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Democracy, Minority Rights and Plural Societies: Plus ça Change?

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Abstract

For more than a century, it was assumed that plural societies were unconducive to democratic government and assimilation a necessity. The end of the Cold War reopened the question of self-determination and the concomitant issue of minority rights not only in Europe but also worldwide. As a result, minority rights and multiculturalism are emerging as the consensus position on democracy in plural societies. But it would be inaccurate and potentially unwise to regard this pluralist perspective as a universal remedy for the problems of diversity. Instead, the history of academic debate and public policy in this area as surveyed here is testimony to the fact that there can be no categorical imperatives when addressing problems of democratic governance in plural societies; both academics and policy-makers would do well to remember that crucial fact.

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