23 S. Afr. J. on Hum. Rts. 214 (2007)
Redistribution and Recognition: Reconciling Inequalities

handle is hein.journals/soafjhr23 and id is 222 raw text is: REDISTRIBUTION AND
This paper examines the traditional dichotomy between measures addressing socio-eco-
nomic inequalities and those aimed at inequality based on status, such as race, gender,
disability or sexual orientation. Using the conceptual framework of recognition and
redistribution developed by Nancy Fraser and others, I argue that it is no longer tenable
to keep the two spheres separate. Constructing a concept of socio-economic equality
without considering the implications for status-based inequality can be damaging and
ineffective. Conversely, status-based measures are limited by their inability to mobilise
the redistributive measures necessary to make real equality of opportunity and genuine
choice possible. The paper begins by examining the interaction between socio-economic
and status-based equality. I then sketch out a multi-dimensional notion of substantive
equality which attempts to create a synthesis between the aims of both spheres. In the final
part, I make some very tentative suggestions as to how the interpenetration can be more
meaningfully captured in legal frameworks.
In most developed countries, the approach to inequality has developed along
two apparently independent trajectories - socio-economic inequalities, and
what I shall call 'status-based' inequalities, or inequalities due to group based
characteristics such as gender, race or ethnicity. Socio-economic inequal-
ity has generally been regarded as a matter of social policy, to be dealt with
through the political system on the basis of majoritarian politics. Status-based
inequality, by contrast, has generally been constructed in terms of legal rights,
whether at constitutional level or through legislation. Thus socio-economic
inequalities are traditionally addressed by the welfare state, while status-
based inequality has been dealt with by justiciable constitutional equality
guarantees or anti-discrimination laws.
These boundaries have always disguised the extent of interaction between
the two spheres. In particular, the welfare state simultaneously reinforces and
alleviates status-based inequalities, especially in respect of gender. But three
recent developments have put these demarcations under particular strain.
Firstly, it has become clear that status-based discrimination is frequently
Professor of Law, Oxford University. Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. This article has benefited
enormously from the discussions at the workshop 'Equality as a Social Right: Towards a Concept
of Substantive Equality in Comparative and International Law' held at the International Institute for
Sociology of Law, Onati, Spain, 21-23 June 2006. I am also grateful for the helpful comments of
the anonymous reviewer.

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