To what extent have socialists been committed to equality of outcome?

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To what extent have socialists been committed to equality of outcome?

To a large but not full extent socialists have been committed to equality of outcome. This can be interpreted as ‘absolute’, in Marxist terms where all rewards are distributed equality irrespective of labour. Alternatively, ‘relative’ equality, as endorsed by social democrats, involves the redistribution of wealth through the welfare state and a system of progressive taxation. However in recent years social equality has been substituted by social inclusion in Blair’s Third Way. Here the focus was on “hand ups, not hand outs”, as highlighted by Bill Clinton.

Marxists support the principle of absolute equality, arguing that rewards should be distributed equally across society. Social equality underpins community and cooperation. Therefore social equality would come from working together for a common benefit. This would bring about solidarity consequently overriding issues of instability and class conflict. Absolute equality calls for the means of production to be owned by the community under common ownership. This would reduce the inequalities reflected in the unequal structure of society, therefore upholding justice and fairness. Karl Marx believed that absolute equality based on ownership of the means of production would help in the creation of a classless society. This is evidence that some socialist have been committed to equality of outcome.

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However Marx didn’t completely support the theory of absolute equality. This is evident in the theory of needs satisfaction where rewards should be distributed “to each according to his needs”. Here Marx shows recognition that humans have the same basic needs - however some need more than others. A young male's needs, for example, would be less that of a disabled child's. Thus, because their needs are inherently different, it would be unjust to give them the same allowance of wherewithal to achieve a similar standard of living. So, despite the need satisfaction theory, Marxists are still committed to equality ...

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