The making of a pluralistic egalitarian society: reconceptualizing the rhetoric of multiculturalism for the 21st century
Downer, Christa Jean
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This dissertation explores the rhetoric of multiculturalism as it manifests itself in the influential forms of critical, liberal/left-liberal, feminist, and transformational multiculturalism. I explore the ways in which the rhetoric of multiculturalism critiques and challenges dominant narratives about the civil society by-products of citizenship, civic virtues, and the common good. I then show how multiculturalists reconceptualize the U.S. social sector to achieve the promises of democracy. My central thesis is that the different forms of multiculturalism working synergistically provide a theoretical model and normative ideal of U.S. civil society based on a philosophical tradition of pluralistic egalitarianism. An underlining thesis of this work is that democracy needs and is needed by a moral philosophy of pluralistic egalitarianism. Together they keep the ideal of democracy possible. I begin the analysis by examining how the different forms of multiculturalism reconceptualize the U.S. citizen. The pluralistic egalitarian citizen considers the moral and political principles of equality, freedom, justice, and humanity a set of ultimate norms that guide critical thinking about divisive issues in U.S. society. Chapter three illustrates how multicultural rhetoric transforms traditional notions of civic virtues by rejecting the disjunction between principles and virtues. Pluralistic egalitarian members of society live by civic moral virtues that express the contractarian principles of democracy in their public and private lives. Chapter four examines how multiculturalism challenges pervasive ideologies in current U.S. society that obstruct the realization of the ideal of democracy and creates a space in which members of society who hold divergent ideas of the common good can come together and deliberate in an ethical manner. In chapter five, I examine the agentic orientations that academic multiculturalists adopt and the multicultural literacy that they create in pursuit of their transformational goals. Chapter six applies the moral framework of pluralistic egalitarianism to two examples of divisive contemporary issues in U.S. society---unauthorized Mexican workers and homosexual rights---illustrating how multiculturalists offer ways to communicate about cultural issues and mitigate cultural tensions that extend the ideal of democracy to all its members. Chapter seven concludes the study with a discussion of limitations and illumination of possibilities.