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    Patchwork Multiculturalism

    1. Introduction

    In todays cities, it is not rare to see different religious communities live close to

    one another. Often, at workplaces, people from competing ethnic groups cooperate

    peacefully. Sometimes, in a context of pressing anxiety and extreme poverty, proximity,

    reciprocity and transparency have activated lively example of multicultural organization.

    Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In recent time, there is so much hype about the

    failures of multicultural policies in European countries. Since the Satanic verses

    controversy, the harsh debates about French bans on face veils, the remarkable results of

    some xenophobic movements in the last European elections, the Charlie Hebdo tragedy

    and, now, the phenomenon of radicalization inside and outside Europe, politicians and

    theorists have casted doubts on the destiny and desirability of the politics of


    These examples place interest on two aspects. First, the dual dimension of

    multiculturalism. On the one hand, the politics of multiculturalism: measures involving

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    cultural recognition and accommodation, economic redistribution, access to political

    participation and jobs opportunities, affirmative actions, etc. On the other hand, the real

    character of multiculturalism, namely, the set of ordinary exchanges through which

    cooperation, assimilation and radicalization are performed.1 So not everything is up to

    politics. Besides the domain of policy-making, scholars should look at the multi-coloured

    realm of everyday interactions. 2 For instance, in some cases, a partial reach of the state

    has encouraged the development of local and micro dimensional mechanisms of positive

    mutual control. There, evidence shows that the prospect of future interactions supports

    cooperation, trust and equal deliberation. Such a focus may help to emphasize

    constructive forms of multicultural coexistence and, possibly, to develop a positive

    philosophical argument against increasing scepticism and radicalization. Vis--vis the

    great mistrust, I argue in this paper, a persuasive normative response to multiculturalism

    in todays cities needs to bring together the politics of multiculturalism and the social

    level, where cooperation is a more common result than resentment and violence.3

    Moreover, many prominent theorists have been debating on the relationship

    between the notion of culture and the very idea of multiculturalism.4 Multiculturalism,

    not considering the several conceptions of the term, is concerned with cases including

    cultural diversity where cultures, religious and ethnic groups constitute the body of

    society. A too ready acceptance of essentialist notions of groups, as have been debated

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    for long, is not a satisfactory approach. It does not fully describe how people negotiate

    affiliations in their everyday lives and the relational element of multicultural societies

    (Carens, 2004), it may be gender biased (Okin, 1999), it opens to the application of

    double-standards for evaluating internal practices of cultural groups (Galeotti, 2014) and

    it is likely to overlook multiple belongings (Bhabha, 2004). Nevertheless, we cannot

    dismiss culture from multiculturalism. Culture is also a crucial attribute of

    multiculturalism, which entails internal contestation, historical elaboration, action-

    guidance, structures of meaning and expectations. In this article, in turn, I turn the

    attention from culture as a collectivistic notion to the individual as an appropriator of

    object of disagreement in cultural terms, or not, according to the circumstances.

    By putting together the two aspects, this article will argue that a focus on the social

    level offers a frame in which the practical importance of the idea of culture is mediated

    by reflecting on individuals as active participants in disputes of their concern. In this way,

    multiculturalism is taken to both a national and contextual matter. On the first level, the

    one of recognition, every individual who is member of a certain community, qua

    autonomous being, must be in the position to appropriate objects of his or her concern.

    And, this demands top-down policy action so that every member is in principle in the

    same position to appropriate objects of disagreement. On the second level, the one of

    toleration, people should be involved in the discussion about policies of their interest in

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    a peer-to-peer relationship. This implies a shift to a vision of multiculturalism as a

    contextually situated deliberative practice. Such a move, as I will argue in the paper, by

    favouring alternative and decentralized political spaces, justifies policy makers to

    disperse the asymmetric relation of power inherent in the dichotomy minority/majority at

    the local level.

    In this sense, the study of Shaftesburys ideas of amicable collisions and sensus

    communis makes available an important normative apparatus for contemporary defences

    of small scale discursive spaces. In a series of essays between 1708 and 1710, he

    addresses questions of toleration (A Letter concerning Enthusiasm), discursive

    interactions and civility in public (Sensus Communis) and self-reflection (Soliloquy).5 By

    reading these texts in the light of contemporary disputes about deliberation, we find a

    distinctive articulation of a politics of sociability, equality and freedom that emphasises

    the relevance of public discourse and participation, but also the significance of discursive

    exchanges to encourage a feeling of mutuality among participant.

    Together, these elements will inform the argument of this article. Here, I advance

    a deliberative model to deal with multiculturalism: patchwork multiculturalism. This

    account consists in the construction of small scale consultative groups where people can

    take part in decisions of their concern. There are three moves from usual responses to

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    multiculturalism. First, I do not consider group or collective identities. The focus turns

    towards individuals, who want to appropriate some discursive objects in the light of their

    worldview. Second, I put together the sphere of recognition and toleration. This means to

    say that recognition encompasses all those policies that put the individual in the position

    to express his or her discursive power, while toleration is a collectively (and temporary)

    constructed feeling among participants in a discussion in which their equal status is

    granted. Third, I focus on the actual practice of multiculturalism, as it is experienced in

    context. In this way, I shall provide a normative model to push people in the discussion

    of issues of their concern. The constellations of diverse consultative groups, with

    distinctive performative experience of toleration, and duties among participants,

    constitutes patchwork multiculturalism, as a system where these spaces are tied together

    by a politics of recognition that is directed to individuals qua autonomous persons, and in

    which much of decision-making power is left to the local level. If in a patchwork multiple

    pieces are kept together by a single creative idea; here, in turn, a policy that aims at

    empowering the discursive power of all members is the common denominator across

    different consultative groups.

    The purpose of this paper, indeed, is eminently speculative. Following an

    investigation of the disputes about the idea of culture in todays political theory, in section

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    3, I shall reconstruct Shaftesburys notion of amicable collisions and his conception of

    sensus communis. In section 4, I shall examine his suggestion and translate them into the

    language of contemporary political theory. This account, I suggest, places in question

    asymmetric power distributions - which informs much contemporary debate on

    multiculturalism and elaborates a distinctive conception of the relationship between

    recognition and toleration. In section 4, I shall construct deliberative spaces consultative

    groups, which find roots in Shaftesbury and constitute the core of patchwork

    multiculturalism. Eventually, in section 5, I shall conclude.

    2. Multiculturalism and the place of culture

    Multiculturalism has long been identified with the protection of certain minority

    rights from the claims of collective authority. In this tradition, the most powerful claim

    for special rights comes from Will Kymlicka, who articulated his account of

    multiculturalism in a series of works covering more than fifteen years. In Liberalism,

    Community and Culture, he emphasizes the special importance of societal cultures to

    personal agency and development (1989: 176). Cultural structures, as he says, are

    contexts of choice ascribing specific forms of lives with exceptional meaning. Access to

    a viable societal culture is therefore a necessary precondition for our ability to choose

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    good lives for ourselves. In one sense, a life within the norms, attitudes, and values of a

    particular cultural group might be a necessary condition for people ability to make

    choices. That is, wisdom, practices and narratives intrinsic in a societal culture shape the

    actions of its members, designing meaningful ways of life across the fu