In This Review

Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies
Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies
Edited by Richard A. Shweder et al.
Russell Sage, 2002, 496 pp.

A fresh attempt by scholars to tackle a central question of Western democracy: How should liberal societies respond to the cultural and religious practices of minority groups? In examining this challenge, the essays underscore the dilemmas inherent in efforts to balance commitments to liberty and equal rights with the goals of security, national identity, and community. Some chapters look at how immigrant groups import practices that challenge the limits of diversity and tolerance. Examples include the struggles over group rights in India, challenges by Muslims to traditions of church and state in France and Germany, and attempts by whites to "civilize" marriage customs in postapartheid South Africa. Other chapters ask how different traditions of law and culture can shape the accommodation of outside groups, suggesting that minorities are more easily accommodated in liberal democracies where cultural and religious differences can reside in a private sphere sharply separated from the public realm. These essays reveal complexities, dilemmas, and varied national experiences -- quite an accomplishment in itself.