental resources have an impact on children’s access to advantage – relational egalitarians should claim – as this is nothing but the perpetuation of a tradition of social division between the privileged and the unprivileged, where social policies do not address arbitrary differential access to advantage, thus emphasizing and strengthening class differences that divide and not the humanity which unites people (Tawney 1951, 38).