EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
Equality of condition,
Inequality of opportunity, Social Inequality, Social
There is equality of opportunity where differences in
individual's wealth, status and power are not so great as to
create advantage and disadvantage in the pursuit of personal achievement. Liberal ideology
and consensus theory claim that broad equality of
opportunity exists in modern societies.
Equality of opportunity is a
political ideal opposed to caste hierarchy though not to
hierarchy as generally understood. The assumption is that there is a hierarchy of more
desirable and less desirable, superior and inferior positions in a society.
Equality of opportunity is quite
consistent with inequality of condition. But is
not the same as two runners given an even start, and equally good tracks. Inequality of
condition does not necessarily lead to inequality of opportunity. But inequality of
condition does undermine equality of opportunity.
In a caste society as in India
where even today untouchability is practiced in every nook and corner of the country, the
assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is fixed by birth. The child
acquires the social status of his or her parents if their
union is socially sanctioned. Social mobility may be
possible in a caste society, but one is admitted to a different level of the hierarchy
based on their initial ascriptive social status.
When equality of opportunity
prevails, the assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is determined by
competitive process, and all members of society are eligible to compete on equal terms.
Reducing inequality of condition
is the central aim of huge and expensive welfare states, with not only income support for
the poor, but excellent education and health care at all income levels. Britain is
somewhat less serious, and the USA hasn't been serious since Roosevelt.
We cannot have equality of opportunity without equality of condition. Inequality of
condition, like soft discrimination, hurts a child throughout a child's life.
Equality of Opportunity
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