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Is democratic multiculturalism really possible?

Amani, Aslan (2013) Is democratic multiculturalism really possible? PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is an examination of the interplay between democratic norms and principles defining philosophical multiculturalism. Its most general aim is to find an answer to the following question concerning the possibility of democratic multiculturalism; do democracies adopt multicultural policies at the expense of their democratic credentials or are the two compatible with each other? The argument emerges from the interaction of two strong threads that run through the thesis. First, the thesis engages with three prevalent views on how democracies should react to the facts of disagreement – count heads, turn difference into a positive resource, and design procedures to maximize traditional values lying in the triangle of freedom, equality, and fraternity. In response, I offer a fourth view of democracy that combines minimalism with normativity. Normative minimalist democracy (NMD) holds that these three views are unable to appreciate the respective normative weights of dissensus and consensus, both of which have an ineliminable place in the modern democratic practices and their normative underpinnings. The second thread responds to another trichotomy – the three supposedly democratic challenges that philosophers of multiculturalism have brought up over the last two decades (as well as to the corresponding liberal-egalitarian counter-responses), which respectively draw attention to the importance of recognition, self-rule, and inclusion. With respect to these challenges and counter-challenges, the dissertation argues that both supporters and opponents of multiculturalism have democratic aspirations; and democratic response to multiculturalism should not be overshadowed by either unfounded optimism about the prospects of a substantive consensus fair to all previously marginalized minorities, nor by pessimism about the relapse into the preEnlightenment world due to the so-called return of parochialism. In between these two positions lies a more democratic response to multiculturalism – one that neither celebrates the role of culture as a unique vehicle of human fulfilment, nor dismisses it as a remnant of the past. The argument for seeking a middle ground arises in part out of frustration with the two extremes. Supplementing this critical aspect of the argument is a more constructive strand that explores what the individualist core of democracy implies with respect to political diversity in the form of disagreeing groups. Although NMD leaves room for a theory of groups substantially thinner than the one its multiculturalist critiques require because it is more clearly constrained by democracy’s individualist commitments, it is still thicker than the one standard liberal egalitarianism allows.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Aslan Amani
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Kukathas, Chandran

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