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Transformative Toleration

Posted: 29 Mar 2010  

Zachary White

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

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There are principles and bodies of theory that have developed in the West to define the limits and kinds of allowable state interference in religious practice on one hand, and religious claims on state resources, recognition, and social authority on the other. The configurations of religion, state, and society that have evolved under these principles and theories have come to enjoy fairly stable acceptance. But as these configurations come into contact with public and nomothetic religions like Hinduism and Islam, tolerant states will have to newly specify or clarify toleration's limits in many areas, and these limits, however carefully they are drawn, are likely to be deeply contested. Consequently, the new circumstances confronted by secularism and toleration place much nearer their theoretical centers an adequate normative and practical response to this contestation. In general, as Rawls and Habermas have insisted, the stability of toleration requires that those whose practices fall outside toleration's limits come, over time, to affirm those limits for internal reasons. But attempts to grapple with this transformative dimension of toleration have not taken sufficient account of its normative difficulties. The aim of this paper is to begin to get a clearer picture of the normative difficulty and to begin to sketch a phenomenologically plausible picture of how transformation might come about.

Suggested Citation

White, Zachary, Transformative Toleration. Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper . Available at SSRN:

Zachary White (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

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