Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Commentary | Open Access

The Value of Inequality

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Abstract:  Over the last two decades, inclusion and participation have become leading policy concepts within the Dutch chronic care and social welfare sector. People with an intellectual or psychiatric disability ought to get a chance to participate in, and belong to, the mainstream of our society—on the basis of equality and equivalence. Although on an international level this pursuit has been going on for at least five decades, it still raises all kinds of questions and debates. What does it mean if we want people with intellectual and/or psychiatric disabilities to participate in our society? Based on which idea(l)s about humanity do we define equality and equivalence? And by doing so, how much space is left for individual differences? In the following dialogue the two authors navigate the tension between similarity and difference in thinking about—and working towards—more space for marginalized people. In an attempt to withstand the contemporary dominance of equality thinking, marked by a strong focus on tenability and autonomy—and by extension an increasing climate of taboo around vulnerability and dependency—both authors stress the importance of recognizing and valuing difference, while discussing encounters between people with and without a severe intellectual and/or multiple disability.

Keywords:  dependency; (in)equality; encounter; reflection; relational otherness; responsive ethics; severe intellectual and/or multiple disability; space for difference; suspension; vulnerability



© Gustaaf Bos, Doortje Kal. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.