Contemporary Political Theory 1 (2):157-180 (2002)

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This article argues that, despite its reputation as a homogenising and authoritarian system, the political thought of Bernard Bosanquet contains resources with which to develop a robust and culturally sensitive model of liberal multiculturalism. Throughout the discussion, Bosanquet's thought is located within contemporary theoretical debates. The first section rehearses the critique of Millian liberalism developed by Bhikhu Parekh and others, which alleges that the considerations of individuality and autonomy underlying such a political order preclude it from showing adequate respect for cultures which do not conceive of personal identity in essentially individualistic terms. The next section sketches Bosanquet's social theory, as a preclude to the rebuttal of allegedly insurmountable barriers to the theory's accommodation of cultural diversity. Specifically, section three counters the objection that Bosanquet sanctions the imposition of internal restrictions on personal dissent. The final section rebuts the claim that a General Will cannot exist within a culturally diverse society, showing that in reality Bosanquet's theory leads us to endorse the ‘fundamental beliefs’ of a multi-ethnic society outlined recently in the Parekh Report. It is concluded that, when drawing on Bosanquet's thought, a liberal multicultural society can take different forms and yet still show proper respect for cultural diversity.
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DOI 10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300027
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