Egalitarianism, disability and monistic ideals

Steven R. Smith

in Equality and diversity

Published by Policy Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9781847426079
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302209 | DOI:
Egalitarianism, disability and monistic ideals

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This chapter argues that the medical and social models of disability, while establishing clearly located poles for understanding differing interpretations of disablement, allow for a range of interpretations between these two extremes. In this light, the chapter outlines these several and competing interpretations, to elucidate the different types of claims made by the disability rights movement (DRM) as related to equality and diversity explored in the previous chapters. In this chapter, it is argued that values associated with the condition of being impaired are subsequently conflicting and incommensurable. The central claim is that this lack of comparability is derived from the absence of a singular monistic ideal that measures the worth of these lives. Nevertheless, as explored in this chapter, both the aspects of medical and social models do promote a singular structure to be pursued by all, notably the value of independence considered as an ‘ideal state’ for both disabled and non-disabled people. The main contention is that this elevated ideal of independence based on misplaced essentialist understandings of the human condition, fixes human identity to objectified states of being understood as ‘normal’ and ‘best’, thereby excluding other valuable forms of life than might also be maintained and promoted, and characterised as ‘dependent’ or ‘interdependent’. Finally, this chapter develops arguments on incommensurability or incomparability of lives led, by exploring the positive role pain and suffering can play in a person's life. It argues that while it might be reasonable to want a pain-free happy life, it is also reasonable not to want a painless life either, given that the other values are often legitimately pursued and that they are incommensurate with a happy and a pain-free life.

Keywords: medical models; social models; models of disability; disability rights movement; equality and diversity; monistic ideal; ideal state; ideal of independence; incommensurability

Chapter.  11697 words. 

Subjects: Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility

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