This article seeks to understand how values enter into political discourse via justification and how those values are negotiated over time. The article maps out the terrain of diversity discourses, both as a specific type of discourse and as an example of ethical, moral and pragmatic modes of argumentation. The author examines Swedish “diversity discourses” in the periods of 1968–1975 and 1991–1995 in an effort to tease out the pragmatic, moral and ethical aspects of these discourses. Diversity discourses are defined as discourses regarding how much and what kind of diversity is acceptable or desirable in a society, as well as how such diversity should be handled. I find that values, both contextually-dependent ethical values and universal moral values, rather than being “prior” to politics, arise out of the intersection of pragmatic, ethical and moral discourses. What is moral and ethical, then is colored by the particular nexus of moral, ethical and pragmatic concerns such that what is acceptable at one particular time and location, may be unacceptable in another, even coming from the same actors with the same ideological commitments. Shifts in the ethical/moral modes of justification, then, lead to shifts in who is included in a democratic community.
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This paper does not attempt to disentangle what is truly “moral” versus what merely makes claims towards morality. As Tavory (2011) points out, this approach has its dangers, and, indeed, greater focus on “moral action” in this way is probably needed. Yet for our purposes, we are mainly interested in the mere presence of moral, ethical and pragmatic claims, not the truth or validity of the content of these claims.
Vaisey (2009) makes this point about motivation as opposed to justification in individual moral reasoning, arguing that most individuals cannot articular clear moral principles to explain their motivation for actions, but that post-hoc justifications that draw on moral scripts do have an effect on later actions.
Of course, New Democracy, a far-right party became popular in the 1990s, but its breakthrough was around issues of tax revolt primarily and began to move towards obscurity when it turned towards immigration as an issue (see Schall 2016).
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Schall, C.E. Diversity discourses: moral, ethical and pragmatic reasoning in the Swedish immigration and integration debate, 1968–1975 and 1991–1995. Am J Cult Sociol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41290-020-00105-y