Pluralism and the Politics of Difference: State, Culture, and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective


Is a plural, polyethnic, democratic society possible? Starting with Ernest Gellner's observation that `culturally plural societies worked well in the past', but `genuine cultural pluralism ceases to be viable under current conditions', this study explores pluralism in three settings; early states, modern industrial societies, and the contemporary `postmodern' world. Through a nuanced discussion ranging from pre-colonial Africa and Mesoamerica, to European and American experiences in the twentieth century, Grillo explores the ways in which different social and political forms cope with ethnic and cultural diversity. The study uncovers a range of different kinds of pluralism, from out-and-out separatism, through varieties of multiculturalism, to looser forms of `hybridity'. Rather than advocating one configuration over another, this important new book outlines the range of choices facing our societies as, moving into the twenty-first century, we try to reconcile the competing demands of universalism and difference.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Oxford
Publication year:
  • 1998


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