Equality: Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is Equality?
  • 1:55 Types Of Equality And Examples
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Through this lesson, you will learn how to define the concept of equality, learn some of the types that exist, and come to understand why equality is so often difficult to uphold in diverse societies.

What is Equality?

Though it may seem easy to define, the concept of equality might just be one of the most difficult things that people around the world grapple with on a daily basis. To add to that confusion, equality can have different meanings depending on the field of study or area in which it's being used. Given that, we'll tighten the scope a bit and look at the ways that equality is applied and understood in society.

Equality is quite simply defined as two or more things being of equal state, appearance, or value. As a concept or theory, this seems rather straightforward and easy to understand. But, when the idea of equality is applied to people, the concept becomes much stickier.

The United States Declaration of Independence, for example, contains in its preamble the following statement: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…' This statement suggests that, in the eyes of those who wrote the document, every citizen of the newly formed United States was to be treated the same as every other citizen around them. This means that, theoretically, they all should have had equal access to employment, equal opportunities to purchase and own land, equal treatment in society, and so on.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal
U.S. Declaration of Independence

I should point out that during this time in American culture when someone used a phrase like 'all men' it is widely accepted that this category also included women. Nevertheless, most people don't need a well-developed understanding of American history to know that this statement from the Declaration of Independence was simply untrue. Some individuals were considered equal in society, but many others, such as women and African Americans, were absolutely not considered to be the equal of middle-class white men and, as such, were not afforded the same opportunities. This example, from the Declaration of Independence, demonstrates how the simple concept of equality - of all people being considered equal in every way - can become a complicated idea that doesn't always work out as easily as the definition would suggest.

Types of Equality and Examples

As I've said, there are a number of different types of equality, and they can often be understood differently depending on the context in which they are being used. Let's look at a few of these types, and explore some examples that can provide insight into their complexity.

Social equality is the belief that all people should be given equal opportunity to take advantage of aspects of society, such as jobs or membership in clubs, and no person should have an advantage over another. For example, if there were four candidates for the same job, social equality dictates that the only elements that should be taken into consideration are experience and knowledge and skill level. In a perfect world, this would be true; however, there are countless examples of lawsuits that determined that a person was passed over for a job because of their race, gender, or economic status.

Political equality is the idea that all people should have access to the political process, and equal opportunity to run for any political office. This is fairly self-explanatory and generally applied in democratic countries. However, while it is more realistic than other types of equality, in many countries there are minimum age requirements for certain political offices, which means that it is not a truly equal process.

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