The culture of toleration in diverse societies

The culture of toleration in diverse societies: Reasonable tolerance

Catriona McKinnon
Dario Castiglione
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The culture of toleration in diverse societies
    Book Description:

    The idea of toleration as the appropriate response to difference has been central to liberal thought since Locke. Although the subject has been widely and variously explored, there has been reluctance to acknowledge the new meaning that current debates on toleration have when compared with those at its origins in the early modern period and with subsequent discussions about pluralism and freedom of expression. This collection starts from a clear recognition of the new terms of the debate. It recognises that a new academic consensus is slowly emerging on a view of tolerance that is reasonable in two senses. Firstly of reflecting the capacity of seeing the other's viewpoint, secondly on the relatively limited extent to which toleration can be granted. It reflects the cross-thematic and cross-disciplinary nature of such discussions, dissecting a number of debates such as liberalism and communitarianism, public and private, multiculturalism and the politics of identity, and a number of disciplines: moral, legal and political philosophy, historical and educational studies, anthropology, sociology and psychology. A group of distinguished authors explore the complexities emerging from the new debate. They scrutinise, with analytical sophistication, the philosophical foundation, the normative content and the broadly political implications of a new culture of toleration for diverse societies. Specific issues considered include the toleration of religious discrimination in employment, city life and community, social ethos, publicity, justice and reason and ethics. The book is unique in resolutely looking forward to the theoretical and practical challenges posed by commitment to a conception of toleration demanding empathy and understanding in an ever-diversifying world.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-045-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: reasonable tolerance
    (pp. 1-10)
    Catriona McKinnon and Dario Castiglione

    Theory and practice are often at odds. Yet there is something particularly strange in the way in which the received theory and the presumed practice of toleration in contemporary societies seem to go their separate ways. Theoretical statements on toleration posit at the same time itsnecessityin democratic societies, and itsimpossibilityas a coherent ideal.¹ In her introduction to a comprehensive collection on tolerance and intolerance in modern life, Susan Mendus aptly makes the point that the commitment that liberal societies have to toleration ‘may be moredifficultand yet moreurgentthan is usually recognised’.² In contrast...

  6. Part I Re-thinking toleration
    • 1 Toleration and reasonableness
      (pp. 13-37)
      Jeremy Waldron

      In the streets of a large city, people drive their cars for different reasons and to different destinations. Because the roads are crowded and because these different journeys cut across each other, with people going different ways through various intersections, there is a potential problem. If two vehicles pass through the same intersection at the same time, there may be a collision, and if there is, one or both of the drivers may fail to reach their destinations. (Indeed, one or both of them may be hurt, maimed or killed and their vehicles damaged, perhaps beyond repair.)

      The point of...

    • 2 The reasonableness of pluralism
      (pp. 38-53)
      Matt Matravers and Susan Mendus

      In ‘The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus’, John Rawls remarks that the aims of political philosophy depend upon the society it addresses, and that modern, democratic societies are characterised by ‘the fact of pluralism’: they are societies in which different people have different and conflicting comprehensive conceptions of the good, different and conflicting beliefs about the right way to live morally speaking.¹ Moreover, and troublingly, these differences are not explicable simply by reference to stupidity, inattention or faulty reasoning.² On the contrary, in many cases they are the predictable outcome of the operation of reason, which, Rawls claims, stands under...

    • 3 Toleration and the character of pluralism
      (pp. 54-70)
      Catriona McKinnon

      This chapter addresses two influential ways of thinking about which political principles we ought to adopt. The first way of thinking starts with expectations about how persons ought to relate to one another in political discourse. Political principles are justified by reference to these expectations. The second way of thinking starts with certain values around which, it is claimed, people ought to structure their lives. Political principles are then justified by reference to these values. These approaches to political justification are in competition, and arguments for political principles of toleration and beyond can be made on either approach.

      In the...

    • 4 Toleration, justice and reason
      (pp. 71-85)
      Rainer Forst

      In contemporary debates about the idea and the problems of a multicultural society the concept of toleration plays a major but by no means clear and uncontested role. For some, it is a desirable state of mutual respect or esteem, while for others it is at best a pragmatic and at worst a repressive relation between persons or groups.

      In the following, I want to suggest an understanding of toleration that both explains and avoids these ambiguities. First, I distinguish between a general concept and various more specific conceptions of toleration.¹ This brief discussion shows that the concept of toleration...

    • 5 Recognition without ethics?
      (pp. 86-108)
      Nancy Fraser

      For some time now, the forces of progressive politics have been divided into two camps. On one side stand the proponents of ‘redistribution’. Drawing on long traditions of egalitarian, labour, and socialist organising, political actors aligned with this orientation seek a more just allocation of resources and goods. On the other side stand the proponents of ‘recognition’. Drawing on newer visions of a ‘difference-friendly’ society, they seek a world where assimilation to majority or dominant cultural norms is no longer the price of equal respect. Members of the first camp hope to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor,...

  7. Part II The contexts of toleration
    • 6 Reflexive toleration in a deliberative democracy
      (pp. 111-131)
      James Bohman

      Any feasible ideal of democracy must face the unavoidable social fact that the citizenry of a modern state is heterogeneous along a number of intersecting dimensions, including race, class, religion and culture. If that ideal is also deliberative, and thus requires that citizens commit themselves to making decisions according to reasons they believe are public, then such diversity raises the possibility of deep and potentially irresolvable conflicts. When conflicts do emerge, such a form of democracy requires that all citizens should have equal standing and influence in any deliberation about their resolution. In the circumstances of wide pluralism (that is,...

    • 7 City life and community: complementary or incompatible ideals?
      (pp. 132-146)
      Andrew Mason

      The words ‘city’ and ‘community’ conjure up very different images. The city is often pictured as an arena where diverse social groups or networks may co-exist in an atmosphere of mutual toleration, while the community is seen as a cohesive unit where conformity is fostered at the expense of diversity, thereby breeding intolerance. So understood, community is an unattractive ideal, unlikely to endear itself to those with liberal sympathies. It may be able to meet the needs of its members to feel that they belong; but it does so at a high cost to them and to others. Cities, in...

    • 8 Social ethos and the dynamics of toleration
      (pp. 147-160)
      Jonathan Wolff

      ‘The difficulty with toleration’, writes Bernard Williams, ‘is that it seems to be at once necessary and impossible.’¹ Toleration is necessary if groups with fundamentally different and conflicting values and beliefs are to live in peace together, but, so it is said,prima facieimpossible under such circumstances. Why so? The idea of toleration only seems appropriate when a conflict of values or beliefs goes so deep that groups may think that ‘they cannot accept the existence of each other’. Williams sums up: ‘Toleration, we may say, is required only for the intolerable. That is its basic problem.’²

      Although Williams,...

    • 9 Toleration and laïcité
      (pp. 161-178)
      Cécile Laborde

      In September 1989, three schoolgirls wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf were barred from entering a school near Paris, and later expelled. The headmaster claimed to be applying a long-established republican rule prohibiting religious symbols in secular state schools. The incident quickly sparked a hotly contested national debate about the principle of religious neutrality in republican schools. A decade later, everything, it seems, has been said about the ‘headscarves affair’, and the way in which, in quite an exemplary fashion, it crystallised latent national anxieties. These concerned, notably, the contested status of public education in a fragmented society, the problematic legitimacy...

    • 10 Toleration of religious discrimination in employment
      (pp. 179-195)
      Stuart White

      Two ideas feature prominently in contemporary accounts of the just society. One is the idea of toleration and the related idea of religious freedom. A second is the idea of equal opportunity and, derived from this, the idea that the state should protect its members from discrimination in relation to jobs and other important goods such as education. This chapter explores an apparent tension between these two commitments. In order to advance their goals, religious associations sometimes want to discriminate in employment decisions on grounds that are typically prohibited under anti-discrimination laws. They may wish to discriminate in favour of...

    • 11 Education to toleration: some philosophical obstacles and their resolution
      (pp. 196-208)
      David Heyd

      Moral education has played a central role in all major ethical systems of thought from Aristotle to Kant, from the Torah to socialist ideology. Providing the young withmoraleducation is particularly tricky, since moral judgement, and even more so moral behaviour, does not come naturally to human beings. The incorporation of moral values and norms requires a distinctive effort and often calls for overcoming natural inclinations and inborn tendencies. The main business of moral education in its traditional form has been the transmission of a set of principles of conduct, forms of judgement, beliefs and sensibilities deemed by the...

  8. Index
    (pp. 209-212)