STEVEN C. ROCKEFELLER
THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC tradition has been formed by an ideal of universal freedom, equality, and fulfillment, which even in the best situations has been only partially realized and which may not yet be fully imagined. The spiritual meaning of American history and the history of other democratic nations is chiefly the story of the quest for this ideal. The heart of the liberal tradition is a creative process, a social and individual method of transformation, designed to enable men and women to pursue the embodiment of this ideal. Charles Taylor has made clear the way multiculturalism and the politics of difference and equal recognition are currently influencing this process of transformation. He has explained in a most instructive fashion the historical origins in modern thought of ideas that are playing a central role in the current debate over these matters.
At a minimum, the politics and ethics of equal dignity need to be deepened and expanded so that respect for the individual is understood to involve not only respect for the universal human potential in every person but also respect for the intrinsic value of the different cultural forms in and through which individuals actualize their humanity and express their unique personalities. The following reflections endeavor to put this idea in perspective by considering the politics of equal recognition in relation to the values of liberal democracy, the environmental movement, and the religious dimension of experience. These perspectives can help us to