a deliberative democracy
Any feasible ideal of democracy must face the unavoidable social fact that
the citizenry of a modern state is heterogeneous along a number of intersecting dimensions, including race, class, religion and culture. If that ideal
is also deliberative, and thus requires that citizens commit themselves to
making decisions according to reasons they believe are public, then such
diversity raises the possibility of deep and potentially irresolvable conflicts.
The idea of toleration as the appropriate response to difference has been central to liberal thought since Locke. Although the subject has been widely and variously explored, there has been reluctance to acknowledge the new meaning that current debates offer on toleration. This book starts from a clear recognition of the new terms of the debate, reflecting the capacity of seeing the other's viewpoint, and the limited extent to which toleration can be granted. Theoretical statements on toleration posit at the same time its necessity in democratic societies, and its impossibility as a coherent ideal. There are several possible objections to, and ways of developing the ideal of, reasonable tolerance as advocated by John Rawls and by some other supporters of political liberalism. The first part of the book explores some of them. In some real-life conflicts, it is unclear on whom the burden of reasonableness may fall. This part discusses the reasonableness of pluralism, and general concept and various more specific conceptions of toleration. The forces of progressive politics have been divided into two camps: redistribution and recognition. The second part of the book is an attempt to explore the internal coherence of such a transformation when applied to different contexts. It argues that openness to others in discourse, and their treatment as free and equal, is part of a kind of reflexive toleration that pertains to public communication in the deliberative context. Social ethos, religious discrimination and education are discussed in connection with tolerance.
their treatment as free and equal, is part of a kind of reflexivetoleration that pertains to public communication in the deliberative context. In
such a context, individuals recognise each other as part of the same democratic community, and they do so both by taking each other’s reasons seriously, but also, and even more crucially, by taking each other’s perspectives
fully on board. From a different perspective, Andrew Mason’s discussion
of ‘cities’ and ‘communities’ develops a parallel argument on the importance of coming into contact with others. His focus is on
moral world and of explaining the reasons for toleration in a more particular
way. On this, see my Toleranz im Konflikt, Part II.
Needless to say, this calls for a theory of democracy as part of a political theory
of toleration. See, for example, James Bohman, ‘ReflexiveToleration in a
Deliberative Democracy’, in this volume.