The Construction of Political Tolerance: A Sociology of Knowledge Approach

Dissertation, University of Cincinnati (1999)

The notion of tolerance has received much attention during the modern era in both philosophical and methodological literature. In the discipline of political science, it has been political tolerance which has dominated the research programs of many scholars during the last 50 years. Many of these studies investigating the causes of political tolerance are dominated by what is called an "essentialist" approach to the study of political attitudes and human beings. Such approach, though helpful, suffers from several problems which undermine its fruitfulness and threaten its ability to contribute to the current state of knowledge on the subject. Another approach is possible to the study of political tolerance, one which conceives of human beings and attitudes as cultural and non-static. This approach---a cultural or sociological one---is developed by applying the sociological theories of John Dewey, Karl Mannheim, and George H. Mead along with other contemporary theorists in the realm of a cultural approach to the study of society. Once developed, the cultural theory of political tolerance is tested by way of a mail questionnaire on four interest groups in Southwestern Ohio. The data replicated many of the findings of previous essentialist models of political tolerance . More importantly, the findings also gave empirical support to the cultural theory of political tolerance as an independent and alternative model to explaining the causes of this phenomenon. The results suggest that a cultural approach to political tolerance is not only a viable alternative for future research programs but also a new and stimulating approach for thinking about human beings, the attitude formation process, and, ultimately, the roots of political tolerance or intolerance
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