Dislike, disapproval, and regulation lurk at the heart of tolerance. To tolerate is not to affirm but to conditionally allow what is unwanted or deviant. And, although presented as an alternative to violence, tolerance can play a part in justifying violence--dramatically so in the war in Iraq and the War on Terror. Wielded, especially since 9/11, as a way of distinguishing a civilized West from a barbaric Islam, tolerance is paradoxically underwriting Western imperialism.
Brown's analysis of the history and contemporary life of tolerance reveals it in a startlingly unfamiliar guise. Heavy with norms and consolidating the dominance of the powerful, tolerance sustains the abjection of the tolerated and equates the intolerant with the barbaric. Examining the operation of tolerance in contexts as different as the War on Terror, campaigns for gay rights, and the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, Brown traces the operation of tolerance in contemporary struggles over identity, citizenship, and civilization.
Murphy argues that contemporary liberal theorists have misunderstood and misconstrued the actual historical development of toleration in theory and practice. Murphy approaches the concept through three "myths" about religious toleration: that it was opposed only by ignorant, narrow-minded persecutors; that it was achieved by skeptical Enlightenment rationalists; and that tolerationist arguments generalize easily from religion to issues such as gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality, providing a basis for identity politics.
Using Latvia as a representative case, School of Europeanness is a historical ethnography of the tolerance work undertaken in that country as part of postsocialist democratization efforts. Dzenovska contends that the collapse of socialism and the resurgence of Latvian nationalism gave this Europe-wide logic new life, simultaneously reproducing and challenging it. Her work makes explicit what is only implied in the 1977 Kraftwerk song, "Europe Endless": hierarchies prevail in European public and political life even as tolerance is touted by politicians and pundits as one of Europe’s chief virtues.
School of Europeanness shows how post–Cold War liberalization projects in Latvia contributed to the current crisis of political liberalism in Europe, providing deep ethnographic analysis of the power relations in Latvia and the rest of Europe, and identifying the tension between exclusive polities and inclusive values as foundational of Europe’s political landscape.
Religion, sex, speech, and education are major areas requiring toleration in liberal societies. By applying theoretical analysis, these essays show the differences in the argument for toleration and its scope in each of these realms. The contributors include Joshua Cohen, George Fletcher, Gordon Graham, Alon Harel, Moshe Halbertal, Barbara Herman, John Horton, Will Kymlicka, Avishai Margalit, David Richards, Thomas Scanlon, and Bernard Williams.