Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Rethinking the digital divide: from philanthropy to isonomia..

Duff, Alistair


Alistair Duff


The digital divide has been, at least until very recently, a major theme in policy as well as interdisciplinary academic circles across the world, as well as at a collective global level, as attested by the World Summit on the Information Society. Numerous research papers and volumes have attempted to conceptualise the digital divide and to offer reasoned prescriptive and normative responses. What has been lacking in many of these studies, it is submitted, is a rigorous negotiation of moral and political philosophy, the result being a failure to situate the digital divide - or rather, more widely, information imbalances - in a holistic understanding of social structures of power and wealth. In practice, prescriptive offerings have been little more than philanthropic in tendency, whether private or corporate philanthropy. Instead, a theory of distributive justice is required, one that recovers the tradition of emancipatory, democratic struggle. This much has been said before. What is new here, however, is that the paper suggests a specific formula, the Rawls-Tawney theorem, as a solution at the level of analytical moral-political philosophy. Building on the work of John Rawls and R. H. Tawney, this avoids both the Charybdis of Marxism and the Scylla of liberalism. It delineates some of the details of the meaning of social justice in the information age. Promulgating a conception of isonomia, which while egalitarian eschews arithmetic equality (the equality of misery), the paper hopes to contribute to the emerging ideal of communicative justice in the media-saturated, post-industrial epoch.


Duff, A. (2009). Rethinking the digital divide: from philanthropy to isonomia..

Conference Name New Media & Information: Convergences & Divergences International Conference
Start Date May 6, 2009
End Date May 9, 2009
Acceptance Date Sep 9, 1999
Publication Date 2009-05
Deposit Date Apr 7, 2009
Publicly Available Date May 31, 2009
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
ISBN 9789606746055
Keywords Information imbalance; Social structures; Moral philosophy; Political philosophy;Rawls-Tawney theorem; Legal equality; Communicative justice;
Public URL
Contract Date Apr 7, 2009


Downloadable Citations