Equality and Justice

  • Ch. Perelman
  • Harold J. Berman
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 142)


Although the concept of justice seems to be one of the most controversial, since conflicting parties usually claim that their cause alone is just, the concept of equality is capable of a formal and uncontroversial definition. It is tempting to bring the two concepts together and elucidate one by means of the other. Certain popularisers of socialism, such as Bernard Shaw, whose lectures on equality were published in 1971,1 have indeed attempted this. There he treats equality as an ideal to be brought about by the socialist revolution. On page 62 we read ‘Through revolutions we may get the perfect State, the criterion of perfection being equality’. In a lecture given in 1884 with the title ‘The Socialist Movement is only the assertion of our last honesty’, he says that ‘honesty’ means that ‘when one man has worked an hour for another, that other shall work not less than one hour for him (p.1)’. Finally, in a lecture entitled ‘Equality,’ he said ‘Ask the first comer what Socialism is, he will tell you that it is a state of society in which the entire income of the country is divided between all the people in exactly equal shares, without regard to their industry, their character, or any other consideration except the consideration that they are living human beings (p. 155)’.


Distributive Justice Black Student Equal Treatment Socialist Revolution Formal Justice 
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  1. 1.
    G. B. Shaw, Road to Equality. Ten unpublished Lectures and Essays 1887–1914. Beacon Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I. Berlin, ‘Equality,’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 (1956), p. 305.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Harvard University Press, 1971, p. 62.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See in the present volume Chapter 1, pp. 2–6.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., p. 11.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cf. Werner Bockenförde, Der Allgemeine Gleichheitssatz und die Aufgabe des Richters, De Gruyter, Berlin, 1957, pp. 62–63; see my article ‘Egalité et valeurs’, in Egalité I, Bruylant, Brussels, 1971, p. 323.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ch. Perelman
    • 1
  • Harold J. Berman
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre de Philosophie du DroitUniversité Libre de BruxellesBelgium
  2. 2.Harvard UniversityUSA

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