Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory

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9780333608821: Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory

Bhikhu Parekh shows that the Western tradition of political philosophy from Plato onwards has very limited theoretical resources to cope with cultural diversity. He then discusses how the Western tradition can be revised and what new conceptual tools are needed. The core of the book addresses the important theoretical questions raised by contemporary multicultural society, especially the nature and limits of intercultural equality and fairness, national identity, citizenship, and cross cultural political discourse.

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About the Author:

BHIKHU PAREKH is Professor of Political Theory, University of Hull. A political theorist of international renown he has held visiting chairs at many of the top US universities as well as in Vienna and Barcelona. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Baroda and a member of India's University Grants Commission in the early 1980s. On his return to the UK he became Deputy Chairman and Acting Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equalty. He is currently chair of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain whose report will be launched by leading government ministers in autumn 2000. He was elected British Asian of the Year in 1992 and received the BBC's award for special lifetime achievement in 1999.

Review:

Parekh is fair, thoughtful, fastidious and inventive in his theorizing of multiculturalism, but his viewpoint is rooted in an attempt to understand and convey a non-Western outlook. While his approach is always balanced, his first impulse is to explain and, where defensible, defend viewpoints that Western liberals have traditionally found suspect. It is a strength of this work that Parekh not only develops a brilliantly conceived theory of multiculturalism, but applies that theory meaningfully to thorny policy questions. This is a truly important and original book. (Benjamin Barber, Director, Walt Whitman Center, Rutgers)

This book is a lucid and luminous examination of the lives and times of liberalism in the context of multiculturalism, migration, and cultural displacement. Over the years, Bhikhu Parekh's writings have been the source of sanity and wisdom on cultural rights and community relations. This work by a fine scholar and an ardent activist teaches the hard lessons of tolerance and cultural empathy. (Homi Bhabha, University of Chicago)

Parekh's book is the most comprehensive defense of a pluralist perspective on cultural diversity that has been offered so far. Parekh challenges the continuing legacy of moral monism in contemporary liberalism. He defends his own thoroughly ecumenical approach both at the level of theory and by responding to the controversies over practices like polygamy or the burning of Rushdie's Satanic Verses. Parekh's pluralism is far from a permissive attitude of anything goes. He rigorously defends the need for operative public values as well as for a radical critique of dominant cultures. The book displays all the wisdom and the fighting spirit of a man who has been at the forefront of the theoretical and political battles over multiculturalism. (Rainer Baubock, Institute of Advanced Study, Vienna)

Bhikhu Parekh's Rethinking Multiculturalism is a very rich book...One of the things which makes the book so valuable is that it is written by a political theorist who has had hands-on experience of the problems involved, and in more than one country. Its author has a lively sense of the immense range of situations, and the variety of problems, tensions and conflicts. (Charles Taylor Times Literary Supplement)

Reading Parekh, one is always led to think freshly about the matter at hand and to consider questions that had not been visible before. All of these virtues are on display here, but this book goes even further. It achieves a level of theoretical coherence and a depth of insight that is rare and impressive. This is a wonderful book. It will challenge, stimulate, and enrich all those who encounter it. (Joseph H. Carens International Migration Review)

Parekh offers much that is fresh and original both in his critical review of political philosophers on cultural pluralism, and in his account of culture, human value, and the meaning of justice and equality in a multicultural society...Parekh's style and tone exemplifies the dialogic attitude whose importance he also theorizes substantively in the book. (Irish Marion Young Ethnicities)

Brilliantly argued, rigorous, acute in its theoretical insights and persuasive in its practical suggestions...Bhikhu Parekh has produced something very important here. Rethinking Multiculturalism is sophisticated but also accessible; it really does force the most skeptical to "rethink" a wide range of issues. (Stephen Howe Independent)

[Rethinking Multiculturalism is an] ambitious, engaging, and provocative analysis of the opportunities and challenges contemporary multiculturalism presents at the outset of the 21st century...[Bhiku Parekh offers] a nuanced examination of human nature, of cultural diversity, of the essence and structure of culture, of the importance for, and nature of, cross-cultural interaction, and of the reason why cultural diversity should not merely be accepted and accommodated, but appreciated as a positive value to be cherished and fostered. To accomplish this task requires, as Parekh repeatedly reminds his readers, an open and equal dialogue between mutually respectful cultural communities and the ability of the state or polity to reconcile the demands of political unity and cultural diversity. (Richard Connors Journal of International Migration and Integration)

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