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The Civil Sphere$
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Jeffrey C. Alexander

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195162509

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162509.001.0001

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Integration between Difference and Solidarity

Integration between Difference and Solidarity

(p.395) Chapter 15 Integration between Difference and Solidarity
The Civil Sphere

Jeffrey C. Alexander

Oxford University Press

The claim that multiculturalism undermines the cohesiveness of American society, indeed, the very existence of an American “society” as such, is potentially an extremely damaging ideological charge; after all, the construction of a fuller, more inclusive society is precisely what most of the emancipator social movements of the last century have been about. What makes this claim so perplexing is that some of the most important intellectual advocates of multiculturalism seem to agree with these conservative critics. They allow that the movements they defend are indeed at odds with the concept of an American community. This chapter examines this claim on empirical, theoretical, and normative grounds. It criticizes it for ignoring not only the theoretical possibility of a civil sphere, but its real, if fragmented, existence in contemporary American life. It shows that the civil society theory being developed in this book allows us to cast the debate between radical multiculturalists and fearful conservatives in a very different light.

Keywords:   multiculturalism, American society, civil sphere, civil society theory

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