Egalitarianism (from French égal, meaning 'equal') – or equalitarianism[1][2] – is a school of thought that prioritizes equality for all people.[3] Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status.[4] Egalitarianism is a trend of thought in political philosophy. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term has two distinct definitions in modern English:[5] either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social and civil rights;[6] or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people, economic egalitarianism, or the decentralization of power. Some sources define egalitarianism as the point of view that equality reflects the natural state of humanity.[7][8][9]


Some specifically focused egalitarian concerns include communism, legal egalitarianism, luck egalitarianism, political egalitarianism, gender egalitarianism, racial equality, equality of outcome and Christian egalitarianism. Common forms of egalitarianism include political and philosophical.

Legal egalitarianism

One argument is that liberalism provides democratic societies with the means to carry out civic reform by providing a framework for developing public policy and thus providing the right conditions for individuals to achieve civil rights.[10]

Equality of person

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 and the United States Constitution use only the term "person" in operative language involving fundamental rights and responsibilities, except for (a) a reference to "men" in the English Bill of Rights regarding men on trial for treason; and (b) a rule of proportional Congressional representation in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

As the rest of the Constitution, in its operative language the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution uses the term "person" stating, for example, that "[...] nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws".

Equality of men and women in rights and responsibilities

An example of this form is the Tunisian Constitution of 2014 which provides that "men and women shall be equal in their rights and duties".

Gender equality

The motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" was used during the French Revolution and is still used as an official motto of the French government. The 1789 Rights of Man and of the Citizen French Constitution is framed also with this basis in equal rights of mankind.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States is an example of an assertion of equality of men, the wording of "men" and "man" is a reference to both men and women i.e. "mankind" all men are created equal". John Locke is sometimes considered the founder of this form.

Many state constitutions in the United States also use "rights of man" language rather than "rights of person" since the noun "man" has always been a reference to and an inclusion of both men and women.[citation needed]

It is generally accepted by egalitarians that feminism falls under egalitarianism and that some feminists identify themselves as egalitarian which under the correct definition of the word is equality for both men and women.

Social egalitarianism

At a cultural level, egalitarian theories have developed in sophistication and acceptance during the past two hundred years. Among the notable broadly egalitarian philosophies are socialism, communism, social anarchism, libertarian socialism, left-libertarianism, and progressivism, some of which propound economic egalitarianism. Several egalitarian ideas enjoy wide support among intellectuals and in the general populations of many countries. However, whether any of these ideas have been significantly implemented in practice remains a controversial question. Anti-egalitarianism[11] or elitism[12] is opposition to egalitarianism.


A very early example of equality of what might be described as outcome economic egalitarianism is the Chinese philosophy of agriculturalism, which held that the economic policies of a country need to be based upon an egalitarian self sufficiency.[13]

In socialism, social ownership of means of production is sometimes considered to be a form of economic egalitarianism because in an economy characterized by social ownership, the surplus product generated by industry would accrue to the population as a whole as opposed to a class of private owners, thereby granting each individual increased autonomy and greater equality in their relationships with one another. Although the economist Karl Marx is sometimes mistaken to be an egalitarian, Marx eschewed normative theorizing on moral principles altogether. However, Marx did have a theory of the evolution of moral principles in relation to specific economic systems.[14]

The American economist John Roemer has put forth a new perspective of equality and its relationship to socialism. Roemer attempts to reformulate Marxist analysis to accommodate normative principles of distributive justice, shifting the argument for socialism away from purely technical and materialist reasons to one of distributive justice. Roemer argues that according to the principle of distributive justice, the traditional definition of socialism based on the principle that individual compensation be proportional to the value of the labour one expends in production is inadequate. Roemer concludes that egalitarians must reject socialism as it is classically defined in order for equality to be realized.[15]

Egalitarianism and non-human animals

Many philosophers, including Ingmar Persson,[16] Peter Vallentyne,[17] Nils Holtug,[18] and Lewis Gompertz[19] have argued that egalitarianism implies that the interests of non-human animals must be taken into account as well. Philosopher Oscar Horta has further argued that "Egalitarianism implies rejecting speciesism, and in practice it prescribes ceasing to exploit nonhuman animals" and that we should aid animals suffering in nature.[20] Furthermore, Horta argues that "because [nonhuman animals] are worse off in comparison to humans, egalitarianism prescribes giving priority to the interests of nonhuman animals."[20]

Religious and spiritual egalitarianism


The Sikh faith was founded upon egalitarian principles, reaffirming the notion of equality not only based upon race, but also between the genders. This equality led to denunciation of sati, the practice of widows sacrificing themselves on the funeral pyres of deceased husband, but which actually occurred due to the wives of warriors preferring to commit self-immolation over becoming the bounty of war for the Central Asians that were waging wars in India and Afghanistan during the early Ghazni wars.[citation needed] The scriptural injunction is often ascribed as providing women in the Sikh faith equal rights to practice their faith and be regarded as created equal in the eyes of God. Whilst the noble premise to strive for egalitarianism, many Sikhs still practice strong tribal casteism, with greater rigidity than the Hindu archetype from which the practice was inherited.[21] Despite the rhetoric of equality, scholars have "found contradictions in the Sikh rhetoric of equality and widespread discrimination against Sikh's of low castes".[21] Furthermore, despite many Sikh scholars decreeing the egalitarian tenets of Sikhism, denouncing sexism, female infanticide, dowry, sati or the condemning of widows to a life of solitude and isolation—the reality is these practices have remained prevalent whilst they have long fallen out of favour with the other ethnocultural religious groups in the Indian continent, like Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.[22]


The Christian egalitarian view holds that the Bible teaches the fundamental equality of people of all racial and ethnic mixes, all economic classes and all age groups, but within the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, God and the overarching principles of scripture.[23]

Within the wide range of Christianity there are dissenting views to this from opposing groups, some of which are complementarians. There are many[who?] that say that the Bible encourages equality and also encourages law and order and social structure (for example, parents having authority over their children and husbands authority over their wives). These ideas are considered by some[who?] to be contrary to the ideals of egalitarianism.


Judaism is a universalist religion due to the belief that one God created the entire universe. A further distinction has to be made however. Judaism teaches that Jews (defined as either the biological descendants of Jacob "Israel", the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham or someone who converted) have a specific covenant with God as a chosen people (Deutoronomy 7:6 "chosen as God's treasured people") to serve as an example of God's light to the rest of the world. The oral Torah and Rabbinic literature codified in the Talmud makes key distinctions in religious and legal contexts between Jews and the gentiles (literally, "the nations"). However, Judaism teaches that all people are the creations of God and are commanded in the seven universal moral laws known as the Seven Laws of Noah. In this aspect, Judaism is universalist in its divine message, but not in its religious obligations. In reform and conservative Judaism, egalitarian refers to nullification of religious gender separations. Synagogues that identify as egalitarian allow mixed seating (i.e. no mechitza) and allow women to lead services with men in attendance as well as read publicly from the Torah.


The Islamic stance on equality stresses that all humans are equal in the eyes of God, regardless of gender, class and race. The Quran states: "O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted". Louise Marlow's Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Islamic Thought compares the egalitarianism of early Islam to current practice.[24]

Modern egalitarianism theory

Modern egalitarianism is a theory that rejects the classic definition of egalitarianism as a possible achievement economically, politically and socially. Modern egalitarianism theory (or  "new egalitarianism") outlines that if everyone had the same opportunity cost, then there would be no comparative advances and no one would gain from trading with each other. In essence, the immense gains people receive from trading with each other arise because they are unequal in characteristics and talents—these differences may be innate or developed so that people can gain from trading with each other.[25]

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العربية: مساواتية
asturianu: Igualitarismo
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български: Егалитаризъм
bosanski: Egalitarizam
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한국어: 평등주의
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hrvatski: Egalitarizam
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日本語: 平等主義
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polski: Egalitaryzm
português: Igualitarismo
русский: Эгалитаризм
Simple English: Egalitarianism
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Soomaaliga: Sinaansho
српски / srpski: Егалитаризам
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svenska: Egalitarism
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粵語: 平等主義
中文: 平等主義