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Is Equal Opportunity Enough?
Spring 2023
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Equal opportunity is a widely shared ideal. Across the political spectrum, it is often held up as an economic model—a way of arranging access to education, work, and wealth—as well as a fundamental value, giving meaning to the notion that all citizens are equal. As Joe Biden put it in his first executive order as president, “equal opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy.”

But is equal opportunity enough? Does it truly capture the meaning of equality? In a neoliberal age that prizes personal responsibility and individual merit, the idea has been increasingly called into question. Taking equality seriously, critics argue, means aiming to ensure that we all live equally flourishing lives—not merely that we have equal shots at upward mobility.

That means rethinking a range of social institutions, from education and land ownership to finance and neighborhood development. Featuring work by philosophers and economists, historians and sociologists, this issue explores the importance of outcomes, not just opportunities.

Contributors: Christine Sypnowich leads a forum with Claude Fischer, Leah Gordon, Ravi Kanbur, Lane Kenworthy, Martin O’Neill, William M. Paris, Anne Phillips, John Roemer, Gina Schouten, Zofia Stemplowska, and Nicholas Vrousalis, plus essays by Kevin P. Donovan, Jo Guldi, Christopher Newfield, and Timothy Weaver.

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