SINCE its publication in 1992, Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition” has appeared in Italian, French, and German editions. The German edition includes an extended commentary by the political philosopher Jürgen Habermas, who adds an important voice to a now-multinational discussion about the relationship between constitutional democracy and a politics that recognizes diverse cultural identities. We invited K. Anthony Appiah, Professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy at Harvard, to offer his reflections on the politics of recognition. Appiah has written a rich essay on the problematic relationship between recognition of collective identities, the ideal of individual authenticity, and the survival of cultures. We are pleased to be able to include both essays in this expanded edition.
Drawing on a Kantian perspective, Habermas argues that equal protection under the law is not enough to constitute a constitutional democracy. We must not only be equal under the law, we must also be able to understand ourselves as the authors of the laws that bind us. “Once we take this internal connection between democracy and the constitutional state seriously,” Habermas writes, “it becomes clear that the system of rights is blind neither to unequal social conditions nor to cultural differences.” What count as equal rights for women or for ethnic and cultural minorities cannot even be understood adequately until members of these groups “articulate and justify in public discussion what is relevant to equal or unequal treatment in typical cases.” Democratic discussions also enable citizens to clarify “which traditions they want to perpetuate and which they want to discontinue, how they want to deal with their history, with one another, with nature, and so on.” Constitutional democracy can