The essays in this volume on the subject of equality are the work of scholars at Bard College and West Point. Their research falls within the areas of history, religion, legal theory, social science, ethics and philosophy. The regions covered include the Middle and Far East, Europe, and America; the time periods studied are both contemporary and historical. Each essay is a well-detailed exploration which assumes the reader has no prior acquaintance with the topic.
Together, the studies reveal both conflicting standards of equality as well as patterns of pernicious inequality. In an ideal world, equality and inequality among humans would vary in acceptable proportion, increase of the one ensuring decrease of the other. Unfortunately, as the studies illustrate, any such expectation of progress in the real world is almost routinely thwarted.
Despite the wide variety of topics, a common thread binds these essays. Human nature seems to harbor a moral deficiency lying deeper than any written laws and those traditional customs which promote inequality and breed injustice. The fault is prominent in those who champion unjust laws or who willingly enforce discrimination but it is no less active in the silent many who condone the practice. The essays reveal the same persistent and unappealing trait which social groups from the remote past to the present manifest in various ways: blind determination to perpetuate whatever advantages one group believes it enjoys over another, convinced that its own members are more equal than theirs. Being made unequal, the others too easily become targets who are considered less worthy, sometimes even less human.