Shadows of the Enlightenment: refining pluralism in liberal democracies
The irruption of recent phenomena such as economic and technological globalization and cultural pluralism movements means that the classic question “What is Enlightenment?” demands far more plural responses than those provided by traditional forms of political liberalism, democracy, federalism and constitutionalism. This is not the first time that the “shadows” associated with these responses have been pointed out. For instance, in the interwar years of the twentieth century, the Frankfurt school highlighted important shortcomings in the social sciences and classical philosophy when they spoke of “progress” or “emancipation”. Their target was the way that the “enlightened” tradition (including Marxism) had developed up until that time. In Hegelian terms and taking a pessimistic view of modern societies – although they distanced themselves from a conception of history seen as a “rational” process and Hegel’s philosophy of identity – authors like Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse criticized the positivist suppositions associated with a clear separation between science and ideology and the philosophies that established unquestionable normative principles. In opposition to the different versions of orthodox Marxism, political economy could no longer be considered the science of human emancipation. Instead of being the solution, Marx was part of the problem. The way forward was to be found in interdisciplinary work which was far more aware of its own limitations and analytical complexities. In fact, according to the Frankfurt school, the Enlightenment itself, which wished to demythologize the world, has in turn become a myth. Confidence in the advent of an era of reason and enlightenment in contrast to suffering, ignorance and injustice is more an expression of faith than a reasonable perspective. The means that were proposed, domination of nature, have become the ends. The domination of capitalism and socialism over nature result in uncivilized forms of behaviour in the name of reason – exploitation, new kinds of dependence, ecological crises, etc. Enlightened reason leads to irrationality. The essence of historical rationality can only be negative or, in other words, “critical”. In order to conduct good theory one must pay attention to contexts, which are always particular, and these require interdisciplinarity, the use of induction, and more modest epistemological pretensions than the suppositions of abstract theories of enlightened origin. It is necessary, say
those of the Frankfurt school, to recover the sceptical element in Hegelian thought, that which shows the biased nature of any scientific or political “representation”. The universal can only be examined at the particular level, not “above” or “beyond” it. Validity is always limited and inconclusive, etc. This criticism of the “shadows” of the Enlightenment referred to questions of a “socio-economic” nature. But together with their tendency to break away from and encourage political emancipation from the Ancien Régime, the “enlightened” declarations and political ideas associated with the French Revolution also spoke of a “nation of citizens”, understood in culturally homogeneous terms. This is something that the empirical evidence of liberal democracies constantly denies in many cases. Since the last decade of the twentieth century there has been a normative revision of the legitimising bases of these democracies, a revision which is associated with the re-emergence of a set of practical phenomena that broaden the “socio-economic criticism” of the “enlightened shadows” mentioned above towards a “national and cultural” dimension. Phenomena such as the treatment that liberal democracies dispense to indigenous peoples, minority nations (Quebec, Scotland, Flanders, Catalonia, etc.), transnational immigrant peoples, etc. reveal normative and practical deficiencies – of both an instrumental and procedural nature – in the “enlightened” suppositions of traditional democratic liberalism and practical constitutionalism. This is a revision and a series of phenomena that have established a “new agenda” of issues – issues which have been barely or badly addressed (or not addressed at all) by classic theories of democracy and by theories of justice and federalism (the rights, recognition and accommodation of permanent national and cultural minorities). These theories are cloaked in new “shadows” in terms of their interpretation and concretion of values such as individual dignity, liberty, equality or pluralism. It is clear that these theories lack sufficiently conceptual, analytical and normative resources to offer responses that may be considered to be both just and workable when faced with the challenges posed by this new agenda of issues, an agenda which takes political issues into dimensions that until recently were largely neglected. One of these “shadows” refers to the interrelationship between monism and stateism which runs through traditional forms of democratic liberalism and constitutionalism. Monism, says Berlin, is at the root of all extremism – extremism, we might add, that may also be established in democratic terms. What follows is a synthesis of a brief set of analytical elements of the theory of democracy which identify a number of “shadows” or flaws that exist in the normative and institutional bases of plurinational liberal democracies, as well as a number of elements related with the revision of these bases in order to carry out a political and constitutional recognition and accommodation of the national pluralism of this kind of democracy. This is an attempt to focus attention on some of the aspects that have been addressed by the traditional theories of liberal democracy with regard to national pluralism and which it is important to take into account when embarking upon a revision of federalism in plurinational contexts (section 1). Second, we will focus on the idea of moral cosmopolitanism
and national minority rights taking into account the Kantian philosophical perspective that is usually present in traditional liberal approaches. Kantian concepts of cosmopolitism, nationalism and patriotism will be here the main points of reference. Although Kant’s philosophy contains some elements, such as the unsocial sociability of humans beings and the Ideas of Reason, to overcome the failures of Kantism regarding cosmopolitism and national minority rights, I will point out the need for a more Hegelian perspective in the normative and institutional analysis of plurinational democracies (section 2).