Pluralism and Difference: A Genealogy of Multiplicity

David Schlosberg

in Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780199256419
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600203 | DOI:
Pluralism and Difference: A Genealogy of Multiplicity

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An examination is made of a genealogy of pluralist approaches to multiplicity and difference in the twentieth century, starting with William James (1976 [1912], 1977 [1909]), who began his study of pluralism with a ‘radical empiricism’ that is opposed to a more singular, monist position. James argued that our experiences of empirical events diverge, and one explanation could never encompass all of those experiences; other political pluralists (Arthur Bentley, Ernest Barker, Harold Laski, Mary Parker Follett) took James’s critique of absolutism and applied it to the state. Post-Second World War pluralists used the concept of heterogeneity in a much more constricted sense to defend and promote self-interested interest groups. However, more recently, there has been a return to multiplicities, and Donna Haraway’s (1988) description of ‘situated knowledges’ and ‘embodied objectivity’, in which she argues for ‘epistemologies of location’ where claims of knowledge can only be considered partial, resurrects James. The argument here is that a return to such original notions of pluralism helps validate the diversity of experiences and knowledges that grow out of the variety of ways we are all situated in any number of experiences, including environmental degradation.

Keywords: absolutism; Arthur Bentley; critical pluralism; difference; diversity; Donna Haraway; Ernest Barker; Harold Laski; heterogeneity; Mary Parker Follett; multiplicity; pluralism; political pluralism; theory; William James

Chapter.  10968 words. 

Subjects: Environment

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