Toleration, Multiculturalism and Cultural Sustainability: Are They Compatible?

By Ian Alexander Young.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Toleration and sustainability would seem on the surface to be worthy and even mutually compatible ideals. In this paper, I will argue that their relationship is more complex than this. For example, as we witness increasing amounts of migration across the globe, it could be that in fostering tolerance for incoming groups, the sustainability of a previously existing culture in a certain territory is threatened. By welcoming new groups and cultures into a society, the members of that society are opening new options to their existing members. The new members in turn are given new options by their introduction into that society. It may be that in order to sustain both the original culture and the introduced culture could require practices, such as restrictions on marriage and enforced language acquisition that many would consider illiberal. In this paper, I plan to explore some of the complexities surrounding these worthy goals that may not be as compatible as they first appear. Ultimately, maintaining the existence of a culture in its original form may not be possible or even desirable. In order to sustain that culture, a new hybrid form may be the best that can be hoped for, even though the new form may not be something its ancestors would recognize as their own. Should this be regarded as tragic? I will argue that it should not.

Keywords: Toleration, Multiculturalism, Cultural Survival, Cultural Sustainability, Cultural Diversity

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.59-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 581.480KB).

Dr. Ian Alexander Young

Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA

I teach in the Philosophy Department at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, USA. My special area of interest is in political philosophy, particularly in intergroup relations within multicultural societies. I also teach in the areas of environmental ethics and the ethics of peace and war, along with general introductory classes. I come originally from New Zealand, which partially accounts for my interest in intercultural relations, as I have a keen appreciation for the attempts made in New Zealand to address the problems and benefits that can come from the intermingling of cultures. I also have family members spread across the world, so can appreciate the joys and woes of this highly mobile age in which we live from a personal perspective too.


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