55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
A powerful critique of tolerance,
This review is from: Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Hardcover)
Brown delivers a compelling critique of tolerance. In a complex, yet accessible way, she argues that tolerance functions as an instrument of power by regulating group differences and by selectively and differentially integrating "others" into the civic space. Conferring and withholding tolerance can both function as differential modes of exclusion and regulation of difference.
The problem with tolerance is that it dissimulates its political role: tolerance relies on a power differential between those who tolerate and those who are tolerated. Yet this power relation is masked because "tolerance talk" individualizes racial, cultural, and sexual difference. It treats difference as something that should be confronted by civility and behavior: if only we all behaved responsibly and tolerated others, we could all happily live together. Unsatisfactory in this view - as Brown argues convincingly - is that it substitutes a vocabulary of civility for political problems and confrontations and thus sidelines demands for freedom, equality and justice. It individualizes social and political questions, as it substitutes the individual object of tolerance for the group (and simultaneously reifies difference and otherness by construing the subject as the product of a collective identity).
Brown traces the transformation of tolerance from its early modern inception (where it meant tolerating other beliefs) to its current instantiation, where it means tolerating (sexual, cultural, racial) difference. The central question of her book is how what she calls "tolerance talk" has become the beacon of multicultural justice and civic peace. Reminding readers that only a generation ago, tolerance was reviled as a thinly veiled form of racism - yet today it has emerged as the emblem of the good society.
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