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A new emphasis on diversity and difference is displacing oldermyths of nation or community. A new attention to gender, race,language or religion is disrupting earlier preoccupations withclass. But the welcome extended to heterogeneity can bring with ita disturbing fragmentation and closure. Can we develop a vision ofdemocracy through difference: a politics that neither denies groupidentities nor capitulates to them?
In this volume, Anne Phillips develops the feminist challenge toexclusionary versions of democracy, citizenship and equality.Relating this to the crisis in socialist theory, the growing uneasewith the pretensions of Enlightenment rationality, and the recentrecuperation of liberal democracy as the only viable politics, shebuilds on debates within feminism to address general questions ofdifference. When democracies try to wish away group difference andinequality, they fail to meet their egalitarian promise. Whenyearnings towards an undifferentiated unity become the basis forradical politics and change, too many groups drop out of thepicture.
Through her critical discussions of recent feminist and socialisttheory Anne Phillips rejects this democracy of denial. She alsowarns, however, of the dangers on the other side. The simplercelebrations of diversity risk freezing group differences as theyare, encouraging a patchwork of local identities from which peoplecan speak only to themselves. Her arguments then combine in apowerful restatement of the case for a more active andparticipatory democracy. It is only through enhanced communicationand discussion that people can respect and learn from theirdifferences.read more