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Human rights and equality: a tortuous relationship

Human rights and equality: a tortuous relationship


El autor analiza la relación entre derechos humanos y el principio de igualdad, que ya  ha sido explorada en profundidad por estudiosos en derecho, ciencias políticas y filosofía, especialmente en la tradición germana. El presente articulo se esfuerza en establecer el nexo entre dichos conceptos, así como el grado de afinidad que éstos tienen con respecto a otros como el de justicia o dignidad. A su vez, el ensayo reflexiona sobre la correspondencia entre igualdad y prohibición de discriminación, critica la noción de igualdad utilizada por parte de autores clásicos de la filosofía como Aristóteles, Hobbes o Rousseau y considera la necesidad de substituir el ideal de igualdad por el de equidad.


The relationship between human rights and equality, especially when it comes to the concept of political equality, has been explored in depth by legal, political and philosophy scholars, notably from the German tradition. In this respect, theorists have focused very much on three questions: equality of what, equality among whom and why equality?

What is equality?

In short, equality is the principle which recognizes that the same rights apply to all citizens; the right of every individual to receive the same treatment[i]. This principle is one of the pillars upon which the United Nations was founded, and forms the core of the human rights vision of both the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[ii]. Even if equality is deeply ingrained in the international normative field, the concept itself, together with its justifications, probably remains as one of the most crucial questions in today's legal, political and moral philosophy.

Theoretical approaches to the concept of equality

Traditionally, scholars have distinguished between three different notions of equality that represent the historical evolution of the predominant human reasoning. Firstly, developed by Plato[iii], formal equality predicates that when two individuals share equal status in a given normative jurisdiction, they must be treated in an equal way. Aristotle[iv] would later advance towards a theory of numerical equality, which assumes that equality can only be sustained through a tantamount distribution of goods to all individuals. This notion is intrinsically connected with the social contract theory and has been contested by the notion of proportional equality, which criticizes the injustice arisen from identically distributing goods. Lastly, with the emanation of Kant's moral philosophy[v], moral equality upholds that all rational beings have an absolute value, known by some as human worth or dignity. It is from this conceptualization of moral equality that one can derive a prohibition on arbitrary unequal treatment; that is, a prohibition on discrimination[vi].

In order for moral equality to be effective, it requires from social and political equality[vii]. As a social ideal, equality is conceived as the core element of a human society in which every citizen enjoys the same social standing. As a political ideal, equality is the power of citizens to enforce claims on one another without attending to other personal circumstances[viii].

While moral status is defined as “the way in which a being is subject to moral evaluation, how it ought to be treated, whether it has rights, and what kind of rights it has”[ix], equal moral status refers to the idea that all human beings are of equal worth and entitled to have claims on one another by the mere virtue of their status as persons[x]. These mutual entitlements are often described as mutual basic moral rights[xi]. It is precisely within these basic moral rights that universal moral rights, also known as human rights, find their prominent position[xii].

Justice and dignity as communicating vessels between human rights and equality

            Equality: justice's ambitious goal

For the adequate recognition of a person's moral status, some sort of fundamental public recognition of equality is indispensable[xiii]. This recognition takes place through political equality, which entails the assertion by the law and public institutions that citizens ought to be treated as equals. It is at this point that the concept of justice becomes transcendent. Political equality must ensure an equal distribution of justice, whether it is in terms of equality of resources equality of welfare, equality of responsibilities, equality of opportunities or in terms of equality of outcomes[xiv]. Consequently, it is primordial for any State to secure political equality for its citizens under unequal situations, applying policies of distributive justice attending to the circumstances of each case[xv]. Political equality is not meaningful in itself, but as an indicator of citizens “having been ruled out as candidates for social participation in collective decision-making on the basis of ascribed features[xvi]”.

            The legal dimension of human rights

Moral rights, whether religious or secular, do not require from a transposition into written law for their existence. However, their enforceability is debatable, for it depends upon the submission of the individual. Legal rights do not only recognize, but are also capable of modifying and creating moral rights anew. This process is usually justified through the avowal that a certain moral matter is sufficiently crucial, and thus adequately rationalized for the generation of moral duties.

Such is the case of human rights: universal moral interests acknowledged by the law. The differentiating factor between other kinds of rights, understood as the intermediaries between a legitimate interest and a duty to respect that interest[xvii], and human rights is that the corresponding duties of latter are both legal and moral. In this regard, “law makes universal moral rights into human rights, just as politics turn equal moral status into political equality[xviii].

Which is then the link between human rights and political equality? The following supposition illustrates it best: human rights enable political equality; it is through mutual human rights that individuals become actors of their own equality and members of their political community[xix].

            Dignitas hominis

The idea of human rights depends upon “the vague but powerful idea of human dignity”[xx]. This idea, as a foundational concept in human rights theory, is genuinely rooted in the idea of equality: while human beings may not be equal in their capacities and virtues, they are equal in their humanity and moral worth. Dignity is hence acutely related to the idea of human worth. In fact, the word 'dignity' derives from the Latin term dignitas, which is often translated as worthiness.

The concept of human dignity has been used as another way of referring to equal moral status[xxi]. However, the notion of dignity can be addressed in many ways, some of them very much antithetical: dignity as the ultimate value of a human being and, accordingly, as the foundation of human rights, dignity as a human right itself, dignity as a way to be treated (not so much as a right but more as a duty to be treated with dignified respect)[xxii], or even as a moral justification for the restriction of a person's human rights[xxiii].

The interrelation between human rights and equality

Human rights are universal moral rights of distinctive intensity that pertain to all human beings by virtue of their humanity. Their purpose of action is the protection of fundamental interests, granting a minimum threshold that shall secure the dignity of the citizen. The identification of the basic attributes shared by all human rights has been a primary task performed by numerous legal, political and philosophical scholars. In this context, a human right is generally conceived as the protection of fundamental human interests against the intervention (or non-intervention) of public institutions[xxiv].

The attempt to establish a universal interrelation between human rights and equality is presumably infeasible. The evidence that egalitarian scholars haven't agreed on a unitary interpretation of 'equality' constitutes the main challenge to this issue. In view of the fact that this debate prevents a move forward, some have suggested that equality should be seen less as a unitary concept and more as a concept with a diversity of meanings[xxv]. This would involve not only the admission of a wide spectrum of meanings of equality, but also the consent that the notions of equality are not all the same[xxvi].

One might assume that human rights and equality are mutually reinforcing. Notwithstanding this, at times, as the work of prominent specialists has demonstrated[xxvii], these two concepts can end up in conflict with a resulting reduction of each. Abstaining from any pretension to exhaust the several meanings attributable to the concept of equality, one can identify various examples. Equality is commonly understood as a fundamental human right, due to its widespread existence in national and international human rights instruments. In this sense, equality is assumed as an entitlement and not as a benefit, and must be legally enforceable like any other human right[xxviii]. Nonetheless, the aforementioned instruments usually tend to include another notion of equality, based on the claim that human rights should be enjoyed equally by all. Lastly, a more substantive conception of equality may concentrate on the nexus between equality and dignity, in which social equality is seen as the method to devote effort to reverse disadvantages through an egalitarian redistribution[xxix] and political equality is manifested as a means of addressing social rejection and promoting participation[xxx].

The precedent notions of equality appear to be potentially complementary. Per contra, an irreconcilable approach is also possible to establish: equality can be placed in a preeminent hierarchical position in which human rights would be considered as a commitment to achieve equality, reversing hence the usual pecking order of these concepts.

The egalitarian dimension of human rights

Human rights egalitarianism is conspicuously based on the Kantian idea that human beings enjoy  an inherent dignity that compels them to treat each other as an end, preventing from treating any human being as a simple means. A contemporary approach to this issue is ascribed by Dworkin to the “egalitarian plateau” as the “deepest moral assumption” of our time[xxxi]: since each person has an equal intrinsic value, every human being ought thus to be treated with equal respect and be given equal rights.

This principle of treatment as an equal is not to be confused with equal treatment, for it does not imply being entitled to an equal share, but being treated as a free and equal person.

            The inviolability of human rights: equality and non-discrimination

On a normative (European) level, the number of grounds upon which equality is claimed today has significantly increased during the past decades[xxxii]. The premises on which equality is protected range from race to gender, age, religion, language, social origin, sexual orientation, disability, and other status. The development of human rights legislation has been undeniably influenced by the expansion of policies based on equality. However, the enlargement of these policies has a limit: the inviolable core of a human right.

As seen, human rights are universal moral interests recognized by the law. Their inviolability is not based on a given interest but on the certitude that every citizen without exclusion should be able to take advantage from the protection they procure. The inviolability of human rights does not forbid a justified restriction of the right, it precludes a discriminatory exclusion from the protection they grant. Consequently, the concept of equality is used by the inviolability of human rights to justify the adoption of rights to non-discrimination[xxxiii].

Non-discrimination rights are envisioned as the right of citizens not to be treated unfavorably, whether under an equal treatment in different situations or a divergent treatment in similar situations without objective and proportionate reasons. The peculiar circumstance that makes non-discrimination rights distinguishable is their collective dimension: they “protect individuals against inequalities of status that are socially generated by reference to their membership in a structurally disadvantaged group (...). The right and the interest protected are individual but the right is exercised collectively”[xxxiv]. The intention is to safeguard  individuals part of a vulnerable or structurally disadvantaged group from exclusion (social equality) and to promote their integration (political equality). Non-discrimination policies aim at preventing situations of segregation.

Despite the popular assumption that equality and non-discrimination are two sides of the same coin, sustained both by international human rights treaties and human rights monitoring bodies, it is not clear whether these terms can be used interchangeably. In my opinion, non-discrimination rights could be perceived as the means to achieve the ultimate goal: equality.

A process of cogitation

I do not feel entitled, nor capable of offering a unique answer regarding the relationship between human rights and equality, mainly because, I believe, there is none. As demonstrated, the concept of equality is complex and has, at least, as many associations with the notion of human rights as theories about its own content. It is for this reason that I dedicate the upcoming pages to develop what I call a 'process of cogitation', by which I intend to shed light on the topic, probably by raising more questions than answers. The process includes personal criticisms to the uses of equality, gathers objections of renowned thinkers and advocates for an evolution of the proposed question.

            A historical perspective: from Aristotle to Nussbaum

Aristotle thought that humans were essentially unequal. The greek philosopher developed a postulate that defended that equals are appropriately treated equally whereas unequals are appropriately treated unequally[xxxv], a belief to which Thomas Christiano would later refer as the “generic principle of justice”[xxxvi]. Despite that, Martha Nussbam cultivated her theory on human capabilities based on the Aristotelian approach to equality, which is also built on the alleged obligation of States to provide each person with what they need to become capable of living flourishing human lives. Obviously, in accordance to the time when he lived, Aristotle did not include every person in his theory, since he perceived a 'person' as the rich predominant white male of his epoch. Later on, during the XVIIth-XVIIIth centuries, a very powerful new approach appeared: the social contract theory, covered, among others, by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, “inspired by the background culture of feudalism, where all opportunities were distributed unequally to people according to their class inherited wealth and status[xxxvii]”. In this sense, Hobbes rejected the notion of humans having any intrinsic worth at all: “The value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price and therefore is not absolute but a thing dependent on the need and judgment of another”[xxxviii]

The social contract theory seeks to imagine a fanciful scenario in which human beings are deprived of all inherited advantages and placed in what they refer to 'State of Nature' where their assets would come down to their natural body (including their inborn physical advantages) and tries to imagine which sort of agreements they would reach. Both Lock and Hobbes agreed that the State of Nature is a state of perfect freedom and equality. Howbeit, while Hobbes reads equality as a human ability to obtain power and satisfy individual desires[xxxix], Locke sees  equality under the State of Nature as a restriction: no one is entitled to force submission over anybody else[xl]. In this regard, contravening the Hobessian method which would indeflectibly lead to a situation of inequality, Rousseau affirms that “since the bonds of servitude are formed merely by the mutual dependence of men on one another and the reciprocal needs that unite them, it is impossible to make any man a slave, unless he be first reduced to a situation in which he cannot do without the help of others: and, since such a situation does not exist in a State of Nature, everyone is there his own master, and the law of the strongest is of no effect[xli]”.

These authors committed the same mistake as Aristotle did: they operated with a set of ill-founded assumptions; “they assumed that the parties of this contract are, de facto, roughly equal in physical and mental power[xlii]”. Social contract theorists cannot elude dealing with the innate problems derived from physical asymmetry when striving to reach a state of equality. It does not only concern physical and mental (in terms of capabilities) disabled people; “it concerns us all thus we all have been children with our inherent undeveloped capabilities[xliii]”.

            Class and citizenship: the Marxian and Arendtian objection

For Marx, (human) rights are both political and social creations of the State and the law. Far from establishing equality among their citizens, they promote narrow class interests and subject the working classes[xliv]. While Marx substantiates this idea through a juxtaposition with his shared idea of 'class struggle'[xlv], affirming that rights have promoted bourgeois class interests, Arendt highlights that (human) rights have served to protect the citizen, an assumption shared by Buchanan: “Equality of citizens may be more robust than equality among persons in general”[xlvi].

Under a modern human rights-based approach, Arendt's suggestion is much more powerful: whereas Marx's idea has been partially solved with the proliferation of economic, social and cultural rights, we still face the problem of assigning equal rights to persons. This issue is particularly worrisome when it comes to properly allocate the (human) rights of foreigners, refugees and stateless persons. Arendt puts it best when she affirms that “it seems that a man who is nothing other but a man has lost the very qualities which make it possible for others to treat him as a fellow man”[xlvii]. Certainly, these cases entail an additional difficulty: they do not entirely depend on the will of the State, it requires from international cooperation.

Even if the ultimate goal is to achieve equality, the narrative surrounding human rights induces to certain inequality, hence it masks an obvious intolerance of the difference. In order to validate this harsh assumption, one needs to ascertain a presupposition which fails to exist. For this case, one can argue that a human being has rights only if he/she carries within him/her the idea of the 'other' human being, so that he/she, in turn, can be treated as a human being by the 'other(s)'[xlviii]. Consequently, for rights to effectively exist, they require from the recognition of the 'other' as our same: anyone who misses to be perceived as an 'other' is condemned to be less than a human being. In this scenario, it is entirely up to the State to safeguard equality between its citizens through policies that would prevent segregation by gender, race, economic status, etc.

For the above-mentioned reasons, I rest assured that there is a need to walk away from the erroneous Aristotelian notion of equality. To imply that we are supposed to treat with respect those who look like us and treat differently those who contrast with us is to impose exclusiveness, rather than inclusiveness[xlix]. Even if we are effectively not born equal, “we become equal as members of a group on the strength of our decision to guarantee ourselves mutually equal rights”[l]. I do not believe that the conviction of the existence of equal human rights can be rationally justified, and it doesn't have to because it is something to which we arbitrarily commit ourselves[li].

            The preponderance of equality over (other) human rights

When it comes to the interrelation between human rights and equality, many authors have criticized the inherent problem that the multiple meanings of equality brings to this matter. Among the different notions of the concept of equality, there are two that become very relevant when discussing the prevalence of human rights on a normative level. These notions are, for the purpose of this essay, essentially concomitant. A first one relates to the fact that there ought to be an assertive equality between all human rights, preventing from an automatic prioritization between fundamental rights on a normative level. Under this conception of equality, clashes between human rights happen and a balance is often necessary in order to solve the given case. A second scenario comprises the equilibrium between the right to equality and other fundamental rights. The second suggested conception involves an inter-right conflict; it deals with the doubt that the right to equality should take precedence over the other fundamental rights[lii]. Taking into account the principles of interrelatedness, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights stated in the Vienna Declaration of 1993, a prioritization of certain human rights over others is not possible. Nevertheless, some scholars defend the preponderance of the right to equality arguing that the raison d'être of the principle of non-discrimination is to delineate the precise content of each human right, “of which it constitutes the initial premise to a certain degree”[liii].

Such an approach would then proceed to terminate the dispute: the right to equality is hierarchically superior to other fundamental rights insofar as a guarantor of the content of the conflicted right. This position reflects the unfathomable legal, political and philosophical debate about whether equality should have a preeminent status over freedom.

Not every human right conciliates its content with the notion of equality, though. Following a Marxist critique to human rights, it seems obvious to notice the challenge that the right to property does to the pledge contained in many human right treaties to equal exercise and enjoyment of the rights comprised[liv]. The right to property and its inherent asymmetric distribution under the current predominant economic system embodies the confrontation between a well-established universal human right and the principle of equality.

            A necessary evolution: from equality to equity

Equity is a legal concept closely related to the notion of justice. It goes beyond the letter of the law and is “considered part of natural law/natural justice”[lv]. Equity seeks to achieve equality avoiding a literal reading of the law; it corrects or supplements the law by considering the individual circumstances of the case[lvi]. In order to attain equality, equity acknowledges the use of reason to bring justice to the law and, by extension, “allows the spirit of the law to override the letter of the law”[lvii]. Equity deals therefore with the willingness to give to each human being that which he/she deserves, “to each according to her needs”[lviii]. This can be done through a wider interpretation of the provisions contained in the law. Certainly, the big dilemma is to specify to whom would compete taking such decisions (any given judge?); a great difficulty in democratic societies governed by civil law systems.

Equity is essential in terms of granting everyone with the same opportunities. Ensuring equity is thus a prerequisite to the enjoyment of equality. This idea notes the flaws of the social contract theory and the illusion of a state of nature. If this utopian theory was to be real, it wouldn't require from equity: giving everyone the opportunities would be in accordance with a just and equal start. Nonetheless, equality as a human right, only reinforces inequalities, since it fails to consider the mental and physical capabilities of the individual, as well as its social status in terms of economic heritage.

In conclusion, a human rights-based approach to equality can only be acquired through equity: equality is the natural consequence of equity the same way that inequality is the product of having inequity.

A final rumination

The principle of equality is prior to the construction of human rights. Even if equality is widely recognized by the regnant contemporary discourse as an integral part of human rights, I tend to interpret the modern rhetoric on human rights -not their content- as an asocial construction carefully imposed by the ruling military powers that serves a given economic ideology. Howbeit, the expansion in popularity of the human rights discourse, as a way to codify justice, has been also historically fueled by the indignation of the outraged in the injury of their human dignity[lix].These assertions do not contradict the fact that human rights have effectively become the most prominent way of giving substance to the basic equality of human beings[lx].

Notwithstanding the evidence that international human rights treaties prescribe that all human being are equal to one another, they do not pronounce this claim incontestably. In fact, it is possible to misinterpret the term 'equal' as a relative concept rather than an absolute one, denoting that there can be various scales of 'equal'-ness. Once this misconception has taken place, there is no more ridiculousness in affirming that someone is 'more equal' than saying that someone is 'more attractive'.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell - Animal Farm.

Autor: Kevin Toro Sánchez, participa en el Máster Europeo (E.MA) en Derechos Humanos y Democratización en el EIUC.

[i]    Shutfan, Claudio. “Equity and equality are not equivalent: they cannot either be reduced to simple risk factors, as is often done in human rights talk. (Part 1 of 2)”, 2013, (available at:

[ii]   This principle is stated in both the Preamble and Article 1.2 of the UN Charter, as well as in the Preamble and Article 1 of the UDHR.

[iii]   Aristotle, referencing Plato. “Nicomachean Ethics”, V.3. 1131a10-b15; Politics, III.9.1280 a8-15, III. 12. 1282b18-23, as mentioned in Gosepath, Stephan; “Equality” in 'Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy' (available at:

[iv]   Aristotle, “Nicomachean Ethics”, 1130b-1132b; cf. Plato, Laws, VI.757b-c, as mentioned in Gosepath, Stephan; “Equality”, supra.

[v]   Kant, Immanuel. “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals”, 1785.

[vi]   Gosepath, Stefan. “The Principles and the Presumption of Equality” in Fourie, Carina; Schuppert, Fabian and Walliman-Helmer, Ivo; 'Social equality. On what it means to be equals', 2014, Oxford University, 167.

[vii]  Dworkin, Ronald. “What Is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources”, 1981, Philosophy & Public Affairs 10, no. 4, 283-345.

[viii] Further notes on the transcendence political equality can be found in: Scheffler, Samuel. “Choice, Circumstances and the Value of Equality”, Politics, Philosophy & Economics 4, no. 1 (2005): 5-28.

[ix]   Nussbaum, Martha. “Frontiers of justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership”, 2007, The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Harvard University Press.

[x]   Scheffler, Samuel. “What is Egalitarianism?”, 2003, Philosophy and Public Affairs 5-39.

[xi]   Buchanan, Allen. “Beyond Humanity?”, 2011, Oxford University Press, 233.

[xii]  Buchanan, Allen. “Moral Status and Human Enhancement”, 2009, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 378.

[xiii] Buchanan, Allen. “Moral Status and Human Enhancement”, supra, 379.

[xiv] More on the concept of distributive justice in Dworkin, Donald. “Sovereign Virtue. The Theory and Practice of Equality”, 2002, Harvard University Press.

[xv]  Williams, Bernard. “The Idea of Equality,” in Philosophy, Politics and Society, series II, ed. P. Laslett and W. G. Runciman, 1962, (Oxford), 116.

[xvi] Holder, Cindy and Reidy, David. “Human Rights the Hard Questions”, 2013, Cambridge Univeristy Press, 11.

[xvii] Raz, Joseph. “On The Nature of Rights”, 1984, in Mind XCIII (370), 194-214.

[xviii]       Besson, Samantha. “The Egalitarian Dimension of Human Rights”, 2012,  Archiv für Sozial- und Rechtsphilosophie, 40.

[xix] Cohen, Jean Louise. “Rethinking Human Rights, Democracy and Sovereignty in the Age of Globalization”, 2008, 36:4 Political Theory, 585.

[xx]  Dworkin, Ronald. “Taking Rights Seriously”, 1977, Harvard University Press, 198.

[xxi] Besson, Samantha. “The Egalitarian Dimension of Human Rights”, supra, 26.

[xxii] Besson, Samantha. “The Egalitarian Dimension of Human Rights”, supra, 30.

[xxiii]       See “The dwarf case”. UN Human Rights Committee, Manuel Wackenheim v. France, Communication No. 854/1999, 15 July 2002, UN Doc CCPR/C/75/D/854/1999.

[xxiv]       Besson, Samantha. “The Egalitarian Dimension of Human Rights”, supra, 33.

[xxv] McCrudden, Christopher. “Thinking about the discrimination directives”, 2005, European Anti-Discrimination Law Review, No. 1, 17-22.

[xxvi]       Vickers, Lucy. “Equality and Human Rights: New Grounds for Concern” in 'Equality and Human Rights: Nothing but Trouble?', 2013, Utrecht University, 359-376.

[xxvii]      Among other texts, in Loenen, Titia. “The headscarf debate: approaching the intersection of sex, religion and race under the ECHR and EC equality law”, in Schiek, Dagmar and Chege, Victoria; 'European Union Non-Discrimination Law. Comparative Perspectives on Multidimensional Equality Law', 2009, Routledge-Cavendish, 313-328.

[xxviii]      Petrova, Dimitrina. “Commentary on The Declaration of Principles on Equality: A Contribution to International Human Rights”, 59, (available at:

[xxix]       Barnard, Catherine and Hepple, Bob. “Substantive Equality”, 2000, Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 59, No. 3, 562-585.

[xxx] Collins, Hugh. “Discrimination, Equality and Social Inclusion”, Modern Law Review, Vol. 66, No. 1, 2003, 16-43.

[xxxi]       Dworkin, Ronald. “The Original Position”, 1973, University of Chicago Law Review, 40, no. 3 532.

[xxxii]      For a deeper understanding of the concept of equality and the meaning attributed to it in European Community law, see page 10 and following in: McCrudden, Christopher. “The New Concept of Equality”, 2003, (available at:

[xxxiii]      For further information on the concept of discrimination, see Lippert-Rasmussen, Kasper. “Born Free and Equal? A philosophical inquiry into the nature of discrimination”, 2014, Oxford University Press.

[xxxiv]      Besson, Samantha. “The Egalitarian Dimension of Human Rights”, supra, 46-47.

[xxxv]      As stated by Pojman, Louis in “On Equal Human Worth: A Critique of Contemporary Egalitarianism” in Pojman, Louis and Westmoreland, Robert; 'Equality: Selected Readings', 1997, Oxford University Press, 282.

[xxxvi]      Christiano, Thomas. “A Foundational for Egalitarianism” in Holtug, Nils and Lippert-Rasmussen, Kasper; 'Egalitarianism: New Essays on the Nature and Value of Equality',  2007, Oxford University Press, 41-82.

[xxxvii]     Nussbaum, Martha. “Examined Life”, 2008, directed by Astra Taylor (available at:

[xxxviii]    Hobbes, Thomas. “Leviathan, 1651, With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668, ed. by Edwin Curley, Indianapolis: Hackett 1994, Chapter X, §16.

[xxxix]      Hobbes, Thomas. “Leviathan, supra, 76.

[xl]   Locke, John. “The Second Treatise of Government”, 1690, ed. C.B. MacPerson, Indianapolis: Hackett 1980.

[xli]  Rousseau, Jean Jacques. “What is the Origin of Inequality among Mankind and is it justified by Natural Law?” in 'On the Inequality among Mankind: Reply to a topic set by the Academy of Dijon in 1751', 20.

[xlii] Nussbaum, Martha. “Examined Life”, supra.

[xliii] Ibidem.

[xliv] Marx, Karl. “On the Jewish Question”, 1977 in Early Texts, tr. by McLellan, David. Oxford University Press.

[xlv] The concept of 'class struggle' or 'class conflict' is central to the work of other thinkers of the time, such as his colleague Friedrich Engels or the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin.

[xlvi] Buchanan, Allen. “Equality and human rights”, 2005, Politics, Philosophy & Economics, (4) 1, 69-90.

[xlvii]       Arendt, Hannah. “The Origins of Totalitarianism”, 1966, 10th ed, Medina, 300.

[xlviii]      Hardwick, Nicola-Ann. “Theoretically Justifying Human Rights: A Critical Analysis”, 2012, 13 (available at:

[xlix] Hardwick, Nicola-Ann. “Theoretically Justifying Human Rights: A Critical Analysis”, supra, 5.

[l]    Arendt, Hannah. “The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man”, 1951, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Penguin, 147.

[li]   Nielsen, Kai. “Equality and Liberty: A Defense of Radical Egalitarianism”, 1984, Rowan and Littlefield Publishers, 23.

[lii]   For a profound understanding of this topic at European level, see: Bribosia, Emmanuelle and Rorive, Isabelle. “In search of a balance between the right to equality and other fundamental rights”, report from the European Network of Legal Experts in the Non-Discrimination Field for the European Commission.

[liii]  Stuart, Alison. “Back to Basics: Without Distinction - A Defining Principle?” in Brems, Ev;. 'Conflicts Between Fundamental Rights', 2008, Antwerp-Oxford-Portland, 101-130.

[liv]  More about the Marxian perspective can be found in: Zigedy, Zoltan. “Human Rights: A Marxian Perspective”, 2013, (available at:

[lv]   Shutfan, Claudio. “Equity and equality are not equivalent: they cannot either be reduced to simple risk factors, as is often done in human rights talk. (Part 1 of 2)”, supra.

[lvi]  Lauchs, Mark. “Justice and equity v mercy”, 2005, Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics 12th Annual Conference 28-30 September 2005.

[lvii] Ibidem

[lviii] Marx, Karl. “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, 1875, Die Neue Zeit.

[lix]  Habermas, Jürgen. “The Concept of Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights”, 2010, Metaphilosophy, Vol. 41, No. 4, 464-480.

[lx]   Tasioulas, John. “Justice, Equality and Rights”, in Crisp, Roger; 'The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics', 2013.

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