Senior Research Scholar Sean Aas has a new paper, “You Didn’t Build That! Equality and Productivity in a Complex Society,” to be published in an upcoming volume of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. The paper proposes and defends an egalitarian critique of a particular set of inequalities born of how social institutions translate an employee’s weight of contribution to claimable value post-production. Are these inequalities serious and exploitative? Or merely the unfortunate side effects of the best socioeconomic system we can hope for? An excerpt from the paper follows.
This paper lays out a novel version of cooperation theory, improving on existing views in four key ways:
First, I attempt to offer a well-motivated and reasonably precise view of what precisely contribution to basic social cooperation gives us claims on – at least, the worth or value of socially produced opportunities. Second, this view has a different intuitive basis than accounts which, like Gibbard and Sangiovanni’s, emphasize ‘reciprocity’, benefits we owe each other in gratitude for the benefits we provide to each other, by constituting a social system. For reasons explained below, I rely instead on a brutely ‘productivist’, anti-exploitation, principle, which demands returns proportional to contribution to productive enterprises. Third, the view defended here gives due consideration to the apparently anti-egalitarian observation that different people contribute different amounts to basic social institutions; arguing that, despite appearances, the differential contributions do not yield (pressably) different claims. Relatedly, fourth, I show the resources needed to answer this last objection to cooperation theories of equality can also be deployed to help answer some problems often regarded as insoluble for cooperation theory, concerning the status of those who cannot contribute to society, due to disability.