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ISBN Dorota Kolodziejczyk Bhikhu Parekh's Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory sets out to design paths for multiculturalism understood both as political theory and a framework for political practice.
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.
Parekh's account of multiculturalism is located, then, on the highly contentious ground of debates within liberalism and presented from such perspectives as post-Marxism, post-colonialism, race theory and feminism, and from a wide range of disciplines: philosophy, political theory, cultural studies, cultural anthropology, and pedagogy. Parekh's book, set against the background of these current debates, is immediately distinguished by its coherence and lucidity.
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.
This paradoxical agenda is Parekh's most consequential contribution to the multiculturalist debate. Where other attempts to spin the yarn of multiculturalism out of the tradition of liberalism, albeit in most cases salutary, would leave us with more unease about the assumptions concerning the respectability of cultures, shared supra-particularist values, the nature of human nature as a primary context for stating the rights of individuals and groups , and the most unfortunate and necessary question of tolerance of difference and diversity , Parekh's analysis addresses these tender spots in the theory of multiculturalism, and, even if not quite resolving them, it proposes possible ways of handling them in practice.
The organization of Parekh's book aims at bridging the theory and practice of multiculturalist politics, and this is why the author is careful to resist the temptation of distilling the gist of multiculturalism from the tradition of liberalism, finding in that tradition inspiration as much as inhibition for the development of multiculturalism.
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 onedoctrine 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. I will attempt, then, to answer in the conclusion of this review to what extent Parekh's book is different from some other liberal accounts of multiculturalism, such as, for example, Gutmann's collection, which set off to break grounds for the new theory and largely ended up with narcissistic contemplation of the theoretical spaciousness of liberalism.
In fact, the borderline between the separate sections is not always clearly visible, and that's perhaps how it should be, because the historical accounts necessarily structure and determine the theoretical part, and both are distinctly present in what Parekh calls the practical part. It is practical in the sense that the author discusses there specific cases where multiculturalist politics failed or proved its inefficiency cases ranging from the.
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.
Although Parekh is not quite explicit about it, this historical draft shows the tendency starting already in Aristotle and Plato to disjoin reason and morality from culture and, subsequently, to raise one's cultural specificity to the universal status. 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. For the former, it fostered 'national pride, selfconfidence, sense of greatness, lofty sentiments and a high sense of moral purpose'. National grandiosity was to instill in the citizens the need for moral and intellectual perfection.
For the latter, the empire held a parental care of the immature dominions and, literally, kick-started their history, 'bring[ing] them to a take-off point from where they could be relied upon to continue their progress unaided' 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 selfidentity.
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.
As Parekh writes: 'it possessed the only true religion, had long developed the capacity for rationality, cherished the values of universal brotherhood and independent inquiry' 54 , and the guiding principle of universal change in the form of imperial instruction.
Montesquieu, observes Parekh, shared Vico's preoccupation with diversity, but his insights aimed to transgress the confines of intra-cultural perspective. 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.
However, Montesquieu's pioneering multicultural perspective was cut short by his attempts to explain differences through what he called physical and moral causes, often overlapping, and rather nonchalantly attributed to climatic influences. Herder, in turn, the last of Parekh's 'pluralists', rested his recognition of diversity on the organic view of culture.
Human nature did not come prior to that, nor was it transcendental to culture; on the contrary, Herder saw it as a 'pliant clay' moulded by culture Human nature, the environment, and common experience of the members of society together formed an organic whole, an inimitable and unique culture, which Herder developed into his concept of a Kulturnation -the Volk stemming from a common bearer, together with progenitors sharing the imaginary, expressed through the national language.
As Parekh notes, for Herder language was more than a mere conveyor of communication - it expressed the very idea of the Volk, its spirit and imaginary. Parekh does not comment on Herder's reliance on the metaphors of family and his genealogical understanding of culture. Herder's understanding of the familial constitution of the national community is literally genetic -- the nation should avoid being diluted i. In his conclusion to the chapter on the forms of pluralism, Parekh sees the source of insufficiency of the pluralist perspectives in their tendency to give difference an ontological status, to treat diversity as self-contained and selfsufficient, and, finally, to see cultures as static units, internally homogeneous and sedate.
One would also add the discrepancy between the claims of the incompatibility of cultures, and thus an impossibility, or redundancy, of intercultural judgment, and the historiographic projects which, in case of the three philosophers mentioned above, allow for a comparison on the allegedly neutral grounds.
In the next chapter, 'Contemporary Liberal Responses to Diversity', Parekh looks at three contemporary liberal philosophers: Rawls A Theory of Justice, , Raz The Morality of Freedom, , and Kymlicka Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, , who, stressing different liberal principles, respond to the phenomenon of cultural diversity and foster possible ways of handling it on the level of the state, social structures, and moral 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.
Parekh's account of the three philosophers exposes their failure to appropriate liberalism critically for the needs of multiculturalism. And so, Rawls vacillates between his initial urge to provide a shared theory of a human person, developed into a comprehensive philosophical doctrine, and an ideologically neutral, practical set of tools which he calls a 'workable basis of social cooperation for democratic liberal societies' 82 , which would surpass comprehensive doctrines dividing society into separate cultural units.
Rawls' theory fails, Parekh argues, to get past its metaphysical entanglements -- liberalism becomes the depository of the 'essentials of democratic society' 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.
Although it is not a universal value, as it pertains specifically to western society as its constitutive force, it nevertheless occupies a central position in Raz's theory and, ultimately, becomes a yardstick with which to measure any culture's worth understood as recognition of the right to personal autonomy.
Parekh accentuates the inevitable ethnocentric bias of Raz's theory, especially where he fosters a thesis that non-liberal cultures here exemplified only by Asian immigrants to Great Britain, 93 in fact alienate their members who, not knowing the liberating force of autonomy, remain embedded in their cultures only out of ignorance.
In his appreciation of cultural diversity, as Parekh rightly points out, Raz not only does not set perspectives for cultural interaction, but he sees the very fact of diversity as conditioned a culture's value depends on its ability to contribute to its individual members' well-being, a concept in itself rather difficult to measure. Kymlicka is an interesting example of what Parekh labels a 'liberal nationalist' 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.
Kymlicka's definition of cultural community largely coincides with that of the nation; he indeed founds his theory of the minority rights on the concept of national units as the most complete cultural achievements, and thus he rejects the assimilationist approach as impinging on the principle of justice which demands that minorities and majority should enjoy equal rights and a share of 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.
Kymlicka explains this bizarre polarity in the following way: national minority remains a discrete cultural and social unit, and, since culture is defined via nation and community, it fares better than an individual immigrant who, by an act of immigration subscribes automatically to the new culture, which now becomes for him his 'host' culture and nation. 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 notes that, despite their many salutary, even groundbreaking propositions, none of the three liberals is able to elaborate a theory which would genuinely appreciate diversity as the value per se, not only the value of separate cultures. Also, the 'other' culture, recognized in its difference, must be run by liberal principles for the state to tolerate it, which means that difference cannot be contentious in relation to the state structures.
As a result, diversity is severely limited in its political potential; indeed, it is reduced to 'merely' a cultural realm. 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. His implicit critique is, then, that despite the unquestioned willingness noticeable in the three authors to 'reform' liberalism so that it is more capable of handling a multicultural state, the major cause of their respective shortcomings is a tacit assertion of the hegemony of the majority nation, tradition, culture, etc.
In the next section, Parekh continues with the questions posed by cultural diversity. His aim is to elaborate a 'coherent theory of moral and cultural diversity', which would be able to avoid the traps of naturalism and culturalism 'feeding off each other's exaggerations' 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.
In Chapter 4, 'Conceptualizing Human Beings', Parekh picks up his ideas through dense references across disparate philosophical traditions, exposing their tendency to gravitate towards monism and grant the concept of diversity an ontological value.
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. At this point Parekh's argument develops in an interesting but also precarious manner.
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 Parekh proceeds: 'The rights are addressed to the state which alone is deemed to have the obligation to respect and realize them' 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. Parekh's other point, that the values promoted by the Declaration need a specific institutional support worked out largely by the liberal state, then itself culturally specific, seems to be equally unconvincing -- Parekh runs here the risk of ascribing the democratic spirit and form of governance solely to western society,2 although this is not his purpose by any means.
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. However, bringing the case of China and Vietnam rejecting the concern with human values as 'bourgeois, western and incompatible with their traditional values and vision of good life' , Parekh almost manages to convince the reader that such gross discrepancies between states are justified on cultural basis -- thankfully, on the next page we are relieved to read that Parekh interprets such statements as cover-ups for the communist state-regime.
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 the opening sentence of the next chapter, 'Understanding Culture', Parekh writes: 'Human beings seek to make sense of themselves and the world and ask questions about the meaning and significance of human life, activities and relationships'
Bhikhu Parekh Rethinking Multiculturalism