The autonomy of culture : a cultural-philosophical analysis

Niemand, Johannes R. (2013-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Multicultural conflicts pervade our world and have sparked considerable debate about their possible resolution. We argue that how culture is conceptualized is crucial to the continued dialogue about multicultural conflicts. Specifically, we argue that approaches that argue for the protection of cultures run into significant problems if they do not employ a conception of cultures as delineated entities. However, we also hold that the notion that cultures cannot be distinct in any way, does very little to contribute to dialogue. From the very beginning, it excludes the notion of a culture that is to be protected and thus stops the dialogue there and then. To be true to the principle of audi ad alteram partem, approaches to multicultural conflicts must conceive of an alternative model, provided that such a model is logically possible. This may provide the dialogue with a much needed point of common understanding from which to proceed. Accordingly, we develop a model of culture whereby it is possible to delineate cultures. In this model, a culture can be delineable in a manner analogous to how we delineate persons. Our model of personal delineation suggests a dual structure whereby a trivial personal boundary contains a unity of conflict within the person. In persons, this unity of conflict lies in the relationship between the “I” and repressed meanings. This relationship must be characterised by self-referential decisions and the capacity to make self-referential decisions is central to our definition of personal autonomy. In cultures, we argue that multicultural conflicts provide the necessary conditions that enable us to conceptualize trivial boundaries in cultures in terms of the communicative relationships between members of a particular culture. Multicultural conflicts prompt self-categorizations by individuals and such self-categorizations are made in terms of group membership. Though all members may not agree as to who belongs to the culture and who does not, the claims made about membership serve to differentiate the communicative relationships inside the culture from those outside it. Furthermore, we show that, inside this trivial boundary, a unity of conflict analogous to the one found in personal autonomy, can be exhibited by cultures. We show how a culture, through its institutions, particularly through an institutionalised exit possibility, 1) may exhibit self-reference and 2) relate to a source of authority in the same way as a person does when making selfreferential decisions. In this regard, we argue that institutionalised exit possibilities embody adherence to the consensus vs. power criterion, according to which the dominant account of a culture is achieved through consensus, as opposed to through the exertion of power. Furthermore, we argue that with a strong analogy between cultures’ and personal delineation, it becomes reasonable to extend concepts we usually apply to persons, such as fairness, attachment and viability, so that they can also apply to cultures. We show that the application of these concepts clarifies certain current multicultural issues. The application of theses concepts also leads to the development of a decision making process to deal with multicultural issues.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Multikulturele konflikte kom wêreldwyd voor en het reeds aansienlike debat oor die resolusie van sodanige konflik ontlok. Ons voer aan dat hoe kultuur gekonseptualiseer word, besonder belangrik is vir die voorgesette dialoog oor multikulturele konflikte. Meer spesifiek voer ons aan dat benaderings wat vir die beskerming van kulture argumenteer, beduidende probleme ondervind indien dit nie `n konsepsie van kulture as delinieerbare entiteite gebruik nie. Die gedagte dat kulture nie op enige manier afgebaken kan word nie, dra egter ook weinig by tot dialoog. Dit sluit van meet af die gedagte dat kulture beskerm moet word, uit en staak dus die dialoog daar en dan. Ten einde getrou te wees aan die beginsel van audi ad alteram partem, moet benaderings tot multikulturele konflik `n alternatiewe model van kultuur bedink, mits so `n model logies moontlik is. So `n model kan die dialoog van `n broodnodige gemeenskaplike uitgangspunt voorsien. Ons ontwikkel dienooreenkomstig `n model van kultuur waarvolgens dit moontlik is om kulture te delinieer. Volgens hierdie model kan `n kultuur delinieer word in analogie met hoe persone delinieer word. Ons model van persoonlike deliniëring stel `n tweeledige struktuur voor, waarvolgens `n triviale persoonlike grens `n eenheid van konflik binne die persoon omspan. In persone lê hierdie eenheid van konflik in die verhouding tussen die “ek” en onderdrukte betekenisse. Hierdie verhouding moet deur self-referensiële besluite gekenmerk word. Die vermoë tot self-referensiële besluite, so voer ons aan, is ook die sentrale kenmerk van persoonlike outonomie. Ons voer aan dat multikulturele konflikte die noodsaaklike toestande skep wat ons in staat stel om triviale grense in kulture te definieer in terme van die kommunikatiewe verhoudings tussen lede van `n spesifieke kultuur. Multikulturele konflikte ontlok self-kategorisering deur individue en sodanige kategorisering word in terme van groeplidmaatskap gedoen. Hoewel alle lede van die kultuur nie noodwendig saamstem oor wie aan die kultuur behoort en wie nie, maak die bewerings wat oor lidmaatskap gemaak word dit moontlik om die kommunikatiewe verhoudings binne die kultuur te onderskei van dié buite die kultuur. Verder demonstreer ons dat, binne hierdie triviale grens, kulture `n eenheid van konflik ten toon kan stel wat soortgelyk aan die eenheid van konflik by persoonlike outonomie is. Ons wys hoe `n kultuur, deur sy instellings, en vernaam deur `n geïnstitusionaliseerde uitgangsmoontlikheid (‘exit possibility’) 1) self-referensie ten toon kan stel en 2) in verhouding met `n bron van gesag kan staan soos `n persoon wanneer s/hy self-referensiële besluite maak. In dié verband voer ons aan dat geïnstitusionaliseerde uitgangsmoontlikhede die beliggaming is van die nakoming van die konsensus vs. mag-kriterium, waarvolgens die dominante weergawe van `n kultuur bereik word deur konsensus, teenoor deur die uitoefen van mag. Verder voer ons aan dat `n sterk analogie tussen kulture en persone se deliniëring dit moontlik maak om begrippe soos regverdigheid, binding en lewensvatbaarheid, wat gewoonlik op persone toegepas word, op kulture toe te pas. Die toepassing van hierdie begrippe verbeter ons begrip van sekere huidige multikulturele kwessies en lei ook tot die ontwikkeling van `n besluitnemingsproses vir multikulturele kwessies.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85680
This item appears in the following collections: