Cultural claims and the limits of liberal democracy

Social Theory and Practice 34 (1):25-48 (2008)
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Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson’s theory of deliberative democracy has been widely influential and favorably viewed by many as a successful attempt to combine procedural and substantive aspects of democracy, while remaining quintessentially liberal. Although I admit that their conception is one of the strongest renditions of liberal democracy, I argue that it is inadequate in radically multicultural societies that house non-liberal cultural minorities. By focusing on Gutmann’s position on minority claims of culture in the liberal West, which follows from Gutmann and Thompson’s theory of deliberative democracy, I attempt to show that the theory of deliberative democracy does not do justice to legitimate claims of culture made by nonliberal minority cultural groups in the liberal West. As a result, I further argue that their deliberative democracy itself is inadequate for radically diverse societies in the West, some of whose members also belong to nonliberal minority cultural groups

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Ranjoo S. Herr
Bentley College


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