ABSTRACT

Preface Dealing with increasing diversity as a global phenomenon is one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century. Nation states, as well as regional and local communities, face the problem that “multiculturalism” as a “default strategy” (Malik & Sebej 2011) no longer does the trick to manage differences in society, and it is questionable whether it has ever done so. At the same time, the concept of pluralism, one of the “keywords of the global scene” (Orsi 2004), denotes more than diversity. It refers to “engagement with diversity,” which in turn, includes more than tolerance, that is to say “active seeking of understanding across lines of difference” based on dialogue and establishing relationships and frames for discussing and managing differences (Eck 2006). In the social sciences, the term “pluralism” is used to capture the diversity of societal interests and organisations as a premise for political competition, on the one hand, and implementation and consolidation of democratic principles according to high quality standards, on the other. People pursue individual and specific heterogeneous interests because of their embedment in different socio-economic and socio-cultural life contexts. These partly contradictory interests are reflected in party competition as well as in a pluralistic civic society comprising relevant organised interest groups (cf. Dahl & Lindblom 1976; Dahl 1983a, 1983b; McClure 1992; Eisenberg 1995; Gunnell 1996; Connolly 2005; Lassman 2011).