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Inequality, Relative Deprivation, and the Significance of Choice
The project explores the concept of relative deprivation and the role that the perception of inequality plays in the moral psychology of self-respect.
The working hypothesis is that concept of relative deprivation highlights a crucial aspect of inequality that that it is not reducible to socioeconomic differentials, but it incorporates a subjective perception of one’s position in the social hierarchy.
To this purpose, I propose to distinguish between a psychological and a normative dimension of relative deprivation. The psychological dimension focuses on the psychosocial stress people experience when deprived of status or other positional goods. The normative dimension aims to capture the unfair disadvantage people experience when they are deprived of something they believe to be entitled to.
On this basis, I elaborate on this distinction from the point of view of the theories of distributive justice, by paying particular attention to Rawls’ notion of ‘self-respect'. The stance is that when one’s social status is perceived as unfair with regard to what people may reasonably expect from their life-prospects, distress arises as a response to lack of control over the ability to pursue their plans. This way, relative deprivation undermines the significance of choices by eroding the significance that people attach to their choices.