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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 44, Issue 3, July 2018

Kristin Voigt
Pages 437-467
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201853038

Relational Equality and the Expressive Dimension of State Action

Expressive theories of state action seek to identify and assess the ‘meaning’ implicit in state action, such as legislation and public policies. In expressive theories developed by relational egalitarians, state action must ‘express’ equal concern and respect for citizens. However, it is unclear how precisely we can determine and assess the meaning of what states do. This paper considers how an expressive theory could be developed, given the commitments of a relational account of equality, and how such a theory would relate to relational egalitarianism more broadly. I suggest that expressive considerations should be tied more closely than they are in the current literature to agents’ attitudes and to their intentions. I discuss a range of real-world policies that are problematic for what they can be taken to express.