Is equality an ideal of the past? The twentieth century might be dubbed the century where the ideal of equality had the greatest practical and philosophical influence. The idea that all human beings should be treated as equals shaped political movements, public policy and philosophical debate. Equality motivated revolutions and wars, movements and struggles. Problems of equality were central to the development of societies as diverse as the Soviet Union and the United States, Canada and Cuba, South Africa and Britain. The ideal of equality underlay the suffrage movements that extended the vote to propertyless men and women. Equality animated the civil rights movements in the United States and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to give all members of a society the same rights and freedoms. In the postwar era, equality seemed impregnable in both West and East, for all the ideological confrontation of the Cold War. In the capitalist democracies, the welfare state was being forged, with entitlements to health care, unemployment insurance, public education, and welfare. In the countries of the Soviet empire, central planning provided the economic system with which to realise, however ineptly, Marx’s slogan of ‘from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs.’1