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The Society of Equals von [Rosanvallon, Pierre]

The Society of Equals Kindle Edition

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The best available treatment of equality as a condition of the common life.--Michael Ignatieff

In a rich and illuminating work of political theory and historical interpretation, Pierre Rosanvallon traces the rise and fall of the ideal of equality, from the American and French Revolutions to the present. And he argues for reviving equality as a moral and political project. The 'society of equals' he favors is less about redistribution than about recovering commonality as the basis of social relations. At a time when the welfare state has lost its capacity to inspire, Rosanvallon, one of Europe's most distinguished political theorists, offers a way of recasting the case for a more equal society.--Michael J. Sandel, author of "What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets"

The idea of equality often evokes heated passions...Pierre Rosanvallon, one of France's leading public intellectuals, has stepped into this minefield to provide a thoughtful work.
--Daniel Bel-Ami"Financial Times" (09/20/2013)

During the American and French revolutions, striving for liberty and achieving equality were not seen as contradictory. Modern notions of individualism and individual choice have undermined that bond: we pay merely lip service to equality while our body politic has never been less inclined to correct unequal distribution of income and wealth. Rosanvallon warns us what is at stake here: modern democracy will not survive if it avoids the question of equality.--Andreas Hess"Times Higher Education" (01/09/2014)

French political theorist Pierre Rosanvallon takes fresh stock of the ideal of equality in The Society of Equals," an ambitious bid to revive egalitarian thought in a global economy that no longer recognizes any moral or political legitimacy in schemes to redistribute wealth--let alone in more modest efforts to expand access to basic social goods such as health care, housing, or education...Rosanvallon deftly traces the slow collapse of the egalitarian tradition, mainly in the counterposed trajectories of French and American political thought.
--Chris Lehmann"Bookforum" (09/01/2013)

"The Society of Equals" is a work of both history and political philosophy: a sweeping historical analysis of equality since the American and French Revolutions and an effort to reconstruct the understanding of equality for a new age of singularity when everyone wants to be "someone." Does [Rosanvallon] solve the contemporary puzzles about inequality? I don t think so. But he analyzes them in so illuminating a way that anyone interested in understanding and reversing the surge in inequality should read his work Greater economic equality is certainly not inevitable; it will require thought and political organization to make the most of the opportunities that history affords, and Rosanvallon s "Society of Equals "is one of the resources to carry along on that journey.--Paul Starr"New York Review of Books" (05/22/2014)"


Society's wealthiest members claim an ever-expanding share of income and property--a true counterrevolution, says Pierre Rosanvallon, the end of the age of growing equality launched by the American and French revolutions. Just as significant, driving this contemporary inequality has been a loss of faith in the ideal of equality itself.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1703 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 385 Seiten
  • Verlag: Harvard University Press (15. November 2013)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) HASH(0x8f446f00) von 5 Sternen 5 Rezensionen
7 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x8f3773f0) von 5 Sternen A Great Companion Read to the Piketty Book 17. Juli 2014
Von cosita - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The Ronsanvallon book is illuminating of its subject and is an apt companion to the Piketty book, "Capital in the 21st Century". "The Society of Equals" includes an historical analysis of concepts of equality through the ages, and a philosophical framework within which we can begin to understand how society's perception of equality has changed in the past and is likely to change in the future. While both this book and Piketty's book are clear about currently increasing inequality of income and wealth, this book offers new insights in key areas that are thinly covered in Piketty's book. The Piketty book shows that increases or decreases in inequality are a consequence of: (1) ratios of capital, income, growth and savings, (2) politics, and (3) social norms, but says little about the latter two of these causes. Ronsanvallon's book, on the other hand, deals mainly with the politics and social concepts that have shaped equality (and inequality), and offers a way a looking at politics and social norms that may offer a path to a more egalitarian future. Piketty's solution to inequality is fiscal (re-distributive taxation) and he suggests his solution may not be feasible due to politics and social norms. Rosanvallon offers hints that politics and social norms can be shaped to bring about a new consensus on egalitariansim that may be, or contribute to, a solution to increasing inequality.

The book is difficult to read, either because of murky academic language or an awkward translation, or both. Phrases like "the juridicalization of individualism" take a little effort to digest, and this book is full of comparable terminology. I believe Rosanvallon's book was published before Piketty's but Rosanvallon was well aware of, and cites, other works by Piketty and Saez on related subject matter. It would be great to see a sequel to Rosanvallon's book, updating, commenting on and responding to Piketty's work, point by point.
11 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x8f432c78) von 5 Sternen If you are a political scientist you may like this book .... 18. Juni 2014
Von Frequent Reader - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
The book is a political science treatment of efforts to create a "society of equals." I found some parts interesting but most of it was too academic for me. It may be of interest to political scientists, but there is too much detail for a layperson. I think the question of (economic) equality is a mainly a question of how much inequality can exist in a society without the society falling apart. Most people agree that not everybody deserves the same pay. People of high skill or in dangerous occupations deserve higher pay. But when does the ratio of high income over low (or average) income become excessive? There is only a brief reference to such ratios in the book and the problem is treated as one of principles rather than as one of numbers. I found the lack of such an analysis disappointing.

Here is a summary with emphasis on those parts that I found of interest.

Chapter 1 (The Invention of Equality, 63 pages) discusses the efforts to abolish inequalities that were based on the medieval class system where the top class considered themselves different in nature from the rest of the people. Privilege based on birth was to be replaced by a meritocracy. This was a driving force behind the American and French Revolutions of the eighteenth century. The book quotes approvingly writers who stated that "The progress of civilization depends on the number of merchants and artisans with a direct interest in expanding their industry. Conversely, a society in which (most) people live in a state of dependency, tied to the soil and subject to their masters, tends to reproduce itself without change" (p. 28). The main thrust was to achieve legal equality.

Chapter 2 (The Pathologies of Equality, 90 pages) discusses the effects of the industrial revolution and capitalism and the reaction to them. Meritocracy did not result in equality and various solutions were proposed. Communism was one of them and the book provides an interesting discussion of its origins and its inherently totalitarian nature. The book quotes Carbet (p.122) who wrote that there was no need for a pluralistic press because anxiety and opposition would have disappeared in a communist society. There should be only one newspaper per town and it "would be nothing more than the minutes of meetings and would contain only narratives and facts without any commentary by journalists." Another pathology was the introduction of National Protectionism and Xenophobia. The "Us versus Them" attitude reached its high in racism and segregation. The book attributes the absence of socialism in the United States to racism and to discrimination against new immigrants.

Chapter 3 (The Century of Redistribution, 44 pages) deals with the introduction of the progressive income tax in early twentieth century that resulted in what the book calls the Redistribution Revolution. In part, it was a reaction to fear of revolution by the poor. The idea had gained traction in the late nineteenth century: "Revolution can always be avoided by opportune reform" (p. 175). Redistribution policies became stronger after the end of World War II in 1945.

Chapter 4 (The Great Reversal, 46 pages) the reversal of redistribution policies in the late 1980's by introducing "Redistributive Justice" and the focus on distinguishing between luck and merit as factors for inequality and proposing equality of opportunity rather than equality. The book points out (p. 241) that it is hard to justify some inequalities as a result of merit. The ratio of pay between the higher and the lower paid workers is 6:1 for the 99% of the workers. But the average CEO's of major corporations in the U.S. was 150 times the average worker's salary in 1990 while it was 35 times that amount in 1974. The book attributes the recent high ratio to collusion between CEOs and boards of directors.

Chapter 5 (The Society of Equals: A Preliminary Outline, 47 pages) describes the author's proposals for a new policy of equality that is a refinement of Redistribution.

In my view fear of revolution has played a much bigger role than the author assigns to it. In 1945 there was fear of a communist takeover in several countries in Europe. Both Italy and France had strong communist parties and Greece was fighting a civil war against a communist insurrection. By the late 1980's communism has been completely discredited and in 1990 the Soviet Union ceased to exist, so the fear of revolution abated and the "great reversal" followed. What we have now is the rise of populist parties and religious fundamentalism that promise to create a just society. While such movements are at odds with each other and we are not in an immediate danger of a world revolution things are likely to change in the future. Therefore there is a pragmatic reason to introduce policies that attempt to smooth out excessive income differences.

Finally, a minor point. There are numerous references to events (for example, "July monarchy") that may be familiar to a French reader but they are not familiar to most American readers. Explanatory footnotes would have helped.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x8f463bdc) von 5 Sternen Interesting; 3.5 Stars 21. Februar 2015
Von R. Albin - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
An interesting effort combining historical analysis and political theory, aimed at defending or perhaps modernizing the concept of equality. The author is a well known French historian and political theorist. I suspect this book is an effort to produce a shorter, more popular account of a larger body of work. Rosanvallon opens with a short description of the concept of equality in the French and American Revolutions. Rosanvallon argues well that equality was an important goal of both revolutions. This was rooted in the Enlightenment attack on privilege and in Rosanvallon's analysis, aimed at producing a society of "similars," characterized by individual autonomy and citizenship. In this construct, market relations were crucial to undermining established privilege and producing a society in which individuals could interact on a more or less equal footing. I was initially skeptical about some of Rosanvallon's analysis of Enlightenment equalitarianism but this book was favorably reviewed by a real expert on this topic, Gordon Wood, in the American Historical Review. This interesting section is followed by 3 chapters on the historical evolution of equality. Rosanvallon sees the Enlightenment-Revolutionary emphasis on and concepts of equality as undermined by the emergence of industrial capitalism (Rosanvallon uses the term capitalism) which led to novel forms of inequality. In turn, this leads to what he terms of pathologies of equality; ideologies that attempted to use different aspects of the concept of equality to either justify (classical liberalism) or attack (Marxism) or defend (nationalism and economic protectionism) the inequalities of industrial society. At the end of 19th century, there is at least partial success with attempts to restore important aspects of equality via progressive taxation, social insurance, and unionization. These efforts are promoted, at least in Europe, by some of the traumatic events of the 20th century, notably the 2 world wars and the Great Depression. The next chapter deals with the more recent neo-liberal erosion of equality. I found this section to be the least satisfactory in terms of analysis. Towards the end of this chapter, Rosanvallon takes on what is probably his real target, the need for a new adequate theory of equality that updates the Enlightenment-Revolutionary concept and restores equality to its central position. This analysis includes a critique of theories of equality like those developed by the American philosopher Ronald Dworkin. Rosanvallon suggests, in particular, that existing ideas about equality don't take into account the importance of individuals developing their own unique capacities. In a complement to the Enlightenment-Revolutionary concept, he suggests that the 3 pillars of equality should be "singularity, reciprocity, and commonality." What does this mean in practical terms? Rosanvallon is pretty vague, and while he states in the opening of the book that there is no going back to the older welfare state, I suspect this means the return of aggressively progressive taxation and more investment in the social safety net, important features of the welfare state.
HASH(0x8f433f0c) von 5 Sternen Five Stars 11. Oktober 2014
Von Daniel Escobar - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Just excellent.
0 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x8f655e88) von 5 Sternen Five Stars 30. Juli 2014
Von Paula Clarke - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Arrived on time and as promised. Thank you.
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