Liberalism, rights and recognition

Philosophy and Social Criticism 26 (5):28-46 (2000)
The conviction that political recognition is accomplished through the extension and completion of the Enlightenment project of toleration is shared by some of the most influential political theorists of our time. John Rawls, Charles Taylor and Will Kymlicka all formulate the issue of recognition as if it were a corollary of the principle of toleration based in equal liberty or dignity. This raises important issues which political thought must confront and engage with. Above all, it means reconsidering the primacy of Enlightenment critique for our understanding of ourselves, our world and our encounter with others. In this article I examine the liberal conviction that tolerance (in the sense of a commitment to individual autonomy) best promotes recognition of cultural diversity. I argue that two weaknesses haunt the liberal project and undermine this belief. They prevail because of a failure adequately to address the question of recognition in its normative, ontological and symbolic aspects. In contrast, I argue that philosophical hermeneutics affords a critical perspective on democratic theory and practice that must be taken up and extended following the experience of identity politics. Key Words: hermeneutics • Kymlicka • multicultural democracy • normativity • Rawls • ontology • symbolic • Taylor.
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DOI 10.1177/019145370002600502
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