Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan
How should a society of equals be organized? Egalitarians themselves have been divided among three visions: individualism, small-scale communalist or cooperativist systems, and large-scale collectivism. I discuss why, during the 19th century, the dominant trend among egalitarians moved from individualist toward collectivist visions. Economies of scale have played a large role in driving this trend. However, the yearning for autonomy that lies at the root of the egalitarian impulse creates pressure in the other direction. Far from settling on the communalist vision as the best compromise between the two, egalitarians today favor a mix of individualist and collectivist institutions. This lecture will consider why this is so, and discuss some challenges posed by this mixture.