Multiculturalism and the democratic turn: a classical liberal critique
The increasing prominence of multiculturalism and moral diversity over the past few decades has coincided with a theoretical expansion of the democratic project. In particular, so-called „deliberative‟ and „strong‟ theories of democracy have been offered and expanded as solutions to the various moral and political problems that have arisen. However, while democrats disagree in the literature about what form a strongly participative democracy should take, there has been little circumspection about the wisdom of expanding democratic mechanisms. This thesis attempts to fill this lacuna by examining the merits of the various democratic theories on offer. By analysing the dilemmas posed by diversity and multiculturalism, it shows that the efficacy of deliberative democracy rests upon its epistemic virtues. If a stronger democracy is to overcome the problems of pluralism, it needs to greatly improve the flow of information around society. The principal argument offered is that, in practice, strong theories of democracy would not be able to deliver the epistemic outcomes necessary to provide a desirable alternative to modern liberal democracy. Multiculturalists and strong democrats do offer compelling reasons to reject modern liberalism, but the various democratic positions they advance rest upon prima facie controversial assumptions about the good society. By presuming both the means and the end of social life, deliberative democracy would likely close down rather than increase the flow of information between social actors, to the detriment of those already marginalised by the liberal democratic system. As such, it is contended on pragmatic grounds that we would do better to return to a classical, „Austrian‟ form of liberalism to find a theory of multicultural accommodation. Since we cannot know in advance how we should live our lives, our best response to pluralism would be to renounce the political management of society in order to strengthen those social mechanisms which help us learn about and adapt to one another.
AuthorsGunn, Paul Michael David
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