The precepts of equality
In this post, it was queried how equality can be achieved if its very concept is not clear? Thus, an undertaking to examine the theoretical perspectives of equality law would be a challenging one.
When one reads the word equality, it is usually mentioned as part of concepts such as discrimination, disadvantage, prejudice, understanding, distribution and justice, or as equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. A literature review also reveals terms such as liberty, difference and dignity. It can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical; formal, substantive or transformative; egalitarian, libertarian or utilitarian.
To assist an attempt to narrow down this wide-ranging field of options in order to explore which analyses of equality are relevant to the Deaf-World, some form of methodology is required. Westen1 provides such a methodology. He explains that equality is sometimes used as a form of shorthand to refer to certain precepts about equality, that is, certain normative axioms whose truth is said to inhere in or follow from the concept of equality2. This contrasts with concepts of equality, which effectively particularise the precepts. Westen refers to the “formal principle of equality” and the “presumption of equality,” which are, he states, normative statements about how people “should” be treated3.
It is from these statements that a method can be devised, in what is essentially a categorisation exercise of the various concepts of equality. Formal, substantive and transformative equality are thus ‘categories,’ or ‘precepts,’ with distinct aims and standards of measurement, and in an ensuing consideration of the relevant equality analyses to the Deaf-World, it became clear that it was possible to extrapolate which categories each concept of equality was more likely to fit into. Some interpretations of the concepts have inevitably overlapped across two or more precepts, such is the nature of equality discourse.