Since the 1960s, the rise of new social movements demanding justice and equality for those suffering discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, ethnicity, and sexuality has fundamentally changed the terms of political debate in liberal democracies. Questions concerning the relevance of identity, difference, and diversity to the public sphere of politics, as well as their implications for public policy, have over the last decade become central and divisive in both academic discourse and public debate.1 The language of identity and difference is used to legitimize a wide range of political claims; in fact, at the same time as affirmative action has come under attack in the United States and elsewhere, the language of group identity, originally deployed by historically subordinated minorities, has now been appropriated by more mainstream groups. In the late 1990s, popular culture portrayed the “angry white man,” allegedly oppressed and marginalized by organized groups of women and people of color, and out for revenge.2 At the other end of the political spectrum, scholars began at the same time to critically explore whiteness as a ground for identity.


Liberal Theory Identity Politics Deliberative Democracy National Community Moral View 
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  1. 1.
    For a discussion of the emergence of new social groups, see Michael J. Piore, Beyond Individualism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Rodney Barker, “A Future for Liberalism or a Liberal Future?” in The Liberal Political Tradition, ed. James Meadowcroft (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1996), 181.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For a summary statement, see Gray’s review article “Autonomy is not the Only Good,” The Times Literary Supplement (June 13, 1997), 30. This debate is well rehearsed in the issue of Social Research devoted to replies to Gray’s charge that Rawlsian liberalism “at no point touches the real dilemmas of liberal society.” Gray also responds to his critics. Social Research 61, 3 (Fall 1994).Google Scholar
  4. Amy Gutmann also refers to the need to write political philosophy for a less than ideal society in “Responding to Racial Injustice,” in K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 109.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    This is also the theme of Glen Newey’s After Politics: The Rejection of Politics in Contemporary Liberal Philosophy (New York: Palgrave, 2001). Newey argues that contemporary political philosophers have been more concerned with formulating ideal prescriptions than with describing actual politics, as a result chiefly of their preoccupation with normative theorizing and applied ethics.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Toward a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985).Google Scholar
  7. See also the collected essays in Mouffe (ed.), Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Pluralism, Citizenship, Community (London: Verso, 1992), andGoogle Scholar
  8. Mouffe, ed., The Return of the Political (London: Verso, 1993).Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990). Young differentiates between claims for recognition of group identity, and claims to remedy structural disadvantage in Inclusion and Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 102–7.Google Scholar
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    For a sympathetic discussion of postmodernism and political theory, see Stephen K. White, Political Theory and Postmodernism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
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    As Will Kymlicka has pointed out in his response to the separate line of attack taken by communitarians, this is to some extent a “straw person” version of liberalism. Historically, in fact, liberal thinkers such as John Stuart Mill have always assumed that individuals are embedded in and shaped by the social context in which they live, and that a certain kind of identity is required for the formation of the liberal state. Kymlicka, Liberalism, Community and Culture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 207–9. I discuss Kymlicka’s arguments in more detail in chapter 3.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    See e.g., Chandran Kukathas, “Are There Any Cultural Rights?” Political Theory 20 (1992): 105–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 12.
    Brian Barry, Culture and Equality (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001). Nancy Fraser addresses the relationship between redistribution and recognition from a different perspective in “From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a ‘Post-Socialist’ Age,” in Cynthia Willett, ed., Theorizing Multiculturalism: A Guide to the Current Debate (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), 19–49.Google Scholar
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    John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993);Google Scholar
  15. Charles Larmore, The Morals of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. J. Donald Moon, Constructing Community: Moral Pluralism and Tragic Conflicts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
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    For the classic statement, see Robert Dahl, Who Governs? (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961). Dahl restates and clarifies his views in Democracy and Its Critics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    Paul Hirst, Associative Democracy: New Forms of Economic and Social Governance (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995) and Liberalism, Community and Culture; Google Scholar
  20. Yael Tamir, Liberal Nationalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993);Google Scholar
  21. Charles Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition,” in Multiculturalism, ed. Amy Gutmann (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    Iris Marion Young, Inclusion and Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    David Miller, On Nationality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 4–6.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    For example, Melissa Williams, whose work I discuss in chapter 5, admits the difficulty in doing this—and does not pursue it. See Williams, Voice, Trust and Memory: Marginalized Groups and the Failings of Liberal Representation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 220.Google Scholar

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© Katherine Smits 2005

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