in: Natalie Stoljar and Kristin Voigt (eds.): Autonomy and Equality - Relational Approaches, New York: Routledge 2022, pp. 103-124.
One key insight of work on relational autonomy is that the capacity to be autonomous requires the presence of certain self-regarding attitudes, that self-respect is key among these, and that it in turn depends, in constitutive or causal ways, on the right kinds of social relations. Relational egalitarians often invoke the positive impact of social relations of non-domination and status equality on self-respect as crucial considerations in favour of their views. Thus, relational autonomy and relational equality seem a perfect match.
This chapter investigates whether self-respect indeed constitutively depends on egalitarian social relations, and if so, on which. One reason to doubt this is that self-respect of the kind that enables autonomy needs to display robustness in the face of threats to individuals’ conception of their own worth. This seems to speak against its constitutive dependence on favourable relations. The chapter defuses this objection, and argues that even robust self-respect may constitutively depend on a set of important egalitarian relations. However, these stop short of relations of just overall social equality, and comprise, in particular, supportive relations within local communities and resistance networks, which themselves have to display an egalitarian structure.