Jeremy Waldron, ‘Cultural Identity & Civic Responsibility’

W = Waldron

Key Concepts & Guidance Questions

In this chapter, W tackles an important citizenship issue: how groups with differences can agree to a common societal framework, in order to live together.

Note: you can skim or skip sections 7 and 8 (on p. 12-15). However, don’t skip the conclusion paragraph (section 9)!

  • What main elements does W’s ‘duty of civic participation’ consist of? (p. 1-2). How are others’ interests linked to this?
  • What, according to Taylor 1992, are the chief aspects of identity? (p. 3. Clue: there are four)
  • What is the problem with seeing identity as individually forged (romantic individualism)? (p. 3)
  • Why does identity pose a unique challenge to citizenship? (p. 4)
  • Briefly paraphrase what W means by ‘compossibility’ (this is a key concept!) (p. 4-5)
  • What is W’s definition of ‘a culture’? (p. 6)
  • What is the difference between a ‘sincerely held individual opinion on a matter of common concern’ in good faith, and an ‘individual interest’? (top of p. 10, see p. 9 for context)
  • Is W’s suggestion that citizens change themselves and/or the ‘tenor of their most cherished views and desires’ reasonable, in your opinion? (p. 11)
  • How does W qualify concepts we have covered, such as Mill’s Tyranny of the Majority (p. 9-10) and Hobbe’s emphasis on security (p. 11)?
  • Why does W argue that we need to find a way to live with groups in society we disagree with? (p. 15-16)

Application Questions

  • Think of an issue in society to do with rights and identity (e.g. LGBT rights). How do W’s ideas help us understand why such issues can be potentially emotively-charged, and divisive?
  • Think of W’s extended example of rival cultural values on p. 6-9 and 10-11. Can you rephrase his example in terms of a current issue in society? Is this way of thinking helpful for working out a solution to that issue?