Liberal Democracy and the Challenge of Ethical Diversity

Human Affairs 18 (1):10-22 (2008)
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Abstract
What do we talk about when we talk about ethical diversity as a challenge to the normative justifiability of liberal democracy? Many theorists claim that liberal democracy ought to be reformed or rejected for not being sufficiently ‘inclusive’ towards diversity; others argue that, on the contrary, liberalism is desirable because it accommodates (some level of) diversity. Moreover, it has been argued that concern for diversity should lead us to favour (say) neutralistic over perfectionist, universalistic over particularistic, participative over representative versions of liberal democracy. This paper provides a conceptual framework to situate those debates, and argues that there are two fundamental ways in which diversity constitutes a challenge to the justificatory status of liberal democracy: consistency (whereby diversity causes clashes between the prescriptions generated by normative political theories), and adequacy (whereby diversity generates a rift between our experience of what is considered valuable and what the theory treats as such).
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