Luck vs. Capability? Testing Egalitarian Theories

Akira Inoue*, Kazumi Shimizu, Daisuke Udagawa, Yoshiki Wakamatsu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The issue of distributive justice receives substantial amount of attention in our society. On the one hand, we are sensitive to whether and the extent to which people are responsible for being worse off. On the other hand, we are mindful of society’s worst-off members. There has been a debate over luck egalitarianism, which relates to the former concern, and relational egalitarianism, which echoes the latter. By investigating the psychological processes of these two concerns, this paper examines the reliability of the argument that Elizabeth Anderson, a renowned relational egalitarian, presents against luck egalitarianism and for relational egalitarianism. It also considers whether it is possible to support luck egalitarianism and relational egalitarianism simultaneously, using an online experiment. The results of the experiment show that, first, for ordinary people, the luck consideration is as important as the basic capabilities consideration. Second, while real people consider the degree of compensation through the factors of causality (the degree of chosen results) and responsibility (the degree of responsibility for the consequences), the lack of basic capabilities directs them to determine how much victims of bad luck should be compensated. This suggests that pluralist egalitarianism is on the right track.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-823
Number of pages15
JournalReview of Philosophy and Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1


  • Elizabeth Anderson
  • Luck egalitarianism
  • Online experiment
  • Relational egalitarianism
  • The harshness objection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy


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