GRE Reading Comprehension
One of the principal of Walzer's critique of liberal capitalism is that it is insufficiently egali-tarian. Walzer's case against the economic inequality generated by capitalism and in favor of " a radical redistribution of wealth " is presented in a widely cited essay entitled " In Defense of Equality ".
The most striking feature of Waizer's critique is that, far from rejecting the principle of reward according to merit, Walzer insists, on its validity. People who excel should receive the superior benefits appropriate to their excellence. But people exhibit a great variety of qualities-" intelligence, physical strength. agility and grace. artistic creativity, mechanical skill. leadership, endurance, memory, psychological insight. the capacity for hard work-even moral strength, sensitivity. the ability to express compassion ". Each deserves its proper recompense. and hence a proper distri-bution of material goods should reflect human differences as measured on all these different scales. Yet, under capitalism, the ability to make money ( " the green thumb of bourgeois society " ) enables its possessor to acquire almost " every other sort of social good ". such as the respect and esteem of others.
The centerpiece of Walzer's argument is the invocation of a quotation from Pascal's Pensees, which concludes:" Tyranny is the wish to obtain by one means what can only be had by another ". Pascal believes that we owe different duties to different qualities. So we might say that infatuation is the proper response to charm, and awe the proper response to strength. In this light, Walzer characterizes capitalism as the tyranny of money (or of the ability to make it) And Walzer advocates as the means of eliminating this tyranny and of restoring genuine equality " the abolition of the power of money outside its sphere " What Walzer envisions is a society in which wealth is no longer convertible into social goods with which it has no intrinsic connection.
Walzer's argument is a puzzling one. After all, why should those qualities unrelated to the production of material goods be rewarded with material goods? Is it not tyrannical, in Pascal's sense, to insist that those who excel in " sensitivity " or " the ability to express compassion " merit equal wealth with those who excel in qualities (such as " the capacity for hard work " ) essential in producing wealth? Yet Waizer's argument, however deficient, does point to one of the most serious weak-nesses of capitalism-namely, that it brings to predominant positions in a society people who, no matter how legitimately they have earned their material rewards, often lack those other qualities that evoke affection or admiration. Some even argue plausibly that this weakness may be irremediable: in any society that, like a capitalist society, seeks to become ever wealthier in material terms disproportionate rewards are bound to flow to the people who are instrumental in producing the increase in its wealth.
The argumentation in the passage turns importantly on the question of what should be the proper relation between
- A "liberal capitalism" (line 2) and "bourgeois society" (lines 20-21)
- B "reward" (line 8) and "recompense" (line 17)
- C "sensitivity" (line 15) and "the ability to express compassion" (lines 15-16)
- D "distribution of material goods" (lines 17-18) and "redistribution of wealth" (lines 4-5)
- E "social goods" (line 37) and "material goods" (line 41)
Correct Answer: E