a speciﬁc cultural environment.
From this conception of how human morality evolves, some have concluded that there is no objective social justice, andthat therefore each cultural system has its own internal validity which shouldbe tolerated.
e culture is identiﬁed by its existing patterns and standards;recognition of the culture’s intrinsic value seems to go together with a desire topreserve these standards.
Normative communitarianism is thus oriented towardthe preservation of cultural traditions. When the communitarian norms are basedon religion, traditionalism often means deference to written sources formulatedbetween the sixth century B.C. (the Old Testament), the ﬁrst century A.D. (theNew Testament), and the seventh century A.D. (the Qur’an).is communitarian argument, however, is logically ﬂawed. If culturalrelativism is taken to its logical conclusion, it undermines not only thevalue of human rights but also the value of communitarianism itself, sincecommunitarianism is also the product of a particular cultural pattern of thinking.
Indeed, taken to extremes, cultural relativism is another name for moral nihilism;if cultural relativism were to be taken as the foundation of a legal system, it would be impossible to justify any moral criticism of the system’s norms.
At thislevel, multiculturalism could not advance any attempt to engineer legal policy ina positive legal system. Alternately, we could regard cultural relativism merely asa tool that helps us distinguish ethnocentric from universal standards, so that we would be able to refrain from insisting that ethnocentric values be mandatory on a global scale. is form of multiculturalism would not, I contend, overridehuman rights as they exist today—as universally shared ideals, recognized by most of the nations of the world which have ratiﬁed the human rights treaties.
Second, let us look at how the preservation of tradition aﬀects, inparticular, the right to equality. If the preservation of tradition is an aspectof communitarianism, as some of its proponents suggest, then the claim thatcommunitarianism overrides universal principles (such as the right to equality)must stand or fall alongside the claim that traditionalism itself overrides universalprinciples. But there is a whole battery of reasons why traditionalism cannotlegitimately be said to override the principle of equality. Traditional patternscannot form the dominant foundation for contemporary meaningfulness, exceptin a static society. It may be that the ethical norms of a society are themselves afactor in determining the dynamism of the society, and it is not inconceivablethat a society that believes in traditionalism as an ethical imperative might“choose” to be static. However, where and when a society changes as a resultof environmental or socio-economic developments not dictated by thatsociety’s ethical traditions, a rigid application of traditional norms will producedissonance.
Communitarians do not tell us how we can continue to apply