Equality of autonomy

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Equality of autonomy is a concept from political philosophy advocated by Amartya Sen which suggests that societies should strive to help individuals have an equal chance at autonomy or empowerment. This means people should have "the ability and means to choose our life course" which should be "spread as equally as possible across society."[1] It is an equal shot at empowerment rather than equal goods or equal chances. The concept has a slightly different emphasis from related notions about equality, such as the value of having equal treatment without discrimination or prejudice in places such as the work world, generally known as equality of opportunity, and having equal material wealth, generally known as equality of outcome. Equality of autonomy is best thought of as "equality in the degree of empowerment people have to make decisions affecting their lives" and strives to spread this empowerment widely so that people have more "choice and control ... given their circumstances."[2] According to one view, Sen's approach requires "active intervention of institutions like the state into people's lives" but with an aim towards "fostering of people's self-creation rather than their living conditions."[3] Sen argued that "the ability to convert incomes into opportunities is affected by a multiplicity of individual and social differences that mean some people will need more than others to achieve the same range of capabilities."[4]

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  1. ^ Sunder Katwala (21 October 2010). "It's equality of life chances, not literal equality, that the left espouses". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-07-15. "Mostly, the modern democratic liberal-left argues for more equal life chances. Amartya Sen calls this equality of autonomy: that the ability and means to choose our life course should be spread as equally as possible across society. Clearly, it would then be pointless to eradicate every difference that resulted." 
  2. ^ "Equality Impact Assessments". Hull Teaching Primary Care. 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2011-07-15. "Equality of autonomy - that is, equality in the degree of empowerment people have to make decisions affecting their lives, how much choice and control they have given their circumstances." 
  3. ^ Todd May (2008). "The political thought of Jacques Rancière: creating equality". The Pennsylvania State University Press. Retrieved 2011-07-15. "(equality of autonomy) Amartya Sen has developed a theory of distributive justice that, like Rawls', requires the active intervention of institutions like the state into people's lives, but like Nozick's, aims that intervention at the fostering of people's self-creation rather than their living conditions. For Sen, the proper focus of a theory of justice is on what he calls capabilities, and he defines those capabilities on the basis of what he calls functionings." 
  4. ^ Anne Phillips (2004). "Defending Equality of Outcome". Journal of Political Philosophy. pp. 1–19. Retrieved 2011-07-15.