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Cultural diversity, democracy and the prospects of cosmopolitanism: a theory of cultural encounters




The most appropriate way of theorizing cultural diversity is to situate it in the context of a broader relational theory of culture in which the key dynamic is cultural encounters. The relational conception of culture places the emphasis on the relations between social actors and the processes by which some of these relations generate enduring cultural regularities and forms. This has important implications for political community and in particular for cosmopolitanism. It is in relationships that cultural phenomena are generated and become the basis of different kinds of political community. The paper outlines a typology of six kinds of cultural encounters and discusses four major cultural trends that variously emerge from these encounters. This approach with its emphasis on cultural encounters is the broad sociological context in which questions about cultural change and the prospects of cosmopolitanism should be discussed.