Summary of A Little Respect

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The French economist Thomas Piketty addressed income inequality in the best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century, while the American philosopher John Rawls opined on political equality in his landmark work A Theory of Justice. According to Brookings senior fellow Richard V. Reeves, policy makers should consider “relational equality, which is earned through respect of oneself and of others.” He examines how a changing work environment affects relational equality and what that means for individuals’ status in society. getAbstract recommends this perceptive report to analysts, officials and anyone interested in the dynamics of equality.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why society should consider “relational equality” in addition to “basic and material equality,”
  • Why material and relational inequality are growing in the United States, and 
  • How leaders can address changes in the labor market that affect relational equality.

About the Author

Richard V. Reeves is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution.



Legislators and scholars have long understood the central aspects of equality. “Basic equality” holds that each person is alike in his or her assertion of fundamental human rights and in terms of legal, political and social governance. A second construct, “material equality,” concerns the distribution of income and wealth in nations and across the world. A third notion, “relational equality,” depends on the intertwined principles of individuals’ “self-respect and mutual respect.” 

Politicians and administrators consider basic and material equality...

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