No 16 (2019): Unpacking Political Agency: Equality, Vulnerability, Discrimination
Section 3. Political Agency and Equality

The Social Bases of Self-Respect. Political Equality and Epistemic Injustice

Federica Liveriero
University of Piemonte Orientale, Humanities Department
Published September 10, 2019
  • self-respect,
  • political equality,
  • disagreement,
  • epistemic injustice
How to Cite
Liveriero, F. (2019). The Social Bases of Self-Respect. Political Equality and Epistemic Injustice. Phenomenology and Mind, (16), 90-101.


This paper investigates the limitations of the ideal of political equality under non-ideal circumstances and focuses specifically on the way in which structurally unjust social contexts endanger individuals’ perception of their own worth. Starting from Rawls’ definition of the social bases of self-respect as a primary good to be fairly distributed, the paper main goal is to provide normative arguments in favor of a power sensitive theory of political agency. A power sensitive theory, in fact, proves to be necessary as it sheds a light over the way in which power relationships affect the very possibility, for some members of the constituency, of fully enjoying the status of political reflexive agents. Against this background, in the paper I defend two main theses. First, I argue that the contemporary debate concerning the implementation of the ideal of equality within liberal democracies has been overlooking the epistemic dimension of the basis of political equality. Second, I claim that specifying the epistemic dimension of political equality has at least two important effects. a. It is important from the perspective of conceptual analysis, as it allows to properly distinguish between the normative job played by moral arguments on the one hand, and the epistemic aspects of political equality on the other hand. b. The specification of the epistemic aspects of political equality has at least on important normative upshot, namely the possibility to show that epistemic forms of injustice are detrimental to the very ideal of political equality as an essential feature of liberal conceptions of democracy.


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