A multicultural social ethos: tolerance, respect or civility?

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An ethos is something a people or a community shares; according to the OED it is their ‘characteristic spirit’, ‘prevalent tone of sentiment’ or the ‘genius of an institution or system’. So to speak of a ‘common’ or ‘shared’ ethos is, in a sense, pleonastic. If one nevertheless speaks in this way, it is therefore most likely because one is thereby trying either to characterise the people or community in question or to make sense of talk about there being a people or community, rather than many, or both. One reason for doing this is that there might be an existing, identifiable system or institution that unites or applies to a population and that one wants to look for or create further non-institutional commonalities within this population. This is most likely the case in attempts to locate or formulate a common European ethos; in a Europe of common institutions, the question is whether there is something more that binds Europeans together. The political agenda is that there should be; European institutions might work better and the aims they serve might be better achieved if Europeans also form a community in a non-institutional sense – hence the quest for a common European ethos as pursued by agents as diverse as the European Commission and philosophers such as Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Habermas and Derrida 2006).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiversity in Europe : dilemmas of differential treatment in theory and practice
EditorsGideon Calder, Emanuela Ceva
Number of pages16
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2011
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-58082-3, 978-0-203-83711-5
Publication statusPublished - 2011
SeriesRoutledge/UACES Contemporary European Studies

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