Bruce Kapferer



The ERC-funded Egalitarianism Project hosted by the University of Bergen aims at a multi-dimensional critical approach to the issue of Egalitarianism. The concept of Egalitarianism is extraordinarily broad, as is the no less nebulous ideal of equality, having virtually ontological value in modern Euro-American thought, increasingly so globally.

While Egalitarianism is conventionally associated with Equality and its opposite Inequality, this Project takes Egalitarianism as an expansive term including going beyond these relatively more reductive terms. These, nonetheless, but especially that of Egalitarianism, are  open to a continually expanding fan of meaning establishing the horizons of a great variety of often competing discourses in the philosophies and numerous more grounded domains of everyday  practice.

Egalitarianism is often virtually synonymous with other ideas, such as advancement and progress.  It is quite explicitly the drive behind or the ideological legitimation for the impetus to dynamics of socio-economic and cultural change as well as myriad social and political criticisms and protest.

The very breadth, virtually all-encompassing, often totalizing and occasionally totalitarian force of the egalitarian idea demands its contextualization and deconstruction which are general aims of the Project. A major direction of the research envisaged here is, then, to open Egalitarianism, as it may have achieved much of its meaning in Euro-American historical contexts, to the potentials of other contexts. These, if in one way or another embraced by egalitarian ideologies or subject to the effects in globalizing realities, may expose or bring to the fore egalitarian/inegalitarian effects and possibilities. Further, an objective of the research is to grasp egalitarian potentials (e.g. the potential for participation in socio-political action) in forms of life that might not ordinarily be conceived (from a Euro-American standpoint) to be egalitarian. The idea here is to open the concept of Egalitarianism and perhaps to expand it through the consideration of other forms of socio-cultural and politico-economic conceptions and practice, thus challenging Euro-American frames of understanding and “ownership” of egalitarian concepts. Here is stressed an approach to Egalitarianism as a broad concept not to be reduced to the concept of equality and further, if possible, de-linked from largely Euro-American connotations or their over-determination. As a beginning strategy Egalitarianism is initially approached in the Project as that which opposes or which breaks open all that which can be conceptualized as confining, oppressive, repressive or restrictive in the cultures (or values) and socio-political orders and structures which human beings institute and live.