chapter
24 Pages

Introduction

How should the state respond to the different and sometimes conflicting justice claims made by its citizens, particularly in the wake of what has come to be called the ‘cultural turn’?1 Is it ever just for the state to impose cultural selection upon immigrants? Should minority groups have the right to reject the authority of some state institutions whilst remaining within its territorial boundaries? What is the normative significance of membership in community and to what extent, if at all, should majorities accede to the claims of minority groups whose values are not only different to but sometimes in deep conflict with their own? What, ultimately, is the purpose of justice in culturally diverse societies and is it coherent in an age of diversity to ground liberal terms of political association upon ethical foundations? In answering these questions, this book constructs and defends an epistemic account of liberalism as the most appropriate response to the challenge that the cultural turn presents to the theory of justice. To be sure doing these things presupposes not only an account of what the

cultural turn and epistemic liberalism are, but also of whether the latter is a political theory worth paying attention to. With respect to the first a look at recent developments in academic scholarship as well as in politics can help clarify matters. John Dryzek, for instance, locates the concern with culture, identity and difference initially in developments in the fields of social theory and literary criticism in the 1970s, when the then dominant positivist paradigm of social analysis began to be called into question. Politically this change was later manifested in the post-Communist crisis of the left in which the prospects for a radical redistribution of wealth by the state were severely diminished. In the wake of this development, Dryzek writes, it is multiculturalism that has become the principal rival to liberalism, particularly in its increased emphasis upon matters of culture, identity and status relative to the then dominant focus upon economic distribution.2 A similar view is to be found in the work of both Nancy Fraser and Anne Phillips who write of a ‘postsocialist’ age in which the liberal democracies of the West have witnessed the emergence of multiculturalism, or the politics of recognition in opposition

to liberalism.3 Commencing the story of the increase in emphasis upon culture and identity earlier than Dryzek, these and other authors have pointed out that it took inspiration from the New Social Movements of the left that arose in the 1960s and 1970s in defence of the claims of, among others, women and ethnic, religious, sexual and national minorities.4