Liberalism, Communitarianism and the Project of Self

  • W. L. van der Merwe Department of Philosophy, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7600, South Africa
  • C. Jonker Department of Philosophy, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7600, South Africa

Abstract

In this article the authors seek to conceptualize a dynamic and inclusive understanding of personal identity within multicultural democracies such as South Africa, which will draw on both the liberal and communitarian traditions' respect for the project of self. A preliminary lay out for such a project emerges from a literature survey of recent, primarily South African publications on identity and culture, and it suggests that selfhood depends on: a) virtues, cultivated within cooperative communities which allow for effective freedom; b) a venture into existential uncertainty, which alleviates that fear of loss of identity that is supposedly central to many multicultural conflicts; c) the hermeneutic construction of identity through narratives that allow for a plurality of voices; and d) the creative transcending and re- interpretation of values and traditions. The authors contend that such an under standing of identity goes some way towards addressing the question of the way that diverse personal and group identities are to be accommodated in South Africa's multicultural democracy, and to re thinking the unity which underlies diversity without resorting to liberalism's reduction of personal identity to rational autonomy. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.20(3) 2001: 35-54
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