Multiculturalism and contextualism: How is context relevant for political theory?

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Many political theorists of multiculturalism (e.g. Joseph Carens, Bhikhu Parekh, James Tully) describe their theories as ‘‘contextualist.’’ But it is unclear what ‘‘contextualism’’ means and what difference it makes for political theory. I use a specific prominent example of a multiculturalist discussion, namely Tariq Modood’s argument about ‘‘moderate secularism,’’ as a test case and distinguish between different senses of contextualism. I discuss whether the claim that political theory is contextual in each sense is novel and interesting, and whether contextualism is a distinct feature of political theory of multiculturalism. I argue that the forms of contextualism which concern the scope and methodology of political theory are sensible, but not novel or distinctive of multiculturalism. I then discuss the more controversial forms of contextualism, which I call political and theoretical contextualism. Finally, I apply the distinctions to Modood’s argument. I argue that it is not a form of theoretical contextualism and that theoretical contextualism would in fact undermine arguments for multiculturalist policies of accommodation.
TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)259-276
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - 29 jun. 2015


  • Kontekstualisme
  • Multikulturalisme
  • politisk teori
  • metodologi
  • Sekularisme

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