Theory of Complex Equality

One of Professor Walzer’s most enthralling assistance to the field of political theory is his prologue of the idea of `complex equality’.
In Spheres of Justice, he describes this notion as: In proper terms, complex equality denotes that no citizen’s position in one sphere or with consideration to one social good can be weakened by his position in some other sphere, with regard to some other good. As a result, Citizen X may be selected over citizen Y for political office, and then the two of them will be imbalanced in the sphere of politics. But they will not be uneven usually so long as X’s office gives him no benefit over Y in any other sphere – superior medical care, way into better schools for his children, entrepreneurial opportunities, and so on (Walzer 1983, 19).
In Spheres of Justice Michael Walzer lists fourteen ‘blocked exchanges’: things which in the USA cannot be bought or sold (Spheres of Justice, 1983, 100-3). He does so out of concern about domination. although his title refers to justice, his target is oppression rather than inequality as such. It lessens domination, Walzer argues, to recognize different spheres — aspects of life in which different principles of distribution are appropriate. Separating these spheres limits the power any one person can acquire. the greatest wealth, for instance, should not be able to buy human beings, political office, criminal justice, and so on.
In fact, of course, money is vastly powerful. If not human beings, it can buy us servants. if not a political office, the attention of elected officials. if not criminal justice, the best lawyer in the country. And every day, it seems, there is more and more that money can buy.
Some of the new commodities are inventive: singing telegrams time-share apartments. even the mortgage itself can be sold. Other new commodities, actual or suggested, are more frightening. In some European countries — Germany for instance -kidney sales have been reported: for a few thousand dollars people have had one kidney surgically removed and implanted in someone else’s body.
Walzer would impede this march towards commodification. His list of blocked exchanges is rough and unorganized, suggestive rather than conclusive. It includes: human beings. political power and influence. criminal justice. freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly. marriage and procreation rights. the right to emigrate. exemptions from military service, jury duty, and other communally imposed work. political office. basic welfare services like police protection and education. desperate exchanges, such as those involved in accepting dangerous work. prizes and honors. divine grace. love and friendship. criminal acts.
He believes the list is complete, but leaves open the possibility that it is not. His general position is that different kinds of goods carry with them different criteria of distribution.
Walzer is not alone in wanting to limit the market. Several theorists have offered other approaches to restricting it. Margaret Jane Radin, for instance, distinguishes personal from the fungible property: the personal property is bound up with one’s being the person one is. it is valued for its own sake and cannot be replaced with money alone.