Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: Published: September 2005

Cultural Studies, Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory

Over the past two decades, the renowned political theorist William E. Connolly has developed a powerful theory of pluralism as the basis of a territorial politics. In this concise volume, Connolly launches a new defense of pluralism, contending that it has a renewed relevance in light of pressing global and national concerns, including the war in Iraq, the movement for a Palestinian state, and the fight for gay and lesbian rights. Connolly contends that deep, multidimensional pluralism is the best way to promote justice and inclusion without violence. He advocates a deep pluralism—in contrast to shallow, secular pluralism—that helps to create space for different groups to bring their religious faiths into the public realm. This form of deep pluralism extends far beyond faith, encompassing multiple dimensions of social and personal lives, including household organization and sexuality.

Connolly looks at pluralism not only in light of faith but also in relation to evil, ethics, relativism, globalization, and sovereignty. In the process, he engages many writers and theorists—among them, Spinoza, William James, Henri Bergson, Marcel Proust, Gilles Deleuze, Giorgio Agamben, Talal Asad, Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri. Pluralism is the first book in which Connolly explains the relationship between pluralism and the experience of time, and he offers readings of several films that address how time is understood, including Time Code, Far from Heaven, Waking Life, and The Maltese Falcon. In this necessary book Connolly brings a compelling, accessible philosophical critique together with his personal commitment to an inclusive political agenda to suggest how we might—and why we must—cultivate pluralism within both society and ourselves.


“[The book] helps us understand the complex ways in which the pluralist sensibility opens the path to a richer and more psychologically realistic liberalism.” — William A. Galston, Perspectives on Politics

“Connolly offers a concise new defense of democratic pluralism.” — M. Coulter, Choice

“Over the past twenty years or so,William E. Connolly has compiled a richly complex and highly original theory of deep pluralism. Calling upon each of us to recognize the contestability of our most basic commitments, Connolly has sought to articulate a set of civic virtues that can inspire a generous, progressive, and agonistic democratic culture.His latest contribution is an attempt to consolidate the core of his work into a single volume, rendering his political vision both succinct and widely accessible. . . . Pluralism is a fascinating read.” — Andrew J. Douglas, Journal of Politics

“Since the 1960s the American political thinker William Connolly’s political thought has consistently pushed at the messiness of political discourse, from hard core US style political science to the canon of Western political philosophy - not to clean it up but to show how it works with it. As a consequence Connolly has also contributed to the enlargement of the scope of what counts as political, and perhaps the political itself, and which includes the emergence of the political as a question rather than an answer within it.” — Jeremy Valentine, Culture Machine

“This is a book of political theory that makes faith its starting point. It’s not always easy going but should be required reading for budding ministers and church leaders.” — Paul Olingston, Insights

“William Connolly has been one of the most perceptive and creative political theorists writing about pluralism over the past fifteen years. In this new book he draws together the various different strands he has been weaving into a compact, intense, yet accessible assemblage of arguments, concepts, analogies, and metaphors defending a new vision of democratic pluralism. What is distinctive about Connolly’s approach could be summarized thus: his argument is political and metaphysical.” — Duncan Ivison, Political Theory

Pluralism is a brilliant study. Powerful, cogent, and compulsively readable, it presents a strong case for a democratic pluralism that is worthy of embrace by all who think the fundamentalism of our age needs to be countered, not with more of the same from another direction, but with the best-articulated and most profoundly true vision of another way of being together politically. If taken up, this book will change hearts and minds.” — Thomas Dumm, author of A Politics of the Ordinary

Pluralism is a practical intervention in the politics of antagonism in liberal democracies. William E. Connolly’s openness to religious ways of being in the world is unusual in a political theorist. But that openness allows him to draw on a wide range of resources for practices of agonistic engagement among political rivals. Connolly has an exceptional ability to plumb ordinary experiences for nuances that help one to realize virtues of faith, forbearance, and respect. Here are agile reflections on how we might become better than we are. And, as ever, Connolly’s style is warm, eclectic, honest, accessible, and somehow distinctly American.” — Kathleen Roberts Skerrett, Department of Religious Studies, Grinnell College

“If I were to pick an academic text as my political manifesto, if I were to look for a scholarly piece of writing which combined intellectual rigor and humility with incisive political analysis and practical effects, then Bill Connolly’s Pluralism would be the one. It will become the touchstone for a range of debates in political theory around democracy, global politics, and the political virtues we require.” — David Campbell, author of Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity

“William E. Connolly pursues his impassioned search for a renewed pluralism, beyond mere tolerance. In a world beset by easy answers and hard action, he argues eloquently for a ‘multidimensional’ ethos of openness, in acceptance of complexity. Against doctrine, secular or religious, he refinds faith—in this world. A significant new philosophical statement by one of the foremost political thinkers of our time.” — Brian Massumi, author of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William E. Connolly is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His most recent books include Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed; Why I Am Not a Secularist; and The Ethos of Pluralization. His classic study The Terms of Political Discourse won the Benjamin Lippincott Award in 1999. He was the editor of the journal Political Theory from 1980 to 1986.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Prelude 1

1. Pluralism and Evil 11

2. Pluralism and Relativism 38

3. Pluralism and the Universe 68

Interlude 93

4. Pluralism and Time 97

5. Pluralism and Sovereignty 131

Postlude: Belonging to Time 161

Notes 171

Index 187
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3567-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3554-2
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