Pluralism (political philosophy)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Pluralism as a political philosophy is the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a political body, which permits the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions and lifestyles. Political pluralists are not inherently socialists (who put equality as their guiding principle), liberals (who place liberty as their guiding principle) or conservatives (who place tradition as their guiding principle) but advocate a form of political moderation. Nor are political pluralists necessarily advocates of a democratic plurality, but generally agree that this form of government is often best at moderating discrete values.

As put by arch-pluralist Isaiah Berlin, "let us have the courage of our admitted ignorance, of our doubts and uncertainties. At least we can try to discover what others […] require, by […] making it possible for ourselves to know men as they truly are, by listening to them carefully and sympathetically, and understanding them and their lives and their needs…." Pluralism thus tries to encourage members of society to accommodate their differences by avoiding extremism (adhering solely to one value, or at the very least refusing to recognize others as legitimate) and engaging in good faith dialogue. Pluralists also seek the construction or reform of social institutions in order to reflect and balance competing principles. One of the more famous arguments for institutional pluralism came from James Madison in The Federalist paper Number 10. Madison feared that factionalism would lead to in-fighting in the new American republic and devotes this paper to questioning how best to avoid such an occurrence. He posits that to avoid factionalism, it is best to allow many competing factions (advocating different primary principles) to prevent any one from dominating the political system. This relies, to a degree, on a series of disturbances changing the influences of groups so as to avoid institutional dominance and ensure competition. Like Edmund Burke, this view concerns itself with balance, and subordinating any single abstract principle to a plurality or realistic harmony of interests.

Of course, pluralism recognizes that certain conditions may make good faith negotiation impossible, and therefore also focuses on what institutional structures can best modify or prevent such a situation. Pluralism advocates institutional design in keeping with a form of pragmatic realism here, with the preliminary adoption of suitable existing socio-historical structures where necessary.


See also

Notable Pluralists




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pluralism (political philosophy)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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