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Tariq Modood

Abstract

The article firstly examines the different conceptions of dialogue and reason within political theory, especially in the work of Rawls. Secondly we explore multicultural political theorists who have been motivated less by abstract reasoning by a sole reasoner or identical identity-less individuals and more by dialogue. For such multiculturalists, the principles of social justice are not known in advance or simply by reason, but are arrived at by conflict and learning, by dialogue and negotiation in circumstances of inequality and minority-claims making. In response to the multiculturalists, interculturalists allege that multiculturalism is too focused on the macro and the conflictual, and dialogue should be redirected to the micro and the cooperative. Although I welcome the interculturalists’ focus on micro-relations, this does not require abandoning the idea of dialogue at the level of political controversies and public discourses. It is not an either–or choice because groups and intergroup problems exist in society and cannot be simply handled at a micro level of contact, interaction and sociability. The kind of macro-level dialogue that I am speaking of can also be understood as a form of public intellectual engagement that can contribute to societal dialogues.