The Challenge of Cultural Pluralism

The Challenge of Cultural Pluralism

The Challenge of Cultural Pluralism

The Challenge of Cultural Pluralism


Brooks and his contributors examine various aspects of the challenge of cultural pluralism. Together they cover a wide range of national cases, theoretical issues, and empirical research. The collection is intended for all those who have an interest in cultural pluralism, consociationalism, and inter-community relations in societies divided by language, ethnicity, and culture.


Stephen Brooks

[I]n the political tradition of the West, and in its transmission through the centuries as an intellectual heritage, there has been a recurring element of selectivity, not to mention systemic bias, that has worked to the detriment of cultural pluralism and diversity in Western societies.

McRae, 1979:676

When Kenneth McRae spoke these words in his 1979 presidential address to the Canadian Political Science Association, the idea of constitutionally entrenched recognition of communities within nation-states was chiefly restricted to some of the small plurilingual democracies of Western Europe—notably Belgium and Switzerland—and to those countries whose history and religious divisions had given rise to consociational institutions and practices between elites representing separate “pillars” in divided societies, such as the Netherlands and Austria. The dominant tendency in political thought and practice, among those opposed to the argument of ethnic nationalists that states ought to be drawn along the lines of ethnolinguistic communities, was, in McRae's words, “universalist, fusionist, integrationist, or assimilatory” (676) Citizenship tended to be understood in the universalist terms made familiar by the French and American Revolutions. In constitutional and legal terms, the only community to which citizens belonged was la république francaise or the United States, respectively. Communal identities and loyalties based on language, ethnicity, religion, or culture could, of course, exist within the framework of this citizenship, but they were not expected to challenge it and certainly were not expected to be embedded in the constitution, in ways that would recognize different communal categories of citizens.

It would be a gross overstatement to say that the political tradition of the West has undergone a dramatic refashioning over the last generation. Moreover, it is probably fair to say that, in general, Western political thought and practice remain unreceptive to community-based notions of rights and citizenship that somehow challenge the idea of citizens, tout court, having a uniform status

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