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Pluralism [Paperback]

William E. Connolly

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Book Description

25 Sep 2005
Over the past two decades, the renowned political theorist William E. Connolly has developed a powerful theory of pluralism as the basis of a territorial politics. In this concise volume, Connolly launches a new defence of pluralism, contending that it has a renewed relevance in light of pressing global and national concerns, including the war in Iraq, the movement for a Palestinian state, and the fight for gay and lesbian rights. Connolly contends that deep, multidimensional pluralism is the best way to promote justice and inclusion without violence. He advocates a deep pluralism--in contrast to shallow, secular pluralism--that helps to create space for different groups to bring their religious faiths into the public realm. This form of deep pluralism extends far beyond faith, encompassing multiple dimensions of social and personal lives, including household organization and sexuality. Connolly looks at pluralism not only in light of faith but also in relation to evil, ethics, relativism, globalization, and sovereignty. In the process, he engages many writers and theorists--among them, Spinoza, William James, Henri Bergson, Marcel Proust, Gilles Deleuze, Giorgio Agamben, Talal Asad, Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri. Pluralism is the first book in which Connolly explains the relationship between pluralism and the experience of time, and he offers readings of several films which address how time is understood, including Time Code, Far from Heaven, Waking Life and The Maltese Falcon. In this necessary book Connolly brings a compelling, accessible philosophical critique together with his personal commitment to an inclusive political agenda to suggest how we might--and why we must--cultivate pluralism within both society and ourselves.

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"Pluralism is a brilliant study. Powerful, cogent, and compulsively readable, it presents a strong case for a democratic pluralism that is worthy of embrace by all who think the fundamentalism of our age needs to be countered, not with more of the same from another direction, but with the best articulated and most profoundly true vision of another way of being together politically. If taken up, this book will change hearts and minds."--Thomas Dumm, author of A Politics of the Ordinary "If I were to pick an academic text as my political manifesto, if I were to look for a scholarly piece of writing which combined intellectual rigor and humility with incisive political analysis and practical effects, then Bill Connolly's Pluralism would be the one. It will become the touchstone for a range of debates in political theory around democracy, global politics, and the political virtues we require."--David Campbell, author of Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity "Pluralism is a practical intervention in the politics of antagonism in liberal democracies. William E. Connolly's openness to religious ways of being in the world is unusual in a political theorist. But that openness allows him to draw on a wide range of resources for practices of agonistic engagement among political rivals. Connolly has an exceptional ability to plumb ordinary experiences for nuances that help one to realize virtues of faith, forbearance, and respect. Here are agile reflections on how we might become better than we are. And, as ever, Connolly's style is warm, eclectic, honest, accessible, and somehow distinctly American."--Kathleen Roberts Skerrett, Department of Religious Studies, Grinnell University "William E. Connolly pursues his impassioned search for a renewed pluralism, beyond mere tolerance. In a world beset by easy answers and hard action, he argues eloquently for a 'multidimensional' ethos of openness, in acceptance of complexity. Against doctrine, secular or religious, he re-finds faith--in this world. A significant new philosophical statement by one of the foremost political thinkers of our time."--Brian Massumi, author of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation "Connolly offers a concise new defense of democratic pluralism." --M. Coulter, CHOICE "William Connolly has been one of the most perceptive and creative political theorists writing about pluralism over the past fifteen years. In this new book he draws together the various different strands he has been weaving into a compact, intense, yet accessible assemblage of arguments, concepts, analogies, and metaphors defending a new vision of democratic pluralism. What is distinctive about Connolly's approach could be summarized thus: his argument is political and metaphysical."--Duncan Ivison, Political Theory

About the Author

William E. Connolly is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His most recent books include "Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed"; "Why I Am Not a Secularist"; and "The Ethos of Pluralization." His classic study "The Terms of Political Discourse" won the Benjamin Lippincott Award in 1999. He was the editor of the journal "Political Theory" from 1980 to 1986.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read 22 May 2006
By Political Observer - Published on
This is a fantastic book. Pluralism not only offers a sophisticated diagnosis of some of the most pressing tensions and difficulties in contemporary democratic politics today by revealing how broad modes of thought, discourse, feeling and behaviour help shape and orient the mood of Western politics today. It also offers a nuanced, heartfelt and principled vision of what a truly pluralistic political society might be able to achieve - as well as suggesting ways that we as individuals and communities can work to cultivate such a society.

Whether you have already read some of Connolly's previous work or are thinking about reading one of America's pre-eminent theorists of pluralism for the first time, Pluralism is a must read book. It offers Connolly's clearest and most persuasive outline and defence of his unique pluralistic worldview to date. It also provides compelling and straightforward responses to many questions that have been posed by critics (the chapter on the difference between pluralism and relativism is worth the price of the book on its own). Moreover, it embodies its own pluralistic approach by engaging respectfully and openly with many approaches - including those with which he agrees, some with which he strongly disagrees, and, perhaps most interestingly, others with which he disagrees but with whom he sees the possibility of cultivating areas of mutual respect and discussion. In sum, it is a work that should be read by anyone who is interested in understanding the ways that political theory can illuminate and (hopefully) influence the fundamental debates and pressures of contemporary politics.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible of Pluralist Theory 19 May 2006
By EU Pluralist - Published on
"Connolly is one of the very few theorists I know of who knows how to unlock the democratic promise of pluralism. He has honed in on the forces of a democratic society that undermine pluralism and those that foster it, and he understands how a pluralist society can become genuinely inclusive of all voices, including religious voices, and just as importantly how each voice itself can become inclusive of the pluralistic possibilities that belong to a democratic society and its participating voices as a whole. Connolly's Pluralism is the Bible of pluralist thought." EU Pluralist
8 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment 7 May 2006
By Solidago caesia - Published on
I'm deeply disppointed in the direction that William Connolly has taken. "The Augustinian Imperative" and the "Political Theory and Modernity" were my favorite books about eight years ago. I was almost a true believer in the William Connolly gospel. I still believe that the old books are excellent books, but I think he has refused to grow and become enmeshed in a rhetoric that gets dull though overuse and insufficiently attuned to the possibilities of an indifferent universe.

In this book, he seems so concentrated on his war with William Bennett and his views of pluralism that he seems to ignore other possibilities. For instance, and this is an extremely important for instance, what if a religion preaches war as the way its believers should relate to non-believers? Should we brush that fact under the table to further our anti-William Bennett agenda?

Another, for instance, what if one is a homosexual? Is a homosexual really intolerant who doesn't want immigrants in his countries who believe that he should be stoned to death? Is Connolly in any sense compassionate to teach an ethos that questions the logic of such a homosexual? Such an ethos may well drive the homosexual into the arms of William Bennett. Bennett seems more likely than Connolly to return any kisses.
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