cultural_plur_1_helly - The Global Review of Ethnopolitics...

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The Global Review of Ethnopolitics Vol. 2 no. 1, September 2002, 75-96 Copyright © Denise Helly 2002. All rights reserved. RESEARCH NOTE Cultural Pluralism: An Overview of the Debate since the 60s Denise Helly, Institut national de recherche scientifique, Montreal Ever since the 1960s, the cultural diversity of civil society has been the subject of public controversy, on account of pressures exerted by three forces of contestation, that are still active: feminism, nationalism and ethnic movements, in which the latter relates to immigrant minorities and black and aboriginal movements. What has followed has been a large-scale debate in political philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and political science, on the status of cultural differentiation in a modern political system. This text attempts to examine this debate through an analysis of the proposed responses to calls by these groups for genuine equality. The Theoretical Positions Academic questioning concerning cultural differentiation has centered upon a critique of certain postulates of classical liberalism, 1 and, to a lesser degree, of the postulates of republican thinking, on account of political liberalism’s openness towards the cultural diversity of civil society. Political Liberalism Classical liberalism does not envisage cultural homogeneity of a society as a possible reality, or as an objective of state power. It asserts that cultural diversity is inevitable, since the freedom of each individual to make decisions about his or her life creates infinite diversity. But since no link exists between humans, and there is no inherent will which compels them to live together, the risks of violence and inequality are permanent, and a compromise must be found in order for each person to accept some restraints upon the exercise of his or her liberty. The collective links that are possible in society can only be negotiated through recourse to reason, and through negotiation of the divergent interests and values; herein, each person must assess his or her actions and ideas with regards to reality: his or her point of view cannot be common law. If this negotiation is to intervene and persist, individuals must be well informed, and they must demonstrate virtue and moderation in their individual opinions and interests, and they must practice obedience to the law, tolerance and respect for the autonomy of others. Rawls (1993) speaks of reasonableness, in the sense of being both reasonable and just. According to this vision, the state cannot intervene in the definition of common religious, moral and cultural values; it must remain neutral as regards specific values of individuals or groups. This principle, which is upheld by Nozick (1974), Dworkin (1981, 1985), Galston (1980, 1991) and Rawls (1993), implies a distinction between a sphere in which social and cultural differences can be expressed, and a sphere in which conflicts between rights can be resolved. The political (Mouffe 1993) is conceived of as the state, and it is
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cultural_plur_1_helly - The Global Review of Ethnopolitics...

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