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About this book

The New Politics of Identity pursues many of the central issues raised in the author's Rethinking Multiculturalism focusing in particular on their consequences for global politics. Parekh develops a theory of identity that combines respect for diversity and applies this theory to a range of key current debates on national identity.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
By common consent, we are entering a new phase in human history. Thanks to globalization brought about by revolutionary changes in the means of transport and communication and expansionist capitalism, far-flung societies are increasingly being locked into a system of interdependence.1 They face common problems such as regulating the movement of capital and people, climate change, the environment, the spread of disease and terrorism, which require collective solutions. And their interests are intertwined to the extent that events in one country can have profound consequences in others thousands of miles away. The global reach of the media brings to us vivid images of the struggles and suffering of men and women in distant parts of the world, involves us in their lives, heightens our sense of shared humanity, and demands a response. As different societies come together, there is a deepening of diversity between and within them, and we need to find ways of coping with its challenges at both the domestic and the international level.
Bhikhu Parekh

2. The Concept of Identity

Abstract
The question of identity arises in different contexts, and each has generated a rich tradition of discourse.1 We might ask if we are the same persons today as fifty years ago, whether the story of our life from birth onwards is the story of the same person, and, if so, what the sameness consists in. We might also ask if we are the same persons in our different roles, how they can be said to pertain to the same individual, and what is the basis of that sameness. We might wonder if we are anything more than an endless stream of moods, memories, feelings and thoughts and, if not, what holds them all together and makes them ours. We might also ask what individuates us, defines and distinguishes us from others and makes us this person rather than some other. Although these questions are related, they emphasize different aspects of identity and look at it from different angles. In this chapter, and in the rest of the book, I discuss identity in its last sense.2
Bhikhu Parekh

3. The Politics of Collective Identity

Abstract
As I observed earlier, every society is distinguished by a dominant body of beliefs and practices concerning the ways in which its members should lead their individual and collective lives. It privileges some forms of life, social relationships and groups, and disapproves of and imposes different kinds of formal and informal sanctions on others. The latter understandably complain that the dominant culture denigrates their identity, requires them to conform to unacceptable norms, oppresses and humiliates them, traps them into a restricted and alien mode of being, and inflicts varying degrees of psychic and other injuries on them. Women argue that the prevailing patriarchal culture views them as sexual objects, inferiorizes them, expects them to live by norms that are set by and favour men, devalues their experiences, and denies them the opportunity to express themselves freely and fully. Homosexuals complain that the prevailing sexual norms devalue their forms of sexual fulfilment, treat these as a kind of physical or mental sickness, and force them to lead shadowy and self-alienated lives. Black people argue that the dominant racist culture reduces them to their colour, ‘overdetermines them from without’, views them as inferior or not fully human, and expects them to pursue goals and lead lives that conform to norms set by white people as a precondition of equality.
Bhikhu Parekh

4. National Identity

Abstract
The term ‘national identity’ is used in two related but different senses. First, it refers to an individual’s identity as a member of a political community as different from that of other kinds of community. Being French or Swedish is a national identity, just as being a Christian or a Hutu is a religious or an ethnic identity. Second, ‘national identity’refers to the identity of a political community, as when we ask what makes France or Sweden this community rather than some other. I shall begin with a brief discussion of the former sense and devote the rest of the chapter to the latter.
Bhikhu Parekh

5. Multicultural Society and the Convergence of Identities

Abstract
Cultural diversity is an inescapable fact of modern life. Culture refers to a historically inherited system of meaning and significance in terms of which a group of people understand and structure their individual and collective lives. It defines the meaning or point of human activities, social relations and human life in general, and the significance or value to be attached to them. It is embodied in its beliefs and practices, which collectively constitute its fuzzy but recognizable identity. To say that almost every modern society is culturally diverse or multicultural is to say that its members subscribe to and live by different, though overlapping, systems of meaning and significance.1
Bhikhu Parekh

6. European Liberalism and the ‘Muslim Question’

Abstract
Unlike the US, with its sizeable Muslim population, it is widely held in many influential circles in the EU that its more than 15 million Muslims pose a serious cultural and political threat, and that this shows, among other things, that multicultural societies do not work.1 Sometimes this view is stated explicitly; but more often it takes the form of an attack on multiculturalism for which Muslims are largely held responsible and which is a coded word for them. It cuts across the political and ideological divides and is shared, albeit in different degrees and for different reasons, by right wing nationalists, conservatives, liberals and socialists. In this chapter I critically examine the basis of this view, paying particular attention to how the Muslim identity has evolved over the years, and why liberals, the champions of minority rights, cultural diversity and civic as opposed to ethnic nationalism, feel threatened by it.
Bhikhu Parekh

7. The Pathology of Religious Identity

Abstract
I argued in Chapter 2 that human beings have plural identities and that these need to be balanced. Not all identities are equal in their scope, depth and importance: some cover large and important areas of human life and shape the way others are defined and regulated. The religious identity is one of them. For believers, their religion is the source of their world view and values, the ground of their being, their ultimate frame of reference, and governs all areas of their lives. Other identities, such as the national and the cultural can also acquire this degree of importance, but they do not generally have the same range and depth or deal with matters of equal concern.
Bhikhu Parekh

8. Challenges of the Multicultural World

Abstract
Attitudes to cultural diversity within and between societies are closely related. Those who welcome the former generally tend to feel sympathetic to, or at least at ease with, the latter. Conversely, those who believe that cultural diversity is a source of social instability feel deeply worried about the multicultural world and think it inherently conflictual. Their response to it is twofold. Some believe that since all societies should, or are likely over time to, converge on a single culture under the impact of modernization, globalization and the spread of democratic ideas, we should ensure that this is not obstructed and, whenever possible, promoted by appropriate pressure. Others consider such convergence unlikely or undesirable, and argue that our concern should be to manage the inevitable conflicts as well as we can, and be militarily ready to deal with those that get out of control. Both views have their strong advocates, and draw their inspiration from the writings of Samuel Huntington. I shall begin by examining Huntington’s basic thesis critically, and go on to argue that a dialogue between civilizations, conducted with an open mind and in full knowledge of its limits, is the only sensible way to deal with the multicultural world.
Bhikhu Parekh

9. Globalization and Culture

Abstract
In the previous chapter I argued that intercultural dialogue is necessary to promote better understanding and to consolidate our growing sense of common humanity. While globalization generally facilitates this by bringing various cultural communities together and creating large areas of overlap and convergence, in some cases it also threatens the cultural identity of societies and causes a sense of panic that militates against a dialogue. In this chapter, I take a closer look at both these processes. But before I do so, some general remarks on globalization are necessary to set the context and see how it also has an impact on other areas of life.
Bhikhu Parekh

10. Principles of Global Ethics

Abstract
As I argued earlier, our interests in the increasingly interdependent world are intertwined and we face common problems requiring collective action. This calls for a widely agreed body of universal principles to guide our choices and regulate our relations with other societies. In this chapter I turn to this complex question and explore the nature, basis and content of global ethics.1
Bhikhu Parekh

11. Moralities of Partiality and Impartiality

Abstract
In the previous chapter I argued that qua human beings, all human beings are morally equal and make equal claims on each other. They are also, however, bound to some of their fellow humans by special ties arising out of mutual commitments, promises, participation in common practices and membership of organizations, and make claims on each other that others do not.1 These ties vary greatly in their intensity and depth. Some are shallow and formal, such as those to fellow members of clubs and to colleagues. At the other extreme they are deep, lifelong, and involve mutual identification and deep emotional engagement, such as those to one’s parents, children, spouse and close friends. Many others, such as those to one’s fellow citizens and neighbours, fall between the two extremes.
Bhikhu Parekh

12. Citizenship in the Global Age

Abstract
In Chapter 11 I argued that the moralities of both partiality and impartiality make legitimate claims, and suggested ways of reconciling them in the context of close personal relationships. I now want to extend the analysis to political communities, and explore how we might reconcile our obligations to our fellow citizens with those to outsiders.
Bhikhu Parekh

13. Promoting Democracy

Abstract
The question whether democratic societies should promote democracy in non-democratic societies has dominated the public agenda in recent years.1 Although it is asked in relation to the West, it could easily be asked in other contexts. In response to public opinion, India assisted the democratic movement in Nepal and put considerable pressure on the Nepalese king to agree to a constitutional monarchy. Some Indians have wondered if they should do the same in relation to Burma, Bangladesh and even perhaps Pakistan. The South African government is urged to use economic and diplomatic pressure to promote democracy in neighbouring countries, including Zimbabwe. There is no reason why other countries such as Malaysia and Brazil might not ask the same question in relation to their region. At present, however, only the West, in particular the US, has the necessary power and reach, and therefore I shall concentrate on it.
Bhikhu Parekh
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