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Liberalism on Diversity (Politics) - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 244
Diversity/Liberalism/D’Agostino: (...) if we tolerate 'too much' diversity in individuals' cognitive and
evaluative attitudes, it cannot be ruled out that we will be unable to identify a collectively best system of social arrangements. Of course, neither pluralism nor representativeness requires the recognition of all empirically given diversity of attitudes (see, especially, Gaus, 1996(1)). ((s) For problems in relation to diversity see >Arrow’s Theorem/D’Agostino.)
Normalization: some attitudes can reasonably be 'filtered out' or normalized as part of any reasonable procedure for the identification of collectively binding social arrangements. If this can be done compatibly with specifically liberal principles, then liberalism can acknowledge diversity without abandoning a commitment to coherence in theory and in its institutional embodiments. (The idea of normalization is associated with Michel Foucault, 1977, (...).
Nromalization/Rawls: John Rawls's original position (1973(2): ch. Ill) represents the most influential attempt to identify a device of normalization that meets specifically liberal requirements. Bruce Ackerman's (1980)(3) 'neutral dialogue' and Jürgen Habermas's (1990)(4) >ideal speech situation are other examples (...).
Normalization/Rawls: Rawls addresses this problem by considering how diversity of individuals' antecedent judgements might be reduced compatibly with specifically liberal ideals and principles. His task is twofold:
1) to find a basis for reduction, and
2) to find a specifically liberal rationale for reduction.
Without (1), the coherence requirement cannot be satisfied; there is 'too much' antecedent diversity for a collectively best structure to be identified. Without (2), representativeness is not adequately acknowledged, for, absent a rationale, any reduction will be arbitrary from an ethical point of view - i.e. will arbitrarily fail adequately to represent decision-relevant diversity of assessments. Rawls's solution is embodied, specifically, in the veil of ignorance. >Veil of ignorance/Rawls, >Veil of ignorance/D’Agostino.
Arrow’s Theorem/problems/solutions: a problem of coherence results, in fact, precisely in so far as we demand, of a solution to the problem of collective choice, that it identify a particular option
as one which will be binding on all the individuals involved. >Arrow’s Theorem/D’Agostino.
Three Individuals (A, B, C) and three possible social arrangements (S1 , S2, S3);

Table I of preferences
S1: A 1st – B 3rd – C 2nd
S2: A 2nd – B 1st – C 3rd
S 3: A 3rd – B 2nd - C 1st

There is, however, another possibility, and it has been widely exploited in specifically liberal institutions. It is, in effect, to see the profile of preferences represented in Table I as the end-point, not the starting-point, of a process of collective deliberation. Perhaps the individuals involved agree to devolve decision-making about these options to the individual level. In so far as they do agree to this, we have a collective solution to a problem of choice. Each of the individuals
agrees, with all the others, not about what preference should collectively be honoured, but rather
that that distribution of preferences over individuals is to be preferred to any other in which each individual has the preferences which he antecedently has (or which he would have, subject to specifically liberal normalization of his attitudes).


1. Gaus, Gerald (1996) Justificatory Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Rawls, John (1973) A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. Ackerman, Bruce (1980) Social Justice in the Liberal State. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
4. Habermas, Jürgen (1990) Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Christian Lenhart and Shierry Weber Nicholson. Cambridge: Polity.

D’Agostino, Fred 2004. „Pluralism and Liberalism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Liberalism
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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