Multiculturalism: The Refusal and Reconstruction of Recognition
Brence, Steven Barry
MetadataShow full item record
Brence, Steven Barry
Charles Taylor, in his essay “The Politics of Recognition,” frames the issue of multiculturalism in terms of the relationship between recognition and identity. Upon what basis and to what degree can different identities be recognized in a democratic society committed to equality? He subsequently argues that the ongoing dispute over the issue of multiculturalism can be understood as resulting from the disparate emphasis disputants respectively place upon the notions of dignity and the modern conception of an inwardly derived identity, the former defending a “politics of equality” and the latter a “politics of difference.” Upon this analysis, however, the two opposing sides manifest in this dispute are not sufficiently clarified in order to convincingly support a resolution. In addition, Taylor dismisses all notions of cultural incommensurability, some form of which is required to adequately distinguish the “politics of difference” from the “politics of equality.” In order to sufficiently clarify the bases of the oppositional stands taken on the issue, it is necessary that the dispute over multiculturalism be understood as a conflict between adherents of two opposing traditions within political theory, formed in the colonial past, in their respective attempts to adapt those theories for use in the post-colonial present. Both liberal and dialectical political theories were initially formulated upon the presupposition of cultural homogeneity. Opposing efforts to adapt each of them for use in a context of cultural heterogeneity have led to the present impasse. The key to the successful adaptation of these theories to the present, and thus to a resolution of the impasse, lies in the removal of each of its respective metaphysical doctrines of a priori universalism. Such metaphysically cleansed constructions of dialectical theory and of liberal theory are found in the work of Frantz Fanon and John Dewey respectively. Most readily, one may derive the basis for a resolution to disputes over multiculturalism in Dewey’s conception of the democratic reconstruction of culture, which can be described as a dialectical liberalism and which aims merely to harmonize rather than to eliminate differences in the pursuit of equality.