Introduction: The acceptance of cultural diversity in Europe: theoretical
perspectives and contemporary developments
Jan Dobbernack and Tariq Modood
With the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity that is a feature of European societies today,
pluralism is experienced in newly challenging ways. In many places, an urban cosmopolitan mix
sits side by side with group-based expressions of faith and culture. While some observes show
particular interest in new formations of ‘difference’, others consider the coincidence between
‘old’ and ‘new’ and the resulting challenges for the political accommodation of national and
ethnic minorities. Irrespective of the precise language that is used to characterize constellations
of cultural diversity in Europe, it seems clear that debates about what can and what cannot be
accepted are more fluid than ever. While identities, lifestyles and practices that were previously
stigmatized are publicly embraced, the boundaries of tolerance are drawn more narrowly for
others. This may be a reflection of sociological trends and how these are perceived and
politically acknowledged. It may be the result of changing grammars of race, of the
reconsideration of ethno-religious difference within the liberal state and of new anxieties in
particular about Europe’s Muslim populations. It is difficult to identify what is driving the re-
evaluation of ‘difference’, yet it seems clear that diverse ‘modalities’ of acceptance or non-
acceptance, sociological formations of difference and their treatment in political discourse have
to be brought into focus in order to catch up with European debates about cultural pluralism.
Social science and political theory have responded differently to this pluralist reality.
Multiplications of differences have been of concern in sociology, ethnography and cultural
theory, where emerging features of urban landscapes are seen to challenge the categories that
guide the political accommodation of minorities. The concern with values and principles of
minority accommodation is frequently absent in these accounts, which generally do not purport
to evaluate prospects for tolerance or respect and are more concerned with the potentials of
geographic or demographic situations. In turn, normative theory seems not particularly willing to
register features – be they ‘old’ or ‘new’ – of the European multicultural condition. The
balancing act of ‘reasons’ that normative theorists identify in toleration is frequently conceived
without regard for sociological realities or the political debates in which the scope of tolerable
and intolerable ‘difference’ shifts and is determined.
A more complete account is needed not least since political exchanges about how much and what
kind of cultural difference should be tolerated are usually multifaceted; sociological findings are
normatively reflected upon and explored for their political repercussions. Complex patterns of
European diversity are newly registered by participants in the public debate on the scope of
acceptance in the liberal state. There has been an alignment, for example, between some on the
left and a modernized right, which both acquiesce to depoliticized manifestations of
cosmopolitan diversity. Political movements that have sprung up across Europe, such Geert
Wilders’ Freedom Party or the English Defence League (EDL), contrast their hostility to
‘Islamization’ with an endorsement of diversity, which they seek to attest to through
demonstrations of their ‘race-blindness’, not anti-racism. Within the political mainstream a
‘muscular liberalism’ in political discourse sees national identities of European states re-defined
to limit the presence of ‘illiberal’ others. The new case for principled intolerance towards those
others goes hand in hand with the vocal appreciation of the diversity of cosmopolitan lifestyles,
which are not narrowly based in ethno-religious or group identities. In all this, tolerance is a key
element that is defined, contested and mobilized, often in line with the logic of the clash of
civilizations: it is their intolerance that makes us revise our toleration. This binary perspective
has been applied for example as part of the trade-off that allegedly has to be made between
religious freedom and the freedom to express sexual identities. A new logic of intolerance targets
civilizational ‘others’ that are said to be intolerant of the liberal ‘self’ (Butler, 2010; Lentin and
Titley, 2011: 224-5).
This ‘weaponization of toleration’ in the clash of civilizations both at home and abroad raises
questions of how tolerance should be conceived, whether it can be redeemed, and in what form?
To refuse crude oppositions that are open to be exploited by the far right, such as that the right to
articulate sexual identities requires the suppression of religious minorities and their associational
and religious freedom, it will be necessary to consider how boundaries between tolerable and
intolerable differences are drawn. What are the implications of the discourse of ‘muscular
liberalism’ for practices of minority accommodation in Europe? While this and other questions
require some attention and are addressed in the middle part of this volume, a further concern has
to be with what happens after the ideological baggage of toleration has been revealed, its socio-
historical location determined, and its ‘aura of pure goodness’, as Wendy Brown (2006: 10) puts
it, ‘punctured’? In spite of frequent attacks on liberal toleration, the value of the concept will in
some part depend on its fit with practices and institutions of minority accommodation and with
the claims for decent treatment by those that experience intolerance as well as with their
normative intuitions. The perspective that we propose in this book takes notice of sociological
realities and examines political debates. Since increasing openness towards some may rest upon
or be seen to logically require reinforced intolerance towards others, contributions consider the
modalities of acceptance and non-acceptance as dynamic, inter-related and contested. The book
suggests that the boundaries that are drawn between tolerable and intolerable expressions of
difference need to be re-examined.
This volume seeks to meet this challenge with perspectives that respond to new social dynamics
towards tolerance, intolerance and respect. Contributions are the result of discussions within the
ACCEPT Pluralism project and reflect the interdisciplinary background of the project
consortium. The book attempts to combine sociological, political and normative-theoretical
concerns. While this may risk disappointing purists amongst political philosophers, sociologists
and critical theorists alike, we are unashamed in promoting a hybrid approach. Key questions
that have been raised from either a critical, sociological or theoretical vantage points, as the three
examples in the following illustrate, require a combination of perspectives.
A first issue arises in relation to the weighing of reasons that is part of how toleration is
conventionally understood (King, 1976 has offered one of the clearest statements of this
minimalist understanding). Current advances in tolerance theory often pay particular attention to
what reasons count as eligible, either as a negatively ineligible or as justifications for forbearance
that can override the impulse to reject (e.g. Forst, 2003). Such considerations have been amended
by scholars of toleration who stress the significance of perceptions (Heyd, 1996), of pre-existing
and ongoing relationships between tolerator and tolerated (Creppell, 2003), or of communication
and deliberation (Bohman, 2003). Indeed, it seems reasonable to consider acts of on-the-street
intolerance, racist violence being an example, as an absence of certain norms of conduct
(Honneth, 2001). This would speak for a concern with socialization, or with learning as Veit
Bader suggests in this volume, to complement the overly narrow, normative-theoretical interest
in reasons and their justification.
A second set of issues concerns the political functions and the socio-historical place of tolerance
ideas. Wendy Brown (2006: 36), as previously mentioned, has defined one such function as ‘to
contain potential crises […] that threaten to reveal the shallow reach of liberal equality and the
partiality of liberal universality.’ Brown acknowledges that the understanding of tolerance as
governmentality does not require us to abandon the idea altogether (2006: 174-5); in her account
an appropriately historicized perspective on tolerance offers a new humility and improved
prospects for civilizational encounters (2006: 178-9).i But the implications of her critique beyond
elite discourses, such as for everyday prospects of using a language of toleration in the face of
what they experience as intolerance, remain somewhat opaque (see Žižek, 2008). What is left
after its regulatory functions and liberal presuppositions have been revealed? As much as
toleration may be tainted by its role in how Western civilizational superiority is affirmed and
‘others’ are stigmatized, its roles in offering a language for political claims and opportunities
towards minority accommodation should not be discounted on the basis of this critique. The
critique of tolerance should at least be tempered by an interest in its potentials.
Thirdly, normative theorists regularly address the question of what it means or whether it makes
sense to go ‘beyond toleration’; a question that forms the starting point for chapters in the first
part of this volume, too. The issue is usually addressed in discussions of the conceptual structure
of toleration and whether it can accommodate certain positions that exceed the balancing of
‘reasons’ that toleration is seen to entail. Anna Elisabetta Galeotti’s (2002) work on ‘toleration as
recognition’ and her suggestion that this has to include the de-stigmatization of publicly
stigmatized identities – to obtain ‘equal terms of inclusion’ (2002: 193) – is regarded by some to
exceed the spectrum of toleration. Coupled with this are concerns to preserve a ‘moral
minimalism’ and whether the promotion of recognition and respect for ‘difference’ means
renouncing less demanding but more viable arrangements of toleration. Such concerns have been
put forward in addition to thoroughly sociological questions about how to most suitably
characterise minority claims, whether they are for toleration, recognition or respect and what the
state can or should do in response to such claims. The concern with options ‘beyond toleration’
thus points towards issues that may be resolved differently, depending on whether one’s starting
point is the conceptual scope of toleration, the empirical presence of claims for recognition or
respect, or some understanding of the type of political response that one would expect from the
state, state agencies or embedded in social relations or civic institutions.
Here, as in the previous examples, crucial questions and concerns require a combination of
resources. A certain critical intuition, in particular towards elite discourses that contrast ‘our’
tolerance with ‘their’ intolerance, is as necessary as some conceptual familiarity and contextual
awareness. In order to accommodate multiple perspectives we suggest throwing a wide
conceptual net, which includes toleration but also other forms of acceptance (and rejection) from
which it is distinguished (this conceptual framework owes significantly to Veit Bader’s work and
is developed in more detail in his chapter). It offers three analytical ‘classes’ as placeholders for
a variety of positions towards the empirical presence of cultural others in European societies.
These ‘classes’ do not appear as discrete options that operate according to self-contained logics.
Rather they indicate interdependent and overlapping positions that are of concern not just in their
own right, but for the dynamics and conditionalities in-between. We may think of them as
i. Non-toleration and non-acceptance: Individuals, groups and practices who seek or for
whom/which claims of toleration are being made but to whom/which toleration is not
granted, and the reasons given in favour of or against toleration;
ii. Toleration or Accept I: Individuals, groups and practices who seek or for whom/which
claims of toleration are being made and to whom/which toleration is granted, and the
reasons given in favour of or against toleration;
iii. Recognition, respect as equal and admission as normal or Accept II: Individuals, groups
and practices who seek or for whom/which it is claimed that toleration is not enough and
other normative concepts, namely those that focus on majority-minority relations and the
reform of institutions and citizenship, are or should be more relevant. They also include
claims and processes towards the reconsideration of difference as a ‘normal’ feature of
social life. Such concepts include equality, respect, recognition, accommodation and so
on, and the reasons given in favour of or against these propositions.
It should be highlighted that each class is normatively more demanding than the previous one
and consists of greater institutional accommodation and adjustment. Yet, it should also be clear
that there is no inherent telos leading from (i) to (iii), such that the subsequent classes do better
what the earlier classes are trying to achieve; or, are morally superior to the earlier classes. The
concepts in the different classes are, if properly deployed, addressing different problems and so
have their own ‘fit for purpose’ character; the later classes do not supersede the normative and
practical value of the earlier classes. Nevertheless, they mean that in any given situation we are
faced with the moral, political and sociological questions: which class of acceptance is most
appropriate to the situation. This is where the political arguments and decisions lie – as indeed,
the empirical work in ensuring that we have correctly identified the situation and in particular the
meanings that the minority practices carry.
The commitment that is reflected in the contributions to this volume is that we need to address
situations where the determination of the scope of acceptance – how far tolerance may go or
what respect or recognition entail – needs to be of interest for the crucial issues that arise
between these classes of acceptance. In the following we chart the three before locating the
contributions to this volume for their concern with the issues that arise in-between.
Toleration is usually seen to entail a tension between its two ‘components’ of objection and
acceptance (King, 1976: 44-54). These need to be balanced in order for acceptance to be
sufficient for non-interference without invalidating reasons for objection. Toleration is never
pure or complete: it includes the ‘ineliminable reference to the less than ideal’ (Horton, 1992:
65), and it ‘can never be a ‘complete’ form of the positive recognition of the other’s identity’
(Forst, 2007: 234). This is because the forbearance of the tolerator is motivated by reasons that
override but that do not cancel out reasons for rejection: opposition, disapproval or dislike
remains intact. Both kinds of reasons stand in an intricate relationship that makes toleration a
balancing act. This relationship may of course change over time and the component of objection,
as a result of increasing familiarity, social contact or normative re-evaluations, may be
superseded by indifference or endorsement. ‘Difference’, Werner Schiffauer suggests in this
volume, then ‘no longer makes a difference’.
This type of ‘normalization’, however, points beyond toleration, at least if we concede that
acceptance in toleration needs to be qualified and reasons balanced. The nature of the
overarching reasons that can sustain this balancing act have been of concern over time,
beginning with early modern theorists, John Locke and Pierre Bayle, who highlighted freedom of
conscience and the futility of coercion. It remains under debate in contemporary political theory.
In particular the attempt to identify overriding reasons of acceptance that are justifiable and
generalisable within and beyond a liberal democratic framework has been a concern in recent
theorisations of tolerance (see, again, Forst, 2003). John Rawls’ account of moral pluralism
within a framework of public reason (Rawls, 2005: 58-62) leads him to treat toleration as a
public virtue (Rawls, 2005: 195).
Organising the types of overarching reasons that can sustain toleration, Rainer Forst (2003: 42-
48) points to four conceptions: permission, coexistence, respect and esteem. As Forst is
concerned to retain the balancing of reasons that he considers characteristic of toleration, he
qualifies the extent to which ‘esteem’ can be seen to support a position of tolerance (Forst, 2007:
237). Esteem needs to be constrained as it would otherwise run the risk of exploding toleration
and substituting its conceptual core with that of unqualified endorsement (Forst, 2003: 47-8).
Respect, in turn, offers the prospect of a balanced position that is grounded in the recognition of
the human capacity to justify, which we must attribute to fellow human beings (Forst, 2003: 588-
600). Others, such as Joseph Raz (1988: 165), suggest that the liberal value of individual
autonomy, which requires the presence of a plurality of choices, necessitates the commitment to
toleration as only this can safeguard the presence of choices. Raz has been criticised for his
treatment of ‘non-liberal’ cultures (Parekh, 2000: 90-99), and it is clear that social and cultural
pluralism may be considered valuable for different reasons than the maximisation of choices and
thus provide a reason for toleration or even respect.
The literature on reasons and justifications is extensive and it is not our concern to offer an
overview here. We suggest, however, that a challenge for any attempt to outline the
‘components’ of toleration is to be at least minimally aware of how these correspond to material
practices, institutional environments and changing socio-historical circumstances. In how actors
articulate claims and in how the public institutions for minority accommodation in European
states are designed, there are material contexts for the types of considerations that normative
theorists seek to characterise. A different set of questions, which we have broached before,
regards relational, perceptual and communicative dynamics of the toleration act. A concern for
how normative structures are socially embedded, such as in reciprocity and respect in everyday
encounters, as well as in relationships, socialisation and learning, seems as significant as an
interest in the ‘balancing’ of reasons and the soundness of justifications.
The boundary separating conventional understandings of toleration from more demanding
propositions, such as ‘respect’ and ‘recognition’, is not firmly drawn. It is respect for personhood
or the recognition of the other’s individuality that is often seen to provide reasons for acceptance:
objected features are qualified or put into perspective by the standing of the person that exhibits
and attaches some worth to these features. Advances in normative theory, however, have
recently attempted to revise toleration so that it can more aptly respond to claims for respectful
treatment of, in particular, public identity claims. While toleration, as Peter Jones (2006: 140)
suggests, ‘fits uncomfortably into a world constructed in terms of identity and difference rather
than belief and value’, Galeotti in particular has tipped the balance and extended the concept to
offer what she regards as more satisfactory responses to identity politics.
Galeotti (2002: 193-4) has strongly argued for an expansive understanding of toleration that
would ‘reverse the invisibility and marginality of different identities which public blindness, far
from dispelling, in fact reinforces’. Her account of ‘public toleration’ seeks to amend the
continuum of toleration with notions of equality, inclusion and visibility that have been
developed by theorists of multiculturalism. This includes, for example, Iris Marion Young’s
(1990: 163) account of social justice as an aspiration towards ‘equality among socially and
culturally differentiated groups, who mutually respect one another and affirm one another in their
differences.’ Charles Taylor (1994: 50), famously, speaks of ‘a regime of reciprocal recognition
among equals’, where recognition extends ‘the politics of dignity’ (1994: 68) towards
marginalised groups (see Modood, 2007: 51).
The need of recognition has not originally been conceived in response to identity politics or to
remedy the stigmatisation of minorities; it has a basis in the 19th century idealism of G.W.F.
Hegel. Accordingly, Taylor and Axel Honneth are more generally concerned with the possibility
of socially embedded autonomy. Taylor has previously proposed a narrative conception of the
self, which in its orientation towards ‘the good’ has an innate demand for intersubjective
affirmation (Taylor, 1989: 47). Honneth’s (2011) more recent concern is to delineate a
conception of social freedom as the foundation for an understanding of justice that is to be
realized intersubjectively and cooperatively. The values that are protected by liberal regimes of
toleration, such as the pursuit of private endeavours and freedom of conscience, are not
dismissed but complemented in this account with a concern for ends and identities that require
not just protection but cooperation and mutuality to be realized. Significantly, various attempts to
revise the standard formulation of toleration, such as by Creppell (2003) and Bohman (2003)
point in a similar direction of reciprocity, without using a language of recognition.
The question of how much ‘esteem’ or ‘recognition’ can be accommodated without
overextending toleration is disputed and it is perhaps impossible to achieve complete conceptual
clarity about the attitudes and reasons that toleration can contain. The ‘space beyond toleration’,
as we conceive of it here, is undetermined and can accommodate any position that tips the
balance of toleration as it is conventionally understood. Recognition and respect, where these are
not conditionally tied to disapproval, would seem to fall into this domain. Werner Schiffauer in
this volume proposes to consider ‘normalization’ within this space and in contrast to the
regulation of ‘otherness’ that toleration implies. The ideal of non-domination, understood as a
‘secure status’, would also appear to point towards a space ‘beyond toleration’, as Iseult
Honohan suggests in her chapter.
While these positions may avoid the criticism that the focus on recognition has invited (see for
example Lukes, 1997; Markell, 2003), like all options ‘beyond toleration’ they remain vulnerable
when the focus is on the types of (state) intervention that their realization might require. The
kind of attitudinal change that a fully realized regime of recognition would seem to entail has
been questioned. There is a practical concern to safeguard a prudent minimalism against an
illiberal or extra-liberal perfectionism, which the politics of recognition is seen to imply. What is
sometimes unclear in various accounts is whether the availability of more demanding responses
to minority claims effectively dislodges less demanding ones, or whether a multiplicity of
arrangements can exists as long as a ‘moral minimalist’ conception of toleration is safeguarded
(see Bader, 2007, eg. 77-8 and in this volume). In any case, it is of course inconceivable that the
plurality of ‘differences’ in modern societies will ever find a uniform response. While some
features of minority difference may achieve a form of recognition or respect, others will be more
grudgingly received or their accommodation even refused; we are thus automatically confronted
with sociological as well as with normative pluralism. The (conditional) relationship between
positions and responses towards minority ‘difference’ requires some sociological and conceptual
interest, and Modood and Dobbernack’s contribution considers such interdependencies for the
case of the United Kingdom.
While toleration, respect and recognition have all been scrutinized, intolerance usually receives
less attention, a fate shared with the concepts ‘disrespect’ and ‘misrecognition’ (see Meer,
Martineau and Thompson, 2012). In everyday parlance, intolerance is an evil that needs to be
fought. Where politicians seek to prove their toughness, they speak of ‘zero tolerance’. The
German lesson drawn from the demise of the Weimar Republic is Keine Toleranz der Intoleranz
(‘no tolerance of intolerance’, see Schiffauer, this volume). Also in political theory, intolerance
is frequently of interest as the result of a failure or as an absence and not as a position that should
be of interest in its own right for how it is substantiated and politically justified.
This may be an omission in particular since many European states show an active interest in re-
drawing the boundaries of toleration. The notion is that past ‘excesses’ of tolerance were
exploited by assertive minorities and need to be reversed (see, relatedly, Lentin and Titley,
2012). It is argued that there has been too much leniency, too much accommodation and too little
insistence on shared values. Fuelled by anxieties over terrorism, over a lack of ‘social cohesion’
and ‘political unity’, social disorder and fragmentation along ethnic and religious lines, it is
argued that too much tolerance has been afforded to minority groups. Intolerance becomes a
principled position, necessary in order to protect the rights of individuals and the values and the
identity of the majority.
There are divisions in the political ideology of liberalism (Galston, 1995; Gray, 2000), and, of
course, liberal arguments can be deployed to justify both tolerance and intolerance. The ideas
and arguments that underpin a recently resurgent version of liberalism, which is substantialized
into a ‘distinct way of life’ (Joppke, 2004, 252), is examined by Per Mouritsen and Tore
Vincents Olsen in this volume. While ‘identity liberalism’ seems be a major political driver
towards intolerance, it is not just the disavowal of toleration that should be of interest. When
claims for public recognition and equal respect are rejected, the fallback position may be not
toleration, but intolerance and an outright rejection of more minimal positions of forbearance.
The movement between the different ‘classes’ of acceptance may not always follow predictable
or linear paths.
The problem-centred approach in this book suggests a division in three parts. Each part explores
a different dimension of acceptance and deals with the boundary issues that make it ‘hard to
accept’. We explore boundary issues in-between the refusal and the concession of tolerance and
between toleration and more demanding responses such as of equality, respect or recognition.
Contributions to this book jointly explore these issues, the societal dynamics they characterise,
and how cultural diversity in Europe challenges our understandings of what acceptance means.
In the first part of the volume, issues between toleration and ‘beyond’ toleration are explored. If
toleration, as is often maintained, is not enough, alternative concepts become necessary or the
scope of toleration needs to be expanded. This raises questions, we have suggested, about how to
preserve a more minimalist, but nonetheless essential, core meaning of toleration; or how more
demanding concepts may lend themselves – if at all – to be practiced by the state and its
institutions. It also raises significant questions on what the objectives of cultural accommodation
should be: non-interference, as in the conventional formulation of toleration, or more demanding
understandings, such as those that suggest replacing non-interference with ideas of recognition,
respect or non-domination. Whether positions beyond toleration are necessarily superior to more
minimalist positions of toleration which may be more secure and practicable is up for debate.
The value of toleration may exactly lie in its function as a crucial peace-keeping device that
should not be renounced because more demanding positions are attractive.
In his contribution, Veit Bader considers the demand for more expansive understandings of
toleration and its reconsideration as a form of public recognition. Faced with this challenge, he
defends a minimalist conception of ‘gritted teeth tolerance’. The relationship between toleration
and respect or recognition, he suggests, should be one where more demanding notions
supplement, rather than replace, the necessary minimum that toleration provides. Bader
conceives of this requirement as the ‘non infringement provisio’ and argues for a consideration
of complex interactions between various classes of acceptance. Where the concern is too often
with philosophical doctrine, Bader draws attention to the importance of political institutions and
practical interactions. His contribution thus serves as the starting point for a theoretically as well
as sociologically informed discussion that explores toleration not as an unproblematic conditions
– that can be either present or absent, ‘on’ or ‘off’ – but as multi-dimensional and multiply
dependent. The grudging concession of tolerance in one and enthusiastic endorsement of
difference in another domain, may be dependent, sustain one another and rely on complex
interactions between ‘more’ and ‘less demanding’ types of acceptance.
Working within the same problem field, Sune Lægaard’s chapter takes as its point of departure
the widespread claim that ‘toleration is not enough’ and that we need to go ‘beyond toleration’ in
order to satisfactorily address contemporary forms of cultural diversity, such as the presence of
Muslim minorities in Europe. Such claims are usually based on specific understandings of the
concepts of toleration and recognition, namely as consisting in non-interference despite
disapproval and in an active accommodation that expresses public affirmation, respectively. The
chapter first notes that this purely conceptual argument for going ‘beyond toleration’ is
inconclusive, since it is far from clear whether and, if so, how the classic notion of toleration
applies to institutions like the state. States are non-personal institutions regulating society, so it is
not immediately clear in what, if any, sense they can be the subjects of the attitudes of
disapproval required for toleration, and it is also not obvious that non-interference has the same
meaning in relation to a political authority regulating society through general rules as in relation
to individual conduct. The chapter proceeds to offer a positive proposal for how institutional
toleration can be understood, which furthermore makes policies of toleration more comparable to
policies of recognition.
The question is whether there is still, at this institutional level, conceptual reasons for going
'beyond toleration' to recognition? Lægaard approaches this theoretical question in an
examination of the particular Danish case of state recognition of religious minorities. The case is
used to illustrate the complexities of institutional toleration and recognition and the differences
between various conceptions of institutional toleration. But the case is also used to mount a
criticism of the conceptual argument for going ‘beyond toleration’: At the institutional level,
recognition, as well as toleration, may be inadequate and inappropriate from the point of view of
multicultural accommodation of cultural difference. The chapter offers the diagnosis that it is not
a conceptual matter of whether the relation between states and minorities can be categorized in
terms of recognition or toleration, but a normative question of whether and how toleration and
recognition secures equality. When toleration is inadequate, this is often because it
institutionalizes and upholds specific inequalities. But a politics of recognition may equally well
institute inequalities, and in such cases unequal recognition may not be preferable to toleration.
The chapter ends by sketching different ways in which institutional toleration and recognition
can involve equality.
Iseult Honohan examines the implications of the republican idea of non-domination for
toleration. If toleration involves permitting what one could prohibit, toleration itself could be
seen as an exercise of arbitrary power. The theory of non-domination thus introduces a
significant challenge to conventional understandings of toleration. With non-domination the
claim is not just for non-interference but for freedom that requires a secure status and that
protects citizens from subjection to the arbitrary will of the state or others. Domination involves
the capacity to exercise arbitrary power over others, rather than specific acts of interference. The
classic examples are those of the slave or the wife in a Victorian marriage; the master or husband
has the right to interfere, but if well-intentioned or absent, may choose not to do so. But the
status of the wife or slave remains one of subordination, since a change of master or of
inclination may result in their physical or psychological abuse. Thus those who are dominated
adopt behaviour designed to propitiate the dominating party and reduce the incidence of
On this account, freedom is understood as the absence of domination, not simply the absence of
interference, and involves a more secure status. One of the central aims of government should be
to promote non-domination, by providing such a secure status against arbitrary incursions both
by other individuals and institutions in society, and by government itself. This conception of
freedom is more demanding with respect to the conditions required for its enjoyment than the
more widely understood conception within liberalism of freedom as the absence of interference.
Whereas the non-interference conception requires only that someone is not currently interfered
with, the non-domination conception requires that they have a status, and structures that secure
this, which protects them from the possibility of arbitrary interference. It also requires that
people, instead of accommodating themselves to domination, can look others in the eye as
equals. Institutions alone do not secure non-domination, which also requires the cultivation of
attitudes of civility. The chapter examines the way in which certain cultural minorities, both
national and immigrant, may be seen as subject to domination today, and the particular issues of
tolerance to which this gives rise. It considers further whether the theory of non-domination can
provide the basis of a republican conception of tolerance that is useful to apply in the
contemporary context. Honohan suggests that while non-domination entails an important role for
‘mere’ toleration, this toleration requires a level of institutional support for citizens often
associated with recognition.
Toleration may need to be amended where what is at stake is not the toleration of difference, but
the question of how visibly ‘abnormal’ difference may become ‘normal’—and thus potentially
invisible. Boundaries of ‘tolerable difference’ have historically been changing and contributions
to this volume suggest that we need to be concerned with why some aspects of difference, and
not others, become the subject of heated debates. We need to study the political and discursive
deployment of toleration and how tolerance relies on the construction of images of self and
others. The second part of the book thus considers the re-formulation of toleration and its
political uses in contemporary liberal governance. A new liberal intolerance is introduced and
justified by drawing on argumentative resources that liberal ideas provide. This also involves the
drawing of new boundaries between tolerable and intolerable ‘difference’. The two contributions
in this part offer suggestions on how to understand and analyze the phenomenon of ‘liberal
intolerance’ with a particular focus on political argumentation and discursive motifs.
In his contribution to the volume, Werner Schiffauer is concerned with deployments of toleration
in political discourse. While in post-war Europe toleration came to be considered a universal
requirement for decent polities, recent years have seen a strong emphasis placed on the limits of
toleration. Newly salient boundaries, not just the tolerable and intolerable, but between the self-
image of tolerant European liberalism and the alleged intolerance of non-European others have
emerged. In this development anxieties and fears are mobilized, and Schiffauer introduces a
typology to consider the pertinent themes that are at work. He suggests that recent European
developments, such as the alleged ‘failure’ of multiculturalism, are to be seen in the context of
how new boundaries are drawn and spaces of ‘tolerable’ difference structured.
Schiffauer suggests that the issue of tolerance emerges when boundaries are questioned between
what must, should, can and between what cannot, should not, must not be tolerated. This may
occur in two directions: on the one hand, we have groups and practices which had been tolerated
so far, but which at some point of history are considered to be problematic. The other direction is
when practices, which have not been tolerated, compete for toleration. Usually, cases of
precedence are used as arguments and past fights for tolerance are drawn on to demonstrate that
anxieties about the expansion tolerance are not justified. Rather than asking for a normative
solution to boundary conflicts, Schiffauer suggests that we should be interested in the social
analysis of the power relations that underpin the drawing of boundaries. We need to analyze the
political field in which the limits of tolerance are debated and the arguments which are employed
in this process. To consider the conflict between various ‘classes’ of acceptance, then, requires a
consideration of public anxieties, their role in political debate, and how these may change over
Per Mouritsen and Tore Vincents Olsen explore various different ways in which liberal political
theory has conceived of ‘spaces’ for tolerance. They suggest that justifications in liberal political
theory are empirically unstable and vulnerable to particular constellations of liberal
argumentation, notably to a ‘securitization’ of cultural diversity challenges along three registers:
liberal concerns with social order; liberalism’s public-private distinction and new imaginations
of the ‘perfectionist liberal welfare state’. The first modality of the new liberal intolerance
foregrounds a concern with cultural cohesion as a precondition of liberal-democratic societies
and institutions. The result is an unprecedented emphasis on the requirement that citizens, more
than accepting shared institutions and laws, share values, outlooks and practices and interact
productively in the economy. A second modality of liberal intolerance reflects a principled
concern with the neutrality or universalism of the public realm and the proper form of the
private-public distinction. The third modality of liberal intolerance is the perfectionist
requirement to qualify, following Christian Joppke, as ‘liberal people’ or to practice liberalism as
an identity, character ideal, or even a shared way of life. Mouritsen and Olsen thus consider
problems that arise when principled reasons for withholding toleration draw on the same register
of arguments that underpin the concession of tolerance. They suggest that it is necessary to take
notice of the actual argumentative structure of tolerance discourse at any one time and place and
to identify more clearly the currently changing configuration of liberal toleration. The
increasingly problematic place of toleration in European politics – the dynamics that lead to the
rejection of ‘passive tolerance’ (Cameron, 2011) across European states – require an
understanding of changing perceptions of what the callenges are to which toleration is or is not
an appropriate response.
The third part of the book considers how new forms of cultural diversity across Europe challenge
our understanding of acceptance. It explores the role of the nation and how national identities
may be made hospitable to ‘difference’ and to the toleration of minority groups. It considers how
the coincidence of claims, both ‘new’ and ‘old’, challenges simplistic understandings and makes
it necessary to consider not just majority-minority relations, but also those between different
kinds of minority claims that may have different conceptions of what recognition and respect
The nation, Anna Triandafyllidou suggests, remains the predominant site for the experience and
negotiation of cultural difference. This, she argues, makes it necessary to explore the role of
national identity in relation to the ‘otherness’ of other nations and domestic minorities. She
proposes an understanding of national identity as a ‘double-edged relationship’. With national
identity the commonalities of in-groups are demarcated from the difference of outsiders, and
Triandafyllidou introduces an analytical framework to consider the relations between national
identity and (internal or external) significant others. Contemporary reality is characterised by an
increasing movement of political refugees and economic immigrants who cross national borders
legally or illegally. Nation-states are therefore confronted with an increasingly complex
situation. Ethnic and cultural diversity is sometimes a result of migratory movements that defy
legal restrictions and police measures intended to keep unwanted immigrants out of the national
territory. Whether entering lawfully or not, host countries are faced with the necessity of dealing
with these ‘Others within’ whose presence challenges the political and cultural order of the
nation. According to the nationalist doctrine, ‘nations must be free and secure if peace and
justice are to prevail in the world’ (Smith, 1991: 74). But reality requires a great deal of
compromise and accommodation. Triandafyllidou argues that where national majorities
recognise that diversity is part and parcel of the nation’s origins and constitution (including
native minorities where relevant) there is a basis for opening up the nation’s ‘acceptable’
diversity spectrum to include migrant populations and to turn tolerance, respect or the
recognition of cultural difference into conceivable options. She uses examples from southern
Europe (Italy, Spain and Greece) to show where the self-reflexive recognition of diversity within
the nation has led to a ‘plural’ form of nationalism and in which cases this has not taken place
and seeks to identify the necessary geopolitical and historical conditions under which plural
nationalism can develop.
Tariq Modood and Jan Dobbernack consider the relationship between two conceptions of
difference that both claim ‘more’ than toleration. They take issue with the suggestion that the
domain of respect and recognition cointains claims that are apolitical, impractical or utopian and
point out how real issues of considerable political significance emerge in the debate about
positions ‘beyond’ toleration. Drawing on the British example, Modood and Dobbernack
investigate the perspective of political multiculturalism and that of ‘multiculture’ for their
alleged antagonism. Multiculture captures moments of contact, mixing, cultural exchange and
interaction. It is concerned with the hybridisation of culture and the creation of spaces that allow
for relatively effortless encounters. The other perspective, multiculturalism, refers to claims, not
least on the basis of religious identities, for equal respect and accommodation in the public
sphere. Despite the prevalence of claims that the two perspectives are antagonistic and exclude
one another, the authors suggest that is a lineage that both positions share in the politics of
African-American resistance that emerged in the 1960s and that both positions are eligible for
recognition and respect. The chapter draws attention to the danger of conceptual and normative
reductionism. Dominant conceptions of minority accommodation are often coined in relation to
the experience of particular groups. Modood and Dobbernack suggest that we should be
concerned to critically examine not merely whether tolerance, recognition or respect have been
attained but whether available conceptions capture the empirically discernible variety of claims
and positions as these reflect differences in the kind of recognition that different groups seek.
The conclusion takes stock of the themes raised in the contributing chapters. It highlights
challenges and makes suggestions regarding their implications for study of the various types of
acceptance. Firstly, it suggests that there needs to be space for a minimalist position of toleration
that – in line with what Veit Bader and Sune Lægaard suggest – serves as a necessary peace-
keeping component for pluralist societies. At the same time, the claims towards the
accommodation of identities beyond ‘gruding acceptance’ and for their public acceptance and
recognition need to be conceptually conceivable with a normative vocabulary that goes beyond
toleration’s necessary minimum. This is not unproblematic, as both Bader and Lægaard show in
their respective contributions; it requires a careful consideration of what recognition and respect
entails, and of not restricting these concepts to state action. Secondly, the conclusion
recapitulates the concern with discourses of acceptance and the drawing of boundaries. The
concern with the power that characterizes a relationship of toleration, with how, for example, the
presence of domination within toleration relationships is a legitimate concern, can and should be
squared with an interest in how toleration, and related notions, provide for useful descriptions
and normative evaluations. Toleration is not just deployed as a device in the regulation of
difference. It can be an asset in the repertory of arguments that disadvantaged groups draw on in
their claims for decent treatment and equality. However, the current constellation in Europe,
where tolerance appears increasingly problematic and public displays of intolerant ‘toughness’
have become more common, means that the case for tolerance, respect and the value of cultural
pluralism needs to be newly made.
In a substantive afterword, Bhikhu Parekh argues that much of the current discussion of
toleration is heavily ethnocentric. It locates toleration largely within the Christian context, and
principally as a response to the European religious wars of the 17th century. Even the liberal
discussion of toleration that begins with Locke and receives its most articulate philosophical
exploration in John Stuart Mill is heavily influenced by that history. We need to appreciate that
tolerance has also been practised in other societies, in many cases long before it became common
in Europe, and that it was justified on grounds quite different to those to be found in Christian
and liberal traditions. Parekh looks at the Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions and explores
how they conceptualise and justify the need for mutual accommodation and respect. This
thinking and practice is particularly worth attending to as European societies re-think the concept
of toleration and consider how it needs to be re-worked or supplemented as a response to new
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i There are valuable accounts that point to pre-Enlightenment origins of tolerance ideas (Laursen and Nederman,
1998; Nederman, 2000); to the social history of tolerance in practices of conviviality that emerged quite
independently from 17th century philosophy (Walsham, 2006; Kaplan, 2007); or to non-European justifications
for and practices of toleration (e.g., Mazower, 2004; Spinner-Halev, 2005; Barkey, 2008 and Parekh in this
volume). All of these accounts suggest that liberalism is not the only ground from which practices of toleration