The Theory and Praxis of Deep Diversity: A Study of the Politics and Thought of Charles Taylor

Dissertation, New School for Social Research (1999)

This dissertation addresses the problem of political fragmentation via an analysis of the politics and thought of Charles Taylor. ;A politically fragmented country is one whose members increasingly identify with the concerns of specific groups rather than the country as a whole. To address political fragmentation is to address the tension between accommodating narrowly defined groups and promoting allegiance to a larger polity. Concerns about fragmentation mainly appear in two forms: First, if citizens find themselves primarily identifying with a specific ethnic, cultural or social group and not with the larger polity of a given country, will this hamper the ability of citizens of that country to develop a common civic culture? The second worry involves the limits of a state's ability to provide recognition. Is there a limit to the number and variety of group rights claims which a state can accommodate such that a state dramatically loses its ability to function effectively when it nears or exceeds that limit? ;Taylor confronts these questions in two interrelated manners: his intellectual quest to diagnose the moral context In which modern liberal democracies operate, and his attempts, as a political actor and commentator, to advance his own federalist solution to Canada's unity crises. ;My analysis of Taylor's philosophy and politics reveals several lessons about mediating political fragmentation in liberal democratic states. These lessons are predicated upon the following axioms: An adequate approach to political fragmentation must be sufficiently open to the myriad of particular identities that comprise a polity that it can provide what citizens who have a given identity regard as a fair hearing of their concerns. At the same time, it must be focused on articulating the basis of commonality among citizens. Taylor, despite his professed commitments to openness, is unable to develop a theoretical model that supports these commitments because of a series of ethical and political tensions that plague his thought
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