From Community to Coalition

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This article considers how to go beyond the polarities of individualism and communitarianism in the analysis of contemporary political cultures in a global era. It is argued that there is a need to ground analysis in a presumption of social networks and coalitions, rather than in the concept of recognition. Political cultures are always already riddled with complexity and cross-cutting relations with other political cultures, coalitions and alliances. Within the politics of recognition, the conventional operationalization of the concept of the ‘social’ via the concept of ‘community’ misleadingly narrows the analysis of key aspects of social relations. Rather, we should invoke a wider range of sociological concepts to capture the nature of the social including, among many others, coalition, network and reference groups. In particular, the selection of the ‘other’ against whom aspirational comparisons are made is a complex social process, much previously analysed by reference group theory. The contemporary framing of some political claims in reference to a socially constructed conception of the universal is an increasingly common strategy. The politics of recognition is shown to be subordinate to the politics of equality, when sociological analysis of contemporary political cultures, of how people actually do make ethical and political claims, is prioritized.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-135
Number of pages23
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001

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