The past decade abounded in works on multiculturalism and the challenge it poses for the concept of society and its self-understanding; on cultural diversity and intercultural relations including the dynamics of hegemony and recalcitrance ; on social cohesiveness and collective identity; on the integrity of culture and processes of hybridization; and, last but not least, on the traditions of political thought nurtured in academia and implied in the structures of authority that contemporary western democracies have developed. In the situation when so many critics bemoan the impossibility of arriving at a consistent language of analysis — not to mention a coherent perspective — in their efforts to embrace the complexity of multiculturalism, Bhikhu Parekh manages not only to maintain the focus and order of analysis, he also succeeds in reading multiculturalism from within the liberal tradition and against it at the same time. Indeed, through an engagement with liberalism Parekh wants to lead the theory of multiculturalism beyond the entanglements which the confinement of this theory within the premises of liberalism would inevitably bring. First, he notices the monoculturalist logic of one-doctrine bias: Multiculturalism is about the proper terms of relationship between different cultural communities.
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The past decade abounded in works on multiculturalism and the challenge it poses for the concept of society and its self-understanding; on cultural diversity and intercultural relations including the dynamics of hegemony and recalcitrance ; on social cohesiveness and collective identity; on the integrity of culture and processes of hybridization; and, last but not least, on the traditions of political thought nurtured in academia and implied in the structures of authority that contemporary western democracies have developed.
In the situation when so many critics bemoan the impossibility of arriving at a consistent language of analysis — not to mention a coherent perspective — in their efforts to embrace the complexity of multiculturalism, Bhikhu Parekh manages not only to maintain the focus and order of analysis, he also succeeds in reading multiculturalism from within the liberal tradition and against it at the same time. Indeed, through an engagement with liberalism Parekh wants to lead the theory of multiculturalism beyond the entanglements which the confinement of this theory within the premises of liberalism would inevitably bring.
First, he notices the monoculturalist logic of one-doctrine bias: Multiculturalism is about the proper terms of relationship between different cultural communities. The norms governing their respective claims, including the principles of justice, cannot be derived from one culture alone but through an open and equal dialogue between them. By definition a multicultural society consists of several cultures or cultural communities with their own distinct systems of meaning and significance and views on man and the world.
It cannot be therefore adequately theorized from within the conceptual framework of any particular political doctrine which, being embedded in, and structurally biased towards, a particular cultural perspective, cannot do justice to others. While Parekh indeed manages in his theory to open up many possibilities for the dialogue between cultures, on the level of state institutions and more evasive domain of social attitudes, yet the dialogue takes place mainly within and across the tradition of liberalism.
The historical section of the book opens with a chapter on moral monism, in which Parekh traces the development of the monist tradition from rationalist monism of the Greek philosophy Plato, Aristotle , through theological monism of Christianity Augustine, Aquinas , to a regulative monism of classical liberalism Locke, J.
He traces in these traditions the main concerns of the monist perspective: the thesis of the universality of human nature, based on the assumption of its uniformity, and thus, within the same logic, on the preference of similarities over differences for the reason of the ontological and moral primacy of the former over the latter. Indeed, moving on to the beginnings of modern liberalism, Parekh notes not enough attention is given in the studies on the history of liberal thought to such factors as the formation of the nation-state, colonialism and the role of Christianity 33 , the three factors that worked together as an engine of social and economic dynamics on which liberalism thrived.
In this way the originary tendency to consider reason and morality as autonomous units still remains an important feature of the studies on liberal thought, Parekh states. Fortunately, liberalism has been contextualized already from so many perspectives historical and literary studies, postcolonialism and colonial discourse analysis, to mention but a few that perhaps there is no need to fear the persistence of such universalizing strains in liberalism, as these are challenged by a wide range of insights.
That is why, discussing the founding fathers of liberalism, Locke and J. Mill, Parekh routes their philosophy via teleology of progress ensuing in their writings. He points at the importance of the historiographic investment of the two liberals, however different they were, inseparable from the context of the burgeoning empire.
The empire was for Mill a salutary form of political organization both for the rulers and the ruled. National grandiosity was to instill in the citizens the need for moral and intellectual perfection.
So, although Locke and Mill occupied different positions in relation to the concept of the individual and society, and the relationship between the two, they arrived at strikingly similar historiographic visions, unequivocally announcing the superiority of the western form of civilizational and political organization, and thus legitimating imperial expansion on the basis of liberal values they fostered.
Summing up his survey of the monist tradition of liberalism, Parekh notes that liberal monism discarded the role and importance of cultures in structuring society as a polity, viewed differences as deviations, and assumed a natural domination of self-identity. As a result, western society was seen as the most mature and most developed social formation. Pursuing further the historical perspective on diversity, Parekh surveys the forms of pluralism that were developed in response to liberal monism.
Discussing such disparate writers as Vico, Montesquieu and Herder, the author wants to examine philosophical foundations underlying their respective interest in cultural diversity. The appreciation of diverse cultures that the three philosophers manifest in their writings often gets into conflict, as Parekh aptly shows, with their attempts at explanation or evaluation which ultimately turn out to be a disguised exercise in eurocentric self-assertion. While Vico hailed the plethora of diverse social formations and cultures, his historiographic vision nevertheless provided grounds for the comparison of diversity otherwise incompatible, and allowed him to see Europe as a beacon of the blissful plenitude.
He was primarily interested in social and political institutions of both European and non-European societies. Diversity raises questions about why societies and polities differ, what determines the differences, and how to handle these in terms of judgment and evaluation Parekh stresses the fact that Montesquieu declined from passing on judgments, which he called normative questions, because these would fall beyond the logic of explanatory action — the effort to demonstrate the origins and causes of difference.
One would also add the discrepancy between the claims of the incompatibility of cultures, and thus an impossibility, or redundancy, of inter-cultural judgment, and the historiographic projects which, in case of the three philosophers mentioned above, allow for a comparison on the allegedly neutral grounds. The overall concern of this chapter is to examine whether contemporary liberal thought is able to face the challenge of multicultural society without resorting to its own hegemonizing mechanisms that Parekh traced down to the foundations of liberalism.
Raz, in turn, concentrates on the teleological understanding of human life, which is driven, in short, by the pursuit of well-being He defines western society as shaped and determined by the idea of personal autonomy from the personal to interpersonal and institutional level.
He also rests his theory on the commitment to autonomy and considers it the basis of liberal political tradition, but, unlike Raz, he does not attribute the highest value to personal autonomy. National majority and minority differ only in quantitative terms, not qualitative ones, which means that they operate within the same logic. According to the same principle of justice and the logic of social structures, national minorities have the most rights to cultural claims and other forms of pressure on the state, and, likewise, individual immigrants the least.
Parekh notices that such a hierarchy of minority rights cannot be sufficiently justified on the basis of commitment to autonomy — it might as well run against this principle. Parekh feels uneasy about the background assumption of the theories he surveys: they all seem to take for granted the fact that the western society is homogeneously liberal. In the next section, Parekh continues with the questions posed by cultural diversity. He opts for a balanced approach whose primary goal will be to secure the space for dialogue and contact for diverse, but often closed-off cultures.
He sees the potential for dialogue and, ultimately, inter-cultural consensus in the very fact of cultural embeddedness. It forces us to universalize our own cultural values which is not a tendency Parekh would condemn straight away; rather, he acknowledges the universality of the universalizing drive within cultures , but, at the same time, the only way to mitigate such supremacist tendencies is to enter into an intercultural dialogue with a view to launching a shared, cross-cultural understanding of human nature.
Therefore, Parekh does not shun the very idea of the conceptualization of human nature, once it is achieved through a process of negotiation crowned with a consensus: It is then possible to arrive at a body of moral values which deserve the respect of all human beings. I have mentioned recognition of human worth and dignity, promotion of human well-being or of fundamental human interests, and equality.
We should therefore identify those that are within the reach of all [societies], central to any form of good life, and for which we can give compelling reasons.
We should consolidate global consensus around them and allow their inner momentum to generate a movement towards an increasingly higher level of consensus.
Parekh makes an important suggestion here: such negotiation of the inalienable values should not be confined to local contexts such as the nation-state. In fact, he envisages the cross-cultural dialogue as an all-encompassing, global debate translatable into political programs on the macro- and micro-scale.
After emphasizing the need for cross-cultural dialogue, he moves on, as if to prove the necessity of such dialogue, to discussing examples which failed to recognize the above necessity. He starts with the UN Declaration of Human Rights of , which, although worked out by a forum of the UN member countries, is clearly liberal in its spirit and design, and thus cannot claim universal validity While he is probably right in criticizing the Declaration for its statist view of human rights and its inability to bridge the general understanding of human rights with their local variations if such bridging is possible in the first place , his refusal to see the Declaration in its historical context suspends his critique in the universalistic void.
Three years after World War II human rights were seen as threatened mainly by the state, hence the responsibility the Declaration charted the state with. In the same section Parekh discusses a different approach to the liberal values of western society, inscribed in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, giving an example of the so-called Asian values.
This is a salutary analysis of cultural difference manifested on the level of the state, society, and, thus, of a different perception of human worth which, in this respect, comes down to the value of individuality. Parekh rightly shows how easily multiculturalism can be manipulated to serve the interests of authoritarian regimes justifying their violations of collective and individual rights via cultural relativism, although his presentation of relativism as natural and commonsensical may be a bit too persuasive, obliterating the ideological investments behind it.
This chapter has not managed to clarify how international organizations such as the UN should perform the politics of securing the rights they are designed to secure on the premise of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and, at the same time, respect the right to moral diversity, which includes the right to a different perception of a human being and its place and role in society.
In result, the reader is left with a feeling of dissatisfaction with the broad perspective that slides over complexities and advocates an adoption of some global benevolence. In this chapter the author provides a capacious understanding of culture and its meaning, function and importance for the protagonists of the previous chapter, human beings. Parekh is careful to avoid the narrativization of culture — he understands culture as an intricate network of both historically accumulated and random elements and not a linear or even development.
Culture understood as a complex system never fully complete, or closed, encompasses morality , which is an important claim for the cause of multiculturalism. Parekh does not want so much to find an innovative understanding of culture — his definitions are located within the well-known realm of cultural anthropology, sociology, or philosophy.
His main interest is, then, how to combine, or reconcile, the liberal demand for equal respect for diverse cultures, with a genuine promotion of diversity. He refers back to the liberal tradition J. Mill , which advocated diversity on the grounds that it enlarged the options for human uniqueness and diversity. Modified by contemporary liberals, this tradition still perceives diversity contractually: the value of a given culture increases together with its ability to offer more possibilities of choice.
It means that cultures of value are those between which there is a possibility of a specific trade. Cultures, furthermore, are not merely objects of aesthetic contemplation. Parekh does not mention one important aspect of this argument — aestheticizing diversity may become a convenient strategy of obliterating political claims a given culture makes and relegating diversity away from the realm of politics to the realm of aesthetically pleasing, politically innocent, folklore.
He claims that an individual has the right to criticize its culture in order to remove its blemishes ; that different cultures correct and complement each other so cultural diversity can be seen as a way to recognize the variety of possibilities to lead a good life; and, finally, that the mechanisms used for evaluating and respecting a culture are enhanced by the confrontation with another culture.
Multiculturalism, then, has got a direct moral value, both per se, and as a means of stimulating our judgment of other cultures. Parekh again seems to put too much faith in the enlightening nature of cultural interaction; he assumes that our judgments of other cultures will be naturally rational and respectful. Although such an approach is of an immense moral validity, the doubt underlying the whole argument remains — does tolerance need to be justified, do we have to prove moral validity of cultures in order to recognize cultural diversity?
Thus, the state creates a space for collective civic action and identity, as well as for personal autonomy. Citizenship is by definition a content-empty category, placing the value of an individual above any specific identities: ethnic, religious, or other communal ones.
On the other hand, citizenship inscribes individuals into a collectivity of anonymous participants in the shared abstract whole. While this invites politics as an interaction between equals, the opposite effect — that of discouraging activity for an abstract, anonymous construct is equally possible. The state ceases to be a forum for political debate between citizens and is associated with a depersonalized, mechanistic bureaucracy.
In this sense, the nation-state seems to be an obvious end-product of the state theory, or, in a reverse order, its primary reference. However, as Parekh argues in his subsequent discussion of multi-ethnic and multinational states such as Canada and India, the modern state, despite its explicit liberal orientation, makes most sense in a homogeneous environment, and such an environment will be increasingly lacking. What he opts for, then, is the state conceived of as a decentralized federation of cultural, ethnic, and possibly national communities, liberated from the concept of a single people realized not necessarily as the civic society but as a dominant nation , bound together by shared political and legal bonds , exercising locally dispersed power.
Such a pluralistically reconstituted state, Parekh propounds, can provide an appropriate political framework for its diverse communities and cultures. The next chapter deals with the problem of political structure ideal for multicultural society. The conflicting grounds of the state — the demand for keeping up diversity and fostering a sense of unity and common belonging among the citizens — directly concerns multicultural society.
Parekh discusses in this chapter several forms of political integration, starting from the assimilationist model, though the proceduralist Nozick, Oakeshott, Kukathas, , civic assimilationist Rawls, Habermas, , to the millet model. He discards the two most radical ones, the first and the last, as either hindering diversity altogether and potentially granting too much power to the state, or, reversely, ignoring the demand of state unity, thus giving the state no justification.
He admits a remarkable degree of recognition of diversity in the proceduralist and civic assimilationist model, criticizing both for their inability to notice and resolve the problem of dialectical thus often conflictual interplay between diverse cultures within the state He argues that such measures should not be perceived as a manifestation of good will on the part of the state, but, rather, as a necessary responsibility of the state for what must be considered a part of its historical inheritance.
This kind of culture is dangerous in the sense that it cannot be easily confined into separate cultural affinities; it is inevitably hybridizing and growing on its own increasing complexity. However, drawing this line of development for multicultural interaction and togetherness within the framework of the state, Parekh seems to yet again work along the line of division between pluralism and monism. While the examples of cuisine, music, literature etc. Parekh gives are all welcome but unproblematic Parekh seems to think that cultures merge only spontaneously, somehow outside, for example, the demands of the market , when it comes to the issue of national identity within the multicultural state, the idea of shared common belonging across cultural divisions becomes too intricate to be exhausted satisfactorily in the examples Parekh provides.
While an exclusionary model of national definition is by all means short-sighted politically, the case of the Baltic Republics or indeed the case of most countries undergoing the liberation process after a colonial period is specific in the sense that they needed a strong form of national assertion in order to convince their citizens about the importance of an independent state in the first place, and foster a unique national identity which would surpass the so-far dominant Soviet form of collectivity, dominated by the Russian language.
Parekh concludes the chapter by championing the necessity of a shared national unity of a multicultural society, free of exclusivity and dynamics thanks to its plural collective culture This success is additionally dependent on the clear articulation of equality, which includes the equality of rights, opportunity, and self-esteem, but also of difference , and on the logic of intercultural evaluation. Analyzing specific examples of the dilemmas arising in the process of intercultural dialogue e.
These are, specifically, the cases when values of a given community offend the values of the majority, such as the female circumcision, the kosher and halal tradition of animal slaughter, polygamy and arranged marriages. He does not seem to ponder too much over the pressing question of what is merely a cultural, however deep, difference, and what can be classified as a criminal case.
It seems that multiculturalism has to waver between particular case studies, forming alliances with diverse political and philosophical traditions, and with even more diverse and contingent events in society at large. Fortunately, Parekh does not get that far and concentrates instead on the reactions of the offended Muslim communities in Britain.
Thus, although his reading of the novel may seem somewhat crudely literal and biased, his analysis of the debate around the affair is indeed interesting.
It may not have been checked over by human eyes. For matters of precision please consult the original pdf. Political theory and the multicultural society Political theory and the multicultural society Bhikhu parekh Cultural diversity in modern societies takes many forms, of which three are most common. This is the case with gays and lesbians, youth culture, those following unconventional lifestyles or family structures, and so on. The individuals and groups involved share and are happy with the wider culture, and are only concerned to open up appropriate spaces within it to express and live by their choices in the relevant areas of life. We shall call this subcultural diversity. Second, some members of society are highly critical of the central principles and values of the dominant culture and seek to reconstitute it along appropriate lines.
Political theory and the multicultural society
What is multiculturalism? Since the multicultural movement sprang up unplanned in many different political contexts, attracted a diverse cluster of groups, and has so far failed to throw up a coherent philosophical statement of its central principles, it lacks a clear focus and identity. I would therefore like to begin by clarifying what it means and stands for, and then briefly highlight some of the problems facing a multicultural society. Its central insights are three, each of which is sometimes misinterpreted by its advocates and needs to be carefully reformulated if it is to carry conviction. First, human beings are culturally embedded in the sense that they grow up and live within a culturally structured world and organize their lives and social relations in terms of a culturally derived system of meaning and significance. This does not mean that they are determined by their culture in the sense of being unable to rise above its categories of thought and critically evaluate its values and system of meaning, but rather that they are deeply shaped by it, can overcome some but not all of its influences, and necessarily view the world from within a culture, be it the one they have inherited and uncritically accepted or reflectively revised or, in rare cases, one they have consciously adopted.