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.


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...

About the Author

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

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