Many theorists of multiculturalism have proposed contextualism as an approach particularly suited for theorizing multiculturalism. The so-called Bristol School of Multiculturalism (BSM) is characterized by a ‘bottom up’ and claims-based approach eschewing appeal to abstract political principles. Tariq Modood has articulated this contextualist approach as a version of Michael Oakeshott’s idea of politics as ‘the pursuit of intimations’. The question is how such an approach fares when applied to the specific political and social context characteristic of, especially European, political reality of the last 10–15 years. Political opposition to multiculturalism at ideological and rhetorical levels has characterized this context. At the legal level, many of the laws and rules in place actually protecting minority groups have furthermore not had the form of group rights or policies of recognition proposed by multiculturalist theories. The question therefore arises whether a contextualist approach that takes its point of departure in the facts of such a context can deliver a justification of a recognizable multiculturalist political theory. This is a version of the general problem of critical distance facing contextualism. Modood’s version of the approach appeals to the internal diversity of traditions to answer this problem. However, this leads to additional questions about the nature of the theory and the way in which it is action-guiding. Consideration of these questions qualifies the understanding of in which sense the BSM approach is contextual.
- Politisk teori