How Can Interculturality Achieve Social Integration?

Pierpaolo Donati

1. New forms of barbarism and the challenge of a society that is incapable of integrating different cultures

Culture clash is not new in history, but it takes on a new meaning today because of several factors that make it all the more dramatic. New conflicts between social groups or movements belonging to different cultures are emerging in many parts of the world. As in the case of Daesh (Isis), the issue of barbarism, understood both as absence of civilized culture and as an expression of extreme cruelty or brutality, has forcefully returned to the world stage. The aim to achieve a multicultural society is receding, if not retreating. How can we deal with these new forms of barbarism?

In Ancient Greece the distinction between Hellenes and Barbarians represented the general, asymmetrical schema of inclusion and exclusion that characterized past societies marked by social stratification. According to Luhmann,[1] a modern – functional and differentiated – society eliminates the distinction between civilized peoples and barbarians in the name of full inclusion of all. This idea of total inclusion is, to him, a mere self-description of modernity. In truth, complete exclusion from all function systems of society continues to exist. Luhmann believes that these forms of exclusion can persist without disrupting the stability of society as a whole (favelas are an example of this). But in my view, if we look at the recent phenomena of protest and revolt of the excluded against the ruling elites in so many countries, this stability is bound to become more and more problematic. Luhmann suggests that, if we want to manage the barbarism/civilization distinction in the global society in the present and in the future, we should adopt a neo-functional ‘super-coding’ to handle the inclusion/exclusion issue. Contrary to Luhmann’s perspective, I suggest that, if we need a ‘super-coding’, it should not follow a functional logic, but should be conceived in terms of ‘relational inclusion’. This means overcoming the modern semantics of cultural differences, both contractual/dialectical and binary, and treating differences as social relations, whose qualities and properties can unite what is different, while promoting the specificity of each culture in their ‘inter’, i.e. what lies between them.

When a society becomes more and more multiethnic and multicultural as a result of increasing migration and globalization processes, people ask themselves: how can we approach the lack of cultural integration between so many different cultures? The issue is not about specific micro-events. It is a question of how to preserve socio-cultural pluralism, avoid segregation and exclusion, and obtain social integration within the historic-social formation appearing on our horizon.[2]

The political doctrine of multiculturalism is the answer that has gained the biggest foothold in the West, albeit in a variety of forms, for the simple fact that it seems to be the most consistent with the liberal premises of Western democracies.[3] The doctrine of multiculturalism was, in fact, born to encourage respect, tolerance, and the defence of different (minority) cultures. It later morphed into a social imaginary,[4] under which we would be ‘all different, all equal’, in the sense that our differences/diversity are all placed on the same level and treated under rules which make them in-different – that is, in such a way as to maintain that the meaning and relevance of those differences makes no difference, since making a difference would mean discriminating between them.[5]

There is an evident contradiction in this approach, since, on the one hand, differences are understood as positive things (to be respected, preserved and implemented) while, on the other, they are held to be a potential source of inequality or discrimination (to be avoided and denied). Consider, for instance, the cultural differences between monogamous and polygamous marriages. According to the doctrine of multiculturalism, this difference is to be respected and given full recognition, but one cannot help but wonder about the inequalities and discriminations among women when a husband has multiple wives who are treated differently? More generally, what kind of social integration will we achieve if we follow the doctrine of multiculturalism?

The trouble that stems from cultural differences/diversity does not concern, of course, the most superficial aspects of daily life, such as what we eat and how we dress per se, or linguistic differences as such. These aspects of diversity are an asset for a multi-ethnic population. The trouble I am referring to concerns those differences affecting the conception inherent to human rights and social relationships. Therefore, even superficial aspects of daily life (such as eating, dressing, speaking, housekeeping and the different ways of perceiving sanitary conditions of one’s home, for example) are relevant in so far as they entail opposite or incompatible conceptions of the human person and of her/his social relations in the family, in the public sphere, in the field of work relations, and so on.

Social integration consists of social relations, and the latter are, to a great extent, forged by culture. The issue of confrontation arising from different/diverse cultures, therefore, lies in the relational dimension that connects and distinguishes people, as individuals and as collectivities or groups.

Of course, cultural confrontation is not only due to migrations and the mixture of different ethnicities that they bring with them, but also to the modernization processes of formerly homogenous cultures, as it happens within the so-called Western postmodern culture. Indeed, multicultural ideology justifies new values, identities, and lifestyles that challenge Western rationality and its historical roots. The multiplication (systemic production) of cultural differences within and between traditional cultures nourishes a social order in which the individuals differentiate themselves by seeking an identity tied to particular social circles that privatize the public sphere. Social integration thus becomes more and more problematic.

Since its adoption as an official policy in several countries, the ideology of multiculturalism has generated more negative than positive effects: social fragmentation, segregation of minority groups, and cultural relativism in the public sphere.[6]

Let us mention the case of Canada, which was the first country to constitutionalize the doctrine of multiculturalism. After four decades or so, an official Canadian report still mentions the need to reconcile different cultures.[7] Canada has encouraged immigrants to integrate into society and take an active part in social, cultural, economic and political affairs.[8] However, many scholars[9] state that multiculturalism ignores economic and political inequality, causing isolation. Current research in Canada ascertains that multiculturalism fosters economic imbalance, because immigrants cannot access equal employment opportunities due to a lack of educational equality, and encourages the prevalence of immigrants in certain employment sectors. Officially, multiculturalism fosters continuous immigrant participation and media integration, but the truth is far from that.[10]

Our question, therefore, is: can we envisage a solution for the civil coexistence of different cultures that can avoid the negative effects of social segmentation, cultural relativism and the lack of real participation of people, irrespective of their ethnic and cultural differences, in the public sphere?

As an alternative to multiculturalism, we can speak of interculturality. However, this expression also seems vague and uncertain to some extent. In this paper I will discuss possible alternatives to multiculturalism. I argue that interculturality today is still subject to major deficiencies because it shows insufficient reflexivity, both within a single culture and in the relations between cultures. It lacks a relational interface between cultures (the meaning of ‘inter’ in the term interculturality). Individuals who are bearers of different cultures might coexist in the practical terms of ordinary life, but when more relevant issues arise, they do not possess the tools to manage the clashes between opposing values and conflicting ethical standards.

Overcoming the shortcomings of multiculturalism and the fragilities of present interculturality requires a secular approach to the question of coexistence among cultures – one that is capable of expanding the range of practical reason through new semantics of inter-human difference/diversity. Making reason more relational could be the best way to imagine a new configuration of society capable of humanizing the processes of migration and cultural differentiation by achieving better social integration.

2. The root deficit of multiculturalism

If we want to understand what interculturality might mean as a solution to cultural conflicts, we must examine the shortcomings of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is a theory that is reductive of encounter and recognition. At the root of its reasoning, multiculturalism expresses the need to find new routes for the recognition of the dignity of the human person when we meet each other and perceive the differences/diversity that exist between us. In this, multiculturalism reflects what is surely a good thing. The assertion that we must recognize “the value and the dignity of all citizens, independent of their race, ethnicity, language, or religion”[11] is, of course, a fundamental statement. However, even if, on the one hand, it is true that multiculturalism represents a motive to rethink the character, quality, and characteristics of recognition of what is truly human, on the other hand it does not provide a sufficient answer to these concerns.

The multicultural solution is lacking because it does not succeed in filling the gap between citoyen (citizen) and homme (person). The assertion that the citizen achieves self-fulfilment in the public sphere by means of legal rights (the policy of universalism), while the person achieves fulfilment in his or her own cultural community (the policy of difference), fails to identify what exists between these two spheres.

The doctrine of multiculturalism is ambiguous and ambivalent because, if on the one hand it underlines the dignity of the human person, on the other it makes interpersonal communication impossible when it comes to the need to culturally and socially integrate differences.

The point is that multiculturalism promises a recognition of the Other that cannot be achieved because it does not possess the cultural means for a real recognition of what is shared in humanity. Multicultural recognition, in fact, is conceived as the unilateral act of a collective mind that attributes a certain identity on the basis of a self-certification, or an identity claim that does not satisfy the necessary criteria for full recognition.

According to Ricœur, recognition implies three steps: the identification of an Alter (reconnaître en identifiant), the confirmation of that specificity as recognition of an ipse (ipseity) (reconnaissance-attestation) in respect to the recognition of oneself (reconnaissance de soi-même), and the mutual recognition (reconnaissance mutuelle) between Ego and Alter, that has its maximum expression in gratitude and in the gift.[12] In his later works, Ricœur enriched these conceptual foci with a fourth dimension that deserves a separate study: reconnaissance-exploration.[13]

I claim that this vision of recognition is basically psychological and cultural, as it is concerned with one’s conscience.[14] It lacks a proper social relationality (as a matter of fact, Ricœur denies that the Ego-Alter relationship has a social character).[15] This is also the deficit that lies at the root of multiculturalism.

In social practices, we see that recognizing the Other (as an individual per se, but also as a person belonging to another culture), is a human act if, and only if, it is an act of validation of the Other that ignites mutual recognition, which cannot but be inscribed in a circuit of symbolic exchanges (gifts) involving a whole community, and therefore through networks of relations well beyond the Ego-Alter relationship.

Multiculturalism fails to satisfy all these requirements. In multiculturalism, the act of recognition of one’s identity does not seek out the reasons that legitimate the difference, so it is not a true recognition of a specific identity, and it does not establish that circuit of reciprocal gifts that is necessary to promote human civilization. To take this step, multiculturalism must adopt the reflexivity[16] necessary to the processes of recognition. To go beyond the limits of multiculturalism requires the development of a ‘relationally reflexive reason’ that is not the self-poietic instrumental reason that we have inherited from modernity.

After deifying its Enlightened Reason, Western modernity ran aground on the shoals of anti-humanism, in which reason appears to be mutilated and twisted. Today, there are two alternatives: either we abandon human reason as a veritative[17] criterion of recognition, or we make an effort to widen the range of reason.[18] In this paper I propose that we follow the second course.

3. Is interculturality a possible alternative to multiculturalism?

3.1. Beyond culturist and rationalist positions in dealing with differences

The search for alternatives to multiculturalism as an ideology and a collective imaginary should aim to solve two big issues. The first regarding the (relative) liberty of the human being towards socio-cultural structures. The other issue lies in the need to configure the public sphere, so that it will become – at least in some fundamental values – a common world to its dwellers.

I maintain that these two issues are interlinked, because a shared public sphere requires the liberty of people.[19] In turn, personal liberty leads to the recognition of the principle of moral and juridical equality of people as human beings, and of their related rights of citizenship, to be assured.

The doctrine of multiculturalism, as aforementioned, does not solve these two problems, because it considers the person as embodied and embedded in his or her culture of origin, and it does not pursue any common world, but only respect and tolerance ‘at a distance’ between cultures. Both those deficiencies refer to the deficit of relationality, a characteristic of multiculturalism. In which direction should the alternatives to multiculturalism be sought?

Up to now, solutions tend towards two main directions.

On the one hand, there was an attempt to deal with cultural differences by adopting cultural means, i.e. taking a (culturalist) position that seeks for convergence between cultures through new cultural forms. On the other, there was the attempt to show that the meeting between cultures depends on the rationality of individual actors. The first position generally suffers from a hypersocialized vision of the social actor, the second one of a hyposocialized vision of the human being. Let us examine them.

(a) The culturalist (or conventionalist) position, according to which moral feelings are culturally bred, believes that solutions should be found in the preservation of cultures and in the building of a conventional common platform, allowing them to coexist, that is to occur alongside each other. The suggestions, in one way or another, consist in elaborating new conventions and pacts between social groups vis-à-vis the various degrees of cultural conflicts. Supposedly, an agreement should be reached between the various cultures through ‘contracts’ modelled on international conventions. This position suffers from the same problems of multiculturalism, because it considers the actors and their choices to be necessarily defined by the cultural context, and that only a conventional consent ‘from above’ could re-orient the single actors. In substance, it has a ‘holistic’ and hypersocialized character. Those who adopt such a position will sooner or later contradict themselves, since the idea of ‘translating’ a culture into another so as to achieve full reciprocal understanding is considered impossible and is subsequently rejected.[20]

(b) The rationalist position (radical Enlightenment, in various versions), instead, is the one according to which moral feelings have a rational origin.[21] Here, reason comes before identity (as also asserted by A. Sen). The solution to cultural conflicts should thus be found through a dialogue, based on the encounter of an individuals’ ‘good reasons’. This is the perspective of interaction models and rules, which may lead to a lowest common denominator between cultures, thanks to the use of reason on the part of those participating in the situation. Such common denominator may be of a different kind (it may appeal to human nature, natural law, recognition of the innate rights of persons and peoples or nations, or to something else). For the rationalists, the ‘common feeling’ that allows cultures to coexist must be an expression of the moral feelings of the individuals, and it must lie on individual motives of rational action.

Stated in the right terms, the debate between culturalists and rationalists has not progressed. On the one hand, the culturalist position has, often, ended up nourishing various forms of anti-humanism, of trans-humanism or even fundamentalism. On the other, modern rationalism, in its various expressions, has not been able to assure dignity of the human being, and to preserve what is human in social relations (that is, socio-cultural integration), and not only what is human in the individual.

The search for solutions is at a stalemate. It is evident when it comes to the theme of the liberty of the human being (agency) towards the socio-cultural structures. For culturalists, the person is a product of society; he or she is entirely socialized by society, so that the cultural debate stops in front of the declarations of different identities. For rationalists, the human person is a pre-social individual who becomes social based on his or her own internal tastes and options, so that the cultural debate takes place making identities nominalistic.

It seems to me that the contemporary human being is in need of escaping cultural determinism through reason. But the reason at his or her disposal is insufficient. Multiculturalism undermines all the existing forms of rationalism: instrumental, substantial, procedural and deliberative. Western rationality is jeopardized and cannot come up with any argument in response to the requests of those who do not recognize it. Should we relinquish reason?

3.2. In search of a common world: the theory of interculturality

Today, interculturality offers a possible way out. With this term, we generally mean coexistence based on dialogue and on an open debate among different cultures, which both renounce dominating the other (assimilation or colonization) and oppose division without mutual communication (balkanization). One appeals to the so-called ‘intercultural communication’.

Intercultural communication certainly can be given a lot of credit, but it also has some clear limitations. Its main achievement is the affirmation that there is an intermediate space between ‘full comprehension’ within every single culture, and ‘complete non-involvement’ between cultures. In this way, it helps overcome the idea that a common world is impossible because of the dualism between full comprehension (achievable only within a single cultural community) and non-involvement (complete alterity between different cultural communities), as claimed by cultural relativists. Nonetheless, it has great difficulty – and sometimes is unable – to manage the borders between the three domains (intra-cultural, inter-cultural and multi-cultural), if not as pure communication.

Another positive aspect of the intercultural position is that it underlines the fact that debate between cultures may constitute a positive and useful exercise of investigation into values (an exercise in people’s ability for axiological research).[22] But such axiological exercise, which may be considered a way for people to justify their lifestyles, does not explain how individuals may find some common reasons.

That is why some scholars claim that interculturalism is not a real alternative to multiculturalism. Of course, it is not a matter of disqualifying interculturalism as a support for cross-cultural dialogue and as a challenge to self-segregation tendencies within cultures. Interculturalism involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of a multicultural fact of multiple cultures effectively existing in a society and promoting dialogue and interaction between cultures instead. But is it enough?

By examining some of the ways in which conceptions of interculturalism are being positively contrasted with multiculturalism, especially as political ideas, Meer and Modood[23] argue that, while some advocates of a political interculturalism wish to emphasize its positive qualities in terms of encouraging communication, recognising dynamic identities, promoting unity and critiquing illiberal cultural practices, some of these qualities are important (sometimes foundational) features of multiculturalism too. Having made a comparison between multiculturalism and interculturalism in four specific areas of issues, they conclude that until interculturalism as a political discourse is able to offer a distinct perspective, one that can speak to a variety of concerns emanating from complex identities and matters of equality and diversity in a more persuasive manner than at present, interculturalism cannot, intellectually at least, trump multiculturalism, and so it should be considered as complementary to multiculturalism.

If interculturality is to be a real alternative to multiculturality, the former should achieve a true and wide consensus on the common reasons shared by the different cultures. A sort of intercultural integration as ‘conviviality of differences’.

An example of this line of thought is offered by Giuliano Amato,[24] who has suggested a model of intercultural integration based on the principles of the national (in his case, Italian) Constitution.[25]

In a nutshell, these principles can be summarized as follows: (i) the primacy of the person as regards both the cultural community and the State; (ii) the recognition that liberty, as self-realization, needs the relation with the other as a value in itself; (iii) the principle of neutrality as impartiality (not indifference) of the State towards the cultures ‘brought’ by their dwellers; (iv) the principle of integrating ethno-cultural minorities within a common national culture, for which the (secular) State has to adopt a nucleus of inalienable values (liberty, human dignity, respect for life, minimum welfare) that, as such, are valid for all human beings, no matter their cultural belonging; (v) the fifth principle is that of conditioned tolerance: the State, in the name of the citizens’ rights (which, unlike human rights, have no natural law basis), has to assign resources to the various cultural groups, in proportion to their engagement in making themselves keepers of an integration project, based on the fundamental rights of the human being.

This proposal of interculturality is certainly shareable and full of interesting hints. Nonetheless, it too presents some limits. I would like to point out just one of them: it refers the intercultural project to the national culture (its nation-state and its political constitution), while the latter becomes more and more problematic vis-à-vis the processes of globalization which are taking place. To be implemented, this intercultural model needs a context of sociological reflexivity referred to cultural globalization. In my language, it exacts a meta-reflexive subject and a new societarian reflexivity.

My purpose is to show that the intercultural solution cannot be understood – as some seem to understand nowadays – as a sort of ‘mitigated multiculturalism’, sweet, moderate, which looks for an agreement between cultures, pushing individuals towards common reasons that are only external and not internal to the single cultures.

To be effective, the intercultural solution needs a deeply reflexive reason, capable of entrenching the ultimate values in a solid, common ground. This is the real problem: where can this reflexive reason be found?

3.3. Intercultural comprehension needs a relational interface: the problem of boundaries between differences

Cultures debate today within the public sphere, with no clue on how it is possible to have something in common apart from mere interest. This happens because the different cultural identities are not able to dialogue between them in terms of identity.

The modern Western society invented some devices to treat clashes of interest through the market, and clashes of opinion through the rules of political democracy. But it has not found the instruments to treat clashes of cultural values. The latter must then be addressed within the framework of the relationships between religion and culture, because this is the context where the instruments to handle clashes of values should be found.

The problem must be framed considering that, in a democracy, single religions should be able to distinguish between their internal dogmatics and what they can and must submit to their reciprocal confrontation in the public sphere, namely in civil society, which legitimates the democratic political system.[26] In such a frame, the key problem is one of boundaries between different faiths (religions) and the public sphere. The public sphere needs a common reason, achievable only if the various religions are inwardly reflexive enough to distinguish between the reasons given to interlocutors in the public sphere, and their faith (their inner dogmatics).

This is not an exercise for individuals, but it involves religions, considered as cultures. People’s inner reflexivity is not enough, it is necessary to make religion reflexive, as well as the culture in which it is rooted.

In other words, there is here a process of morphogenesis both of socio-cultural structures (the elaboration of new symbolic and relational patterns) and of agency (the self-reflexive activity of people acting freely), through the interaction of individuals.[27] The intercultural theory may stand only if it is possible to achieve such a complex morphogenetic process.

To perform this operation, it is necessary for people to implement a Reason, which no religion (as a culture, not as a faith) can entirely possess on its own, since it cuts across them (it is trans-cultural). It is their own reason to exist as religions in the public sphere (i.e. particular systems of values), beyond every single faith that, being a faith, is inwardly incomparable.[28] The interstitial area between religious faith and public sphere is the area of religions, meant as cultures that have to be interpreted and acted on by the human subjects. Multiculturalism stops on the threshold of this interstitial area. It supposes coexistence between cultures (religions) without seeing how they can interact and act in the public sphere, so as to contribute to shaping a common reason.

To understand how it is possible, we must observe that, appearing as a culture, religion depends on faith on the one hand (transcendental reality), and, on the other, on how human nature (of the person) expresses itself in life-world relations. The theory of interculturality may be a solution beyond multiculturalism, but with some assumptions.

Here are the main ones: first, it must be assumed that culture does not absorb human nature; secondly, it must be assumed that citizenship cannot absorb the homme: thirdly, it must be assumed that people’s living experience in life worlds may reach some form of agreement, empathy, and comprehension,[29] which, being pre-cultural and pre-political, may modify cultural expressions (including religion as a culture, not as a faith). Faith in transcendental realities, therefore, becomes a device to help meta-reflexivity (a combination of the individual context and the relational context). In this way, the reflexivity of reason may exceed its purely reproductive (‘dependent’) or, vice versa, decontextualized (‘self-referent’) forms.

There are two alternatives: either we drop reason as a veritative principle (of recognition), or we should make efforts to broaden the range of reason. So-called ‘limited rationality’ is an empirical condition (of individuals and functional systems), which is neither the destiny of mankind or civilization. This means that the expansion of reason may be rational, namely it may happen based on matters related to a more comprehensive reason, not based on dogmatic or extra-rational reasons. I will discuss it in the next passage.

4. Expanding the range of reason with ‘relational reason

4.1. Which reason should be used to address differences/diversity?

The search for a new rationality appropriate to the encounter and recognition of different/diverse people/groups requires adequate semantics to understand and deal with what creates differences and diversity. It is a fact that difference/diversity is, in general, a mix of faith and reason, of motives of faith and rational motives, woven together. In ancient societies, which continue to be the benchmark for the so-called ‘classic culture’, this interweaving had a solidity, which materialized in a common ethos (generating natural law and the doctrine of a common ethic, which was dispelled by the modern public ethic, which is no longer based on a shared ethos).

Joseph Ratzinger[30] wrote that: “the original relational unity between reason and faith – although never unchallenged – has been torn […] Farewell to truth can never be definitive […]”. In my view, the keystone of the issue is contained in this expression. Nevertheless, it must be noted that we are still very far from understanding what it means. I cannot pause here to discuss whether the laceration was produced (before or after, more or less) by reason or faith. The question on which I focus my inquiry is this: what is meant by ‘relational unity’ between faith and reason, and also between religion and culture? It is certainly the unity of a difference. But how do we understand difference?

4.2. The semantics of difference, relational reason, and the common world

We must come up with a new theory of difference (in personal and social identity), which allows us to understand and handle it in a relational way. Since the distinction is a reflexive operation, we are directed back to the ways in which reflexivity removes and judges differences. I will make three fundamental distinctions: dialogical reflexivity, binary reflexivity, and relational (triangular) reflexivity.[31] They correspond to three different semantics of difference (see Figure 1).

(I) Contractual/dialectic/dialogical semantics: conceives of difference as a margin, a distance, as a point of continuous conflict and negotiation, which can find an agreement or not. The cultural encounter between Ego and Alter is represented as a relationship at the border of their identities where they meet, discuss and try to accommodate their differences. The border is a real space, where negotiations can take place between Ego and Alter (unlike a binary semantics in which the border is conceived as a sharp separation, without any chance of successful communication). What is in between the people who meet is a sort of externality for each. At the point of conflict, Ego and Alter remain estranged from one another. The border is, by definition, a source of conflicts and moral contentions, because it is the object of one or the other’s will to appropriate it, the field where one tries to assimilate the other. It has to do with seeing which of the two can take possession of it, or, alternatively, how they can share it or at least turn it into a place of exchanges that are the outputs and inputs of one to the other. Between Ego and Alter there is no real mutual exchange; rather, there is the assertion of two identities that stand facing each other. The two may dialogue, but the agreement they may reach is entirely fleeting (in sociological terms, it is highly contingent, which means that it depends on many variables and can always be possible otherwise, i.e. possible in many different ways, including not to be). Here, reciprocity does not require the recognition of a common identity. A clear example of this semantics is given by Jürgen Habermas, according to whom the common border is defined (‘constituted’) by civic values and a dialogue around them (what he calls ‘constitutional patriotism’).[32]

(II) Binary semantics: conceives of difference as discrimination and incommunicability. The border between Ego and Alter is a sharp distinction (division), a separation, an irreconcilability, an impossibility of exchanging reciprocal inputs and outputs. This semantics stems from the theory of autopoietic and self-referential systems, of mechanical, functional, and automatic character.[33]

According to it, culture is a mere by-product of the communication among people, which consists of multiple messages that are disturbances (noise) for one another. There is no possibility of a common world. What is common is the pure and simple common “problems” of the world (loving one another simply means recognizing that the problems of ego are also the problems of alter, and vice versa), seeking to confront the paradoxes generated by the functional rationality of the system (in which Ego and Alter act without any chance of influencing its operating structures). In this framework, the morally good and ethical is, as Niklas Luhmann has claimed, polemogenous, generating all kinds of conflicts and wars, or, if not war, at least generating moral strife. Society here is a paradox because becoming a fellow (socius) does not mean sharing something, but, on the contrary, it means drawing binary distinctions that divide some people (the in-group) from and against other people (the out-group).

(III) Relational semantics: perceives difference (the distance that separates Ego from Alter) as a social relationship (neither a simple border, nor a slash). The relationship is never just a generic relationship, but is always qualified in some way. It is not a free interaction in the void. Nor is it mere communication. It emerges from a context, and it has a structure which is defined and is based upon the terms of the relationship, and can only come from it, and always under determinate conditions. The relationship is constitutive of Ego and Alter’s identities, in the sense that the identity of Ego is formed through the relationship with Alter, and the identity of Alter is formed through the relationship with Ego.

The border is an area of conflict, struggle, negotiation, but also of reciprocal belonging, which constitutes them both. The unity of the difference is a relational unity, that is, it is the unity of a real differentiation that exists because of reciprocal reference to a common belonging with respect to which Ego and Alter differentiate their own Selves. From here begins the recognition of a real otherness (and not – as many scholars claim – the recognition of an Alter-Ego, which is in fact an Alter as imagined, represented, depicted by Ego).

The recognition of authentic otherness does not coincide with total separation from the other, because relationship bespeaks distance, and even separation in some way, but at the same time bespeaks sharing. Sharing is not between two mirror images, but between two distinct, unique entities. These entities, while they maintain their impenetrability without synthesis, reveal themselves by reference to a reality that unites them, their humanity, for example. For instance, national identity is a relational concept that refers to a relational reality: being French or Italian means referring to two entities that are neither opposites nor sharing only a (contractual/dialogical) border between them; there are identities that have commonalities as well differences; their distinction is constituted by a complex relation, built through a historical process of reciprocal exchanges and interactions. The way in which the relation between them is configured and works depends, of course, on contingent situations. The same is true for the distinction between genders, which is a relation. Man is such in relation to woman, and vice versa, and also within the same gender (if we think of two men or two women) individuals are distinguished relationally.

Otherness is not an irreconcilable contradiction, in the degree in which the Other is perceived as another Self and ‘Oneself (is perceived) as Another’ (as Ricœur says).[34] But this other Self is not the same (idem); rather it is unique (ipse). If Ego and Alter coincided and could be assimilated (idem), the relationship would vanish. If, on the other hand, the relationship was entirely external to Ego and Alter, the result would fall into the two prior cases (semantics I and II). Cultural confrontation must therefore look at the relationship that is constitutive of Ego and Alter, though differently for each. Cultural difference can and must be seen as a different way to understand and configure this relationship, without being able to conceive of it as destined to a dialectical synthesis in the manner of Hegel.

4.3 The emergence of a relational semantics

Western culture has, until today, used the first two semantics, oscillating between them. My conviction is that, in the climate of globalization, and in the wake of the flawed experience of multiculturalism, a third semantics is emerging. The third semantics, that of relational difference, interprets and understands cultural differences insofar as they are generated in reference to a common world (that which includes both Ego and Alter). The common world differentiates itself and is re-generated (re-differentiated) through forms of ‘relational differentiation’, that is, of differences that are generated by different ways of articulating the founding relationships shared by the people involved in a context[35] (not the functions, the roles – that which is institutionally prescribed, as a specialization of actors and performances).

Secularism is the motive that justifies cultural pluralism, when it springs from the social relationships amongst human beings. Properly speaking, the secularity of the state does not consist in the fact that the state authorizes religious freedom, let alone rules based on political principles, like that of the juridical equality of religious denominations (this is entirely different from the equality of persons under the law, which is a fundamental principle). The state can be called secular in so far as it limits itself to recognizing the persons’ original liberty of professing their faith, and claims as its own those values and rules that emerge in a shared way from the public debate between religions on the basis of a rational argument. To go further into this point it is necessary to recall the relational semantics that allow us to see the unexplored aspect of human rationality: relational reason. What does it consist of?

5. What does expanding human reason through social relationships mean?

5.1. The structure of relational reason

Relational rationality is the faculty by which the human person sees the inherent reasons (good motives) in inter-human social relationships (not in individuals as individuals, nor in social or cultural systems). Certainly the being-together of different cultures stimulates the deepening of rational (axiological) individual choices, within individual reflexivity. But this does not suffice to configure the ‘inter’ (what lies in between different cultures) as a social relationship. The ‘inter’ remains largely unexplored and unexplained. To turn the inter into a common world, the public sphere requires a rationality that takes into account the differentiation between cultures as a relational differentiation.[36]

In other words, cultural identities are different because of the different ways in which they interpret and live their relationship compared to the values that are common to human beings. The “ways” refer to the instrumental and normative dimensions of reason, as well as concrete aims, while the “values” refer to the axiological (or teleological) dimensions of reason. The so-called policies of equality of differences, that neutralize relationships or render them indifferent, can only generate new differences, which find no rational solution, but only new forms of dialectic or separation.

The role of religion in the public sphere is a good example of this. The issue is: to what extent can religions, their leaders and institutions (in so far as they are bearers of different cultural views) have the right to intervene in the public sphere, where collective binding decisions are to be taken for the common good? We know that the confrontation between religions and secularized cultures in passing laws is often a matter of conflict on relevant issues such as human life (abortion, euthanasia, genetic manipulations, etc.), the recognition of new civil rights, the declaration of a war, the legitimation of torture, etc. If a country allows a religion to conform the public sphere to itself, then we have a theocratic regime. On the contrary, if we split religion completely from the public sphere, by saying that religion has no right to intervene since it is only a private affair, then we end up with an amoral society,[37] or, as some scholars call it, a ‘post-ethical society’.[38]

The ‘good society’ implies a certain kind of relationality between religions and the public sphere, one that should imply interchanges at a distance in order to accommodate religious and non-religious cultures all together. In order to configure this distance in such a way as to support a secular democracy we need a relational reason that looks at the good of the relationships in the public sphere (its relational goods!) without requiring a change in the internal ‘dogmatics’ of the different cultures, on the sole condition that dogmatic beliefs do not prevent such external relations.

Another very good example is the difference between monogamous and polygamous marriage, or the new ‘polyamorous arrangements’, when these lifestyles are granted the right to individual equal opportunities. For those who support the lib/lab policies of equal opportunities,[39] these relationships are only different offers for a plurality of chances given to the individuals involved – nothing more than that. They do not touch on the meaning and consequences that these different relationships have on the flourishing or the withering of what is conceived to be inherently human. From the relational perspective, when one asserts the right to a cultural difference, one necessarily supports different relationships that have different qualities and causal properties in enhancing or diminishing the human character of the relational good inherent in marriage.

The same holds true for other relations, such as participation in the labour market, welfare benefits and civic activities.[40]

To make social relationships morally indifferent, cancelling out the discrete reasons that inhere in the identity of each specific kind of relationship is to annihilate the value of relationships as sui generis reality. It is to nullify the principle of appreciation that the relationship contains.

Relationship is what – at the same time – joins, differentiates, and diversifies. For example, the conjugal relationship joins a man and a woman as one flesh, but differentiates them in their personal identity with respect to the same relationship. A relationship of friendship joins two persons in a circle of symbolic exchanges, while differentiating between them with respect to what they can offer reciprocally, and it diversifies them with regard to the quality of their friendship. In this way, different relationships are involved.

The reasons that are inherent in human relationships correspond to the dignity of the human person. They are latent and have morphogenetic potential.[41] For this reason they can develop a critique of cultural drifts, be it of anti-humanism, or backward fundamentalism.

Sustaining interculturalism capable of creating consensus on fundamental human values means adopting a relational paradigm capable of acknowledging and articulating the reasons that shape the inter-human, that which is between individuals. The field of bioethics in a multicultural society offers many examples: the right to life, the rights of the human embryo, the right of a child to a family, the right to an education worthy of a human being, the right to a good death, to a healthy environment, and so on, are all relational rights, because they are rights to relationships (rather than to things or performances). Relationships have their own reasons, which the individuals involved may not even be explicitly (linguistically, conversationally) aware of, but which they comprehend to the extent of the type and degree of reflexivity they have; that is, to the extent in which they manage to see the reasons behind the relationships that human realities imply in the eternal dialogue between nature and culture.

So-called ‘cultural mediation’, often discussed, can only overcome the obstacles of prejudice and intolerance if people succeed in reasonably bringing values together, and giving them relational rationales.

Relational reason validates differences, rather than hiding them. This is precisely how it is capable of moving beyond the ancient configurations of relations between cultures (that is, segmented differentiation in primitive societies, stratified differentiation of cultures in premodern societies, and functional differentiation of early modernity), which are all forms of differentiation incapable of achieving shared public reason in a globalized society.

Relational reason gives us an alternative to these forms of differentiation, called ‘relational differentiation’, which when applied imply the creation of a public sphere that is not indifferent to transcendent values, but is ‘religiously qualified’, in that religions have a role in defining public reason, because they orient people toward a reflexive understanding of their cultural elaborations in their life-worlds.

This reflexive understanding supports and nourishes an expansion of reason. It is a way to go beyond modern Western rationality, which stopped at the threshold of the distinction between instrumental and substantial reasoning.[42] According to this distinction, the relationship to value (Wertbeziehung in Max Weber’s theory) is non-rational, because values themselves are non-rational (from the Weberian viewpoint). Relational reason tells us the opposite. It indicates the different ways in which it is possible for Ego to relate to values, as it relates to the Other, not on the basis of purely subjective factors (sentiments, mood, emotions, irrational preferences) or acquired habits (habitus), but on the basis of reasons that are neither things, nor rules of exchange, but are goods (values) connected to the quality of present and future relationships. These are what I call ‘relational goods’.[43] I propose that we take a new and radical look at the rationality theory proposed by Max Weber, which profoundly (and negatively) conditioned the social thought of the twentieth century.[44]

Rationality cannot be reduced to the two modalities put forward by Max Weber – that is means-end, or instrumental rationality (Zweckrationalität) and value/belief-oriented rationality (Wertrationalität). To reduce human rationality to these two concepts is an operation fraught with ambiguity and can be a source of great confusion. Zweckrationalität deals with the calculation of means to achieve an end, but ends can also become means, until it is no longer possible to distinguish what is a means and what is an end. The concept is unusable. Wertrationalität refers to a value subjectively understood by the social actor, but that value may be a good in itself, or just a personal taste/preference. The reformulation of the Weberian distinction between instrumental and value-oriented rationality undertaken by various authors (for example Talcott Parsons and Jeffrey Alexander, which translated them respectively as instrumental and normative rationality), has been unsatisfying and insufficient.

I propose a redefinition of rationality as a faculty of human behaviour that has four components or modalities (A, G, I, L, see Figure 2) that are interrelated and, combined in various ways, give rise to different forms of rational agency.[45]

(I) Firstly, instrumental rationality deals with efficiency, and involves the means, therefore the adaptive dimension of thinking and acting (rationality of efficiency) (A); its analytic counterpart is the economic sphere, and its empirical, macrostructural counterpart is the market.

(II) Secondly, goal-oriented rationality refers to situated objectives, and regards the achievement of defined goals and goal-attainment (rationality of efficacy) (G); its analytic counterpart is the sphere of power, and its empirical, macrostructural counterpart is the political system (the State).

(III) Third, the integrative dimension of reason, which coordinates the other dimensions of rationality (value, goal-attainment, and means) through ethical and moral normativity, and assures the autonomy of rationality against other kinds of actions and social relationships (I). I call this relational rationality (or, by striking a new word in German: Beziehungsrationalität), or nomic rationality (what is rational in the nomos, that is) in the norms of division and distribution, which at the same time divide and connect the related parts. Social relationships have reasons that belong neither to individuals nor to social systems, reasons which the individuals and the systems may not know about, and in fact do not possess. As an analytic correlation, this dimension takes the sphere of social bonds, and as an empirical, macrostructural correlate, civil society inasmuch as it is an associational world.

(IV) Fourth, the properly values-oriented dimension of reason, which corresponds to the distinction-guideline that points toward what is good in itself, what is an end in itself, what has worth in itself (that which lies at the depths of the ultimate concerns of the actor, which some call ultimate values in the sense of ultimate realities) (L).[46] That is, the rationality of value as good in itself. The rationality of that which has a dignity that is neither instrumental nor goal-oriented (value rationality or axiological rationality, or what I would like to name Würderationalität, i.e. the rationality of dignity).

Here, it is important to clearly understand that, in what I call value-oriented rationality, the value is not a situated goal that has a price, but is a ‘good without a price’, that no money can buy. Value-oriented rationality is not dependent upon the situation. It is inherent in the dignity of all which deserves respect and recognition, because it is distinctively human (as opposed to the non-human or in-human). Therefore, it regards in the first place the human person as such (and not because an individual behaves in a particular way). As an analytic counterpart it has the sphere of good in itself or for itself, the symbolic reference – and what is non-negotiable – to that which characterizes the good or a person and distinguishes that person from all the others. The empirical, macrostructural correlate of value-oriented rationality is the religious system – religion understood as a cultural fact distinct from faith (which transcends culture).

The four dimensions of reason (instrumental, goal-oriented, values-oriented, and relational) make up a complex of reason, or human reason as a complex faculty. From this angle, every component is essential so that human reason emerges in its fullness, be it as a theoretical faculty or a practical one. The actions of recognizing, understanding, explaining and seeking what is rational are all needs of the complex faculty of human reason, as seen from the relational perspective.

From a sociological perspective, reason is a faculty that exists as an emerging social phenomenon. There is no such thing as a purely individual rationality, in the sense of a faculty cut off from social relationships. Reason is a faculty that emerges from the workings of its constitutive elements, each of which has its own characteristics. The faculty which we call human reason is generated as an emergent effect of the togetherness, interaction, and interchange between the four fundamental dimensions that comprise it. Encounter and recognition are relational goods[47] not because, as some believe, they carry with them a particular human warmth, or a feeling of good will, or a special pathos (elements that in any event have their own weight and importance), but because they realize a relationship which depends upon the goods of those who participate in the relationship. I call them ‘relational goods’.[48] And this dependence is rational, or at least reasonable.

Those forms which we call procedural rationality and deliberative rationality are expressions of particular combinations of the above four dimensions (Figure 2). For lack of space, I cannot comment upon these (and other) forms of rationality here.

5.2. How does relational reason operate?

Relational reason is that human faculty that operates:

            (i) With relations (namely, from the perspective of relations, not of individuals or systems), in a contextualized way, from the perspective of culture as an expression of a community; it is made of relations that are put into practice or could be practiced, based on the values of such culture;

            (ii) For relations (namely, in view of improving relations that promote some definite values of such culture);

            (iii) In relations (namely, through relations, acting – practically and analytically – on existing relations, in order to create new ones).

On the whole, relational reason comes into existence every time the reason for action includes the good of shared action.

Relational reason is therefore the reason of a cultural mediation, intended neither as ‘betrayal’ of inner convictions (as the representatives of the so-called ‘weak thought’, like Gianni Vattimo and Franco Crespi claim) nor as a ‘paradoxicality’ of people’s free acting (the paranoia of Jacques Derida and Niklas Luhmann), but as the expression of the need for the human living experience to be spontaneously contextualized within a life-world where social relations have to operate through mediations.

Relational reason is that faculty, proceeding through four components (aims, means, rules, values), relating them inside and with their environments (in a systemic sense). We may distinguish relational reason when it operates inside (theoretical reason as a relational complex of subjective thoughts and intentions, with their mental means, logics, latent values) and outside (practical reason as a relational complex that has to combine autonomy and gratuitousness of action with heteronomy and instrumentality).[49]

In such a framework, values are necessarily on the border between reason and its transcendental environment (faith). On such a border, reason, culture and faith necessarily interact. Values should be seen not as models to maintain and preserve (in an inertial vision of the social system, as done by Talcott Parsons), but as propellers of social relations. Cultural values are not only bonds and limits (with zero energy and maximum function of control), but also resources and perspectives of sense (having a proper energy, often more entropic than negentropic).

With his theory of incompleteness of formal systems, Gödel taught us two things: (i) each system needs to relate to an other than oneself, to find a situational and formal completeness [in the formulation of this Author, the formal needs the informal (intuition, creativity)]; (ii) the ‘total completeness’ comes from the relation between all the systems (or rather, it is based on the relations between the systems’ relations). This is also true for reason, when considered as a system oriented to knowledge and practical action.

If we perceive reason as a reflexive faculty of the human being, consisting in the ability of one’s I to converse with its Self on its own I and the world, then to expand reason means to expand such reflexive ability (choosing aims, means, rules and values) through relations implied with the Self and the world, through its own Self. Thus permitting the person to entrench his or her own cultural identity inside his or her own human nature, expanding outside it in the culture, and interacting with it in the various spheres of life, where the I becomes Me, We, and You.[50]

The Greek Logos says: “know yourself”, as written on the façade of the temple of Apollo at Delphi. The “nosce te ipsum” exhortation (St Augustine) has become the focus of introspection in Christian spirituality. Relational reason observes that such self-reflexive precept risks failing and falling into subjectivism. It makes us understand that, without the Other, the I cannot know itself in a fully human way. Therefore, the Logos should make itself relational and recognize that without You, who are Other than Myself, I cannot know myself. Relational reason shows that there is no opposition between Me as the Other (Idem) and Me as a sole and unique being (Ipse), as claimed by some philosophers; instead, there can be synergy, because the singleness of the person (ipseity) emerges from the background of what is common (sameness).

Talking of relational reason means entering into reflected thought (reflexivity). It requires changing the observational point of view, being no more one of the single terms or of a presumed ‘system’, but that of a relationship. It means entering into another order of knowledge: what I call ‘the order (of reality) of the relation’.

Relational reason offers good reasons, autonomously understandable by everyone irrespectively of their specific religious faith, because they refer to the development of the human nature as a reality provided with own properties and powers as regards culture, even if culture should combine with nature. What makes the agent/actor’s reasons “good” is their relational character as referred to the human, where human stands for what can only be an end in itself, never a means other than itself, because it refers to the species-specific quality of the human person, perceivable and recognizable by everyone.

5.3. Relational reason offers the necessary mediations for a veritative recognition of cultural identities

The citizenship we need must allow people, families, social groups and communities belonging to it, to combine their own culture (and religion) with a growing differentiation of the individual (due to the various circles of identities intersecting in him/her). Thus, the individual should be put in a position to identify his/her own belongings and to determine the hierarchy of his/her ultimate concerns.

If everybody, whatever his/her culture/religion, can identify in the slightest of a common world, this world cannot consist of a state citizenship neutralizing social relations, or of a multicultural citizenship making relations between cultures indifferent, because identity depends on relations.

The common world is the necessary mediation elaborated by reason (commonly shared by human beings), so that every single person may live in the public sphere, even being of different religion or faith. Only in the interface of the inter-subjective relation, Reason recognizes the reasons of faith, and faith recognizes the reasons of Reason. Only through their relational values, Reason may be open to faith and vice versa.

The lack of relational mediation jeopardizes all religions, not only Christianity. We may see it through the growing entropy of all the world’s religions. Christianity is certainly the one that has most absorbed and expressed the spirit of distinctions, thus it is the most differentiated inside as regards the use of reason. It is inside, and not outside Christianity, that anti-Humanism and trans-Humanism are generated (for the Eastern religions, these terms have little or no sense).

The differentiating reason of Western modernity produced multiculturalism as an ideology. Only relational reason may cure the consequent pathologies, drifts, deviations and implosions.

The secularity required by multicultural societies consists in a new spirit of distinctions, which treats social relations neither as dialectic oppositions, nor as binary ways to discriminate human persons. Such a spirit must transform social relations into an experience of recognition within a complex circuit of mutual gifts. This is a relational spirit, because it uses relational semantics of distinctions as actions inspired by the rule of reciprocity. It therefore generates a secularity, which is a recognition of the relation between different identities, as a free act of gift and acceptance of its responsibility (in fact, the gift is an answer to former gifts, and leads to a reciprocation).

The question of the recognition of different cultures implies three interrelated steps: the attribution of an identity, its validation and a sense of gratitude (thankfulness) for its existence. These three steps represent the gift circuit that, unlike the animal realm, is a constituent of human sociability. Human recognition would not be possible if the identity was not a relational one, and if the common world was not relationally constituted.

Finally, it is clear that the biggest and most specific performance of relational reason is the one which solves the inner difficulty of multiculturalism (namely, the problem of recognition), through relational observation and relational action: recognition is observed and acted on as a gift circuit.

The relational expansion of reason can be understood by all cultures, including the Eastern ones, to the extent that these cultures adopt a relational (trinitary)[51] symbolism.

The adoption of this perspective allows society to exceed the limits of liberal tolerance. While liberal tolerance is without relations, a mature interculturality passes through relations and, therefore, is able to understand the sense of all faiths and religions, and of the relations that they can create between them by means of human (secular) reason. Its reason lies on the fact that a principled tolerance may be flexible about means; it is a form of rationality capable of combining value with differentiated rules and instruments, and in this way it can rescue Wertrationalität from its indeterminacy. This is, in fact, the relational reason.

The route of relational reason does not assert a monistic uni-verse, or a multi-verse without any order, or an undifferentiated pluri-verse, but an ordered inter-verse, a world of diversities oriented to one another, on the standard of a reciprocal rationality, fit for a convergence on shared experiences and practices, which are independent from the single culture as a symbolic product (including language).

6. Conclusions and perspectives

The vicissitudes of multiculturalism show that we live in a world in which the Hobbesian solution of the social order is no longer suitable. Institutionalized individualism (individualistic liberalism), assessed by the Hobbesian solution, is in crisis. There is no longer a political power (Leviathan) that can guarantee individual liberties, neutralizing the cultural (and religious) conflicts within the public sphere. The ideology of multiculturalism is not a solution to the ethical void, which widens in proportion to the fall of the Hobbesian national State. Is interculturality a viable alternative?

My answer is positive, provided that interculturality is fitted with a ‘relational reason’ to make different cultures meet and build a common world.

A universal culture is not imaginable as a world culture (corresponding to the world system) in a functionalist meaning. The current debate on the difficulties of achieving a theoretical universalism in culture[52] clearly demonstrates it. Christian thought may certainly propose its own vision of universalism, but it is forced to confront other universalisms. So that, without a relational interface, the Christian vision (or even the Judeo-Greek-Christian view) is inevitably perceived as particularistic. A universal culture is possible, instead, as the spirit of an ethically qualified secularity, constituted as a common world, which may be drawn through relational reason, in relationally differentiated social spheres.

Beyond the deficits of multiculturalism, the solution could be provided by a renewed secular sense of culture, as a shared learning space through practices of daily life, where mutual recognition steps aside from the world of signs and cultural traditions, in order to grasp the primary experiential sense of the inter-human. In such a situation, the secular character could assume the connotation of independent reason, looking at the sense of human relations, without depending on justifications based on the sole faith (namely, committed to dogmatics inside the single religion).

In order to let such a secularity emerge, it is necessary that people and cultures learn to operate differences, no more in a contractual/dialectic or binary way, but through a relational symbolic code, according to which the autonomy of subjects is not a separation (or continuous clash between them), but a choice of the environment to depend on. Relational reason should have the task of avoiding every kind of conflation in cultural conflicts: top-down conflations (as in the case of French Jacobin assimilationism), bottom-up conflations (as in the theory of an unlimited community of discourse, i.e. the case of J. Habermas), and central conflations (peculiar of the relationism that we find in the pragmatics of a coexistence understood as a conflation or hybridization of cultures, as in the case of M. Emirbayer).

When relationally understood, secularity promises a new coexistence between cultures, not by cancelling their principles of civilization, but by renewing these, through the recognition that one’s own identity is relationally constituted through the relation to the Other.[53] This idea is the backdrop of what I call societal constitutionalism.[54]

Today, many people are willing to recognize that the self-limitation of positivist reason (even restricted to the technical ambit) implies a mutilation of the human being. Non-believing laymen, atheists and agnostics claim it too. Everyone, today, puts the evils of a globalized society down to technical reason, and to the domination of an economy pushed forward by a science without ethics. Certainly, positivist reason is neither universal, nor complete, nor sufficient to itself. The roots of reason are wider. It is shown by the fact that globalization is stimulating new localist cultures.

To see these roots, dipping in man’s nature, it is necessary to produce what Max Weber called ‘cultural breakthrough’. As Parsons (1967) argued, Christianity did it for two millennia, operating a qualitative leap in the world’s process of rationalization. But today it is frozen. This is because the faith-reason pair is no longer able to de-mythicize false idols. Doing it would require structuring the unity of such difference in a relational way, through relational reason. That is the only way for reason, which grew on Judeo-Greek-Christian roots, to operate a new cultural breakthrough.

We need new roots to survive. We must find a new imagination, which is both sociological and transcendental, in order to support a meeting of cultures, capable of getting to the root of man’s dignity. Thinking of reason as a Logos may be helpful to the individual to provide a new access to culture, and to the intercultural debate, but it cannot be shut inside the so-called religion of a Book. It must open up to historically contextualized human relations. It has to learn from everyday life practices in so far as they are enlightened by a fully relational reflexive reason.

There is a lot to learn from a reason capable of expanding towards those ultimate realities that cannot be reckoned, that are not technical-scientific, bearing the deepest sense of the human inside them. We should be aware that this target requires a relational development of reason. Social relations contain the reasons that operate the mediation between religious faith and public reason.

Understanding such mediation, which is the keystone of the co-existence of so many different ‘reasons’ (cultures), requires resorting to a reflexive semantics of difference (between the human reason and its supernatural environment, as between different reasons linked to different cultures), which is a relational semantics. This is the meaning of the claim according to which religious faith can and shall liberate reason from its blind spots.

[1] Luhmann, Niklas, ‘Beyond Barbarism,’ Soziale Systeme,14 (1) 2008: 38-46.

[2] Pope Francis has advocated this kind of social integration on many occasions, for instance when he writes: “Anthropological and cultural changes in our times influence all aspects of life and call for an analytic and diversified approach (…) The unity that we seek is not uniformity, but a “unity in diversity”, or “reconciled diversity” (Encyclical Letter Amoris Laetitia #32, 139).

[3] A. Gutmann (ed.), Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition”, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1992; C. Taylor, J. Habermas, et al., Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

[4] Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, Durham-London: Duke University Press, 2004.

[5] S. Benhabib, The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.

[6] For a thorough treatment of this line of inquiry, see P. Donati, Oltre il multiculturalismo. La ragione relazionale per un mondo comune, Rome-Bari: Laterza, 2008, pp. 27-49.

[7] G. Bouchard and C. Taylor, Building the future. A time for reconciliation, Montreal: Report for the Government of Québec, 2008.

[8] Government of Canada, “Canadian Multiculturalism: An Inclusive Citizenship”. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.1.

[9] Giuliana Prato, Beyond Multiculturalism: Views from Anthropology. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2009, 50; Maria Luiza Dantas, and Patrick C. Manyak, Home-School Connections in a Multicultural Society: Learning from and with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families. New York: Routledge, 2010, 241; Michael A Burayidi, Multiculturalism in a Cross-national Perspective. Lanham, MD: U of America, 1997, 104.

[10] Will Kymlicka, Multiculturalism: Success, Failure, and the Future, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2012.

[11] See the website of The Canadian Heritage.

[12] “La dynamique qui préside d’abord à la promotion de la reconnaissance-identification, ensuite à la transition qui conduit de l’identification de quelque chose en général à la reconnaissance par elles-mêmes d’entités spécifiées par l’ipséité, puis de la reconnaissance de soi à la reconnaissance mutuelle, jusqu’à l’ultime équation entre reconnaissance et gratitude, que la langue française est une des rares langues à honorer” (Paul Ricœur, Parcours de la reconnaissance, Paris: Stock, 2004: p. 10).

[13] Jean Greisch, Vers quelle reconnaissance? (Paris: Puf, 2006).

[14] It refers to the famous formula of Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit: “self-consciousness reaches its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness”.

[15] See P. Donati, L’enigma della relazione (Milano-Udine: Mimesis, 2015): 24-26.

[16] As for the various modes of reflexivity (communicative, autonomous, meta-reflexive, fractured or impeded): see M.S. Archer, Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

[17] The adjective ‘veritative’ can be referred to M. Heidegger’s phrase ‘veritative synthesis’, which constitutes the essence of finite knowledge. It is a synthesis because all knowledge is a union of knower and known and it is veritative because, by reason of this union, the being-to-be-known becomes manifest, i.e. true, simply because it reveals itself as it is; see: M. Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1997.

[18] Let me recall that this expression is the title of a book by J. Maritain: The Range of Reason, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

[19] Rightly A. Sen (Reason Before Identity: The Romanes Lecture for 1998, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) has called attention to the difference between a public sphere based on freedom and consensus and one based on cultural communities of ascriptive character (the ones transmitting a cultural tradition from one generation to the other, based on the fact that an individual is born in such a culture). But Sen does not clarify how the liberties enjoyed by equal individuals can build up a common public sphere. He criticizes multiculturalism in the name of an open society (according to the lib-lab model of institutionalized individualism), which seems to be as imaginary as the multicultural one.

[20] S. Shimada, Le differenze culturali e il problema della traduzione, in F. Monceri (ed.), Immagini dell’altro. Identità e diversità a confronto (Roma: Edizioni Lavoro, 2006): 211-243.

[21] R. Boudon, ‘Which theory of moral evolution should social scientists choose?’, International Review of Sociology, 18 (2) (2008): 183-196.

[22] M. Touriñan López José, La educación intercultural como ejercicio de educación en valores, in “Estudios sobre Educación”, vol. 10, No. 5, junio 2006, pp. 9-36.

[23] N. Meer and T. Modood, How does Interculturalism Contrast with Multiculturalism?, in Journal of Intercultural Studies, vol. 33, No. 2, 2012, pp. 175-196.

[24] See Giuliano Amato’s “Charter of values, citizenship and integration” [“Carta dei valori, della cittadinanza e dell’integrazione”], elaborated when he was the former Italian Minister of the Interior on 23 April 2007.

[25] This is very close to the proposal made by J. Habermas and known as ‘patriotic constitutionalism’.

[26] P. Donati, Religion and Democracy: The Challenge of a “Religiously Qualified” Public Sphere, in Polish Sociological Review, vol. 138, No. 2, 2002, pp. 147-173.

[27] See M.S. Archer (ed.), Social Morphogenesis, Springer, New York, 2013.

[28] Here, I refer to the well-known distinction between faith and religion proposed by Karl Barth, without accepting his theory of an intrinsic opposition between them. From the perspective of relational sociology, it does not mean putting them in opposition, but acknowledging their inner, necessary relationality.

[29] P. Gomarasca, I confini dell’altro. Etica dello spazio multiculturale, Vita e Pensiero, Milano, 2004.

[30] J. Ratzinger, Fede, verità, tolleranza. Il cristianesimo e le religioni del mondo, Cantagalli, Siena, 2003, p. 166 (English translation: Faith, Truth, and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003).

[31] For more details on the different types of reflexivity, see: P. Donati, Sociologia della riflessività, (Bologna: il Mulino, 2011).

[32] In the book Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory (C. Cronin and P. DeGreiff, eds, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), J. Habermas claims that “inclusion does mean neither assimilative engrossing nor narrow-mindedness towards the diverse. Inclusion of the other rather means that the community’s boundaries are opened to everyone: even – and above all – to those mutually extraneous and willing to remain extraneous”.

[33] N. Luhmann, Social Systems (Palo Alto CA: Stanford University Press, 1995).

[34] P. Ricœur, Oneself as Another (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992). According to Ricœur, selfhood implies otherness to such an extent that selfhood and otherness cannot be separated. The self implies a relation between the same and the other. This dialectic of the Self and Other contradicts Descartes’ cogito (“I think, therefore I am”), which posits a subject in the first person (an “I”, or an ego) without reference to an Other. The dialectic of Self and Other may lead us to recognize that the self may refer to itself as not only itself, but as other than itself. This dialectic may be revealed as not only that of self and not-self, but as that of oneself as another, oneself and not another, another and not oneself, another as oneself. The dialectic of self and other may be dynamically changing.

[35] On the ‘founding relationship’ see P. Donati, Sociologia della relazione [Sociology of relationship] (Bologna: il Mulino, 2013): 124.

[36] On the concept of ‘relational differentiation’ see P. Donati, Relational Sociology. A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences (London: Routledge, 2011).

[37] A. Seligman, The Idea of Civil Society (New York: The Free Press, 1992).

[38] D. Porpora, A. Nikolaev, J. Hagemann, A. Jenkins, Post-Ethical Society The Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and the Moral Failure of the Secular (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013).

[39] I call lib/lab policies those policy measures which are a compromise between liberalism (lib side) and socialism (lab side), or, in other words, a bargaining between the capitalist market and the state: see P. Donati, Beyond the Market/State Binary Code: The Common Good as a Relational Good, in M. Schlag, J.A. Mercado (eds.), Free Markets and the Culture of Common Good (New York: Springer, 2012): 61-81.

[40] Many research reports show the failure of lib/lab policies in dealing with the multicultural integration of immigrants. Let us mention, for instance, a cross-national report on how integration policies and welfare-state regimes have affected the integration of immigrants in eight European countries (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Belgium). It presents comparative data on integration policies and welfare-state regimes. The results suggest that multicultural policies – which grant immigrants easy access to equal rights and do not provide strong incentives for host-country language acquisition and interethnic contacts – when combined with a generous welfare state, have produced low levels of labour market participation, high levels of segregation and a strong overrepresentation of immigrants among those convicted for criminal behaviour. Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, which have combined multicultural policies with a strong welfare state, display relatively poor integration outcomes. Countries that either had more restrictive or assimilationist integration policies (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France) or a relatively lean welfare state (the United Kingdom) have achieved better integration results. These differences are highly consistent across the three domains of integration examined, with the exception of segregation rates in the United Kingdom. See Ruud Koopmans, ‘Trade-Offs between Equality and Difference: Immigrant Integration, Multiculturalism and the Welfare State in Cross-National Perspective’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36 (1) (2010): 1-26.

[41] M.S. Archer, Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

[42] Instrumental rationality is what, given certain ends, focuses on the means for achieving those ends; the means are technical instruments to pursue the ends, which cannot be discussed or communicated (Max Weber’s polytheism of values). While instrumental rationality seeks convenience, utility, and efficiency, axiological rationality focuses on values, that is, on ultimate concerns for the truth, the good, and the just.

[43] P. Donati and R. Solci, I beni relazionali. Che cosa sono e quali effetti producono [Relational Goods. What they are and what they produce], Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2011.

[44] It is well known that, notwithstanding his studies of rationality, Max Weber did not hesitate to assert the absolute impossibility of scientific analysis of values, thus helping to pave the way for the worst forms of irrationalism and other true monstrosities that afflicted the first half of the last century, and which today deeply wound social thought, modern epistemology, and afflict the life of many populations.

[45] From the perspective of relational sociology, it goes without saying that this framework applies also to social relations, meaning that the different forms of rationality can be attributed also to social relations as emerging from individual reciprocal actions.

[46] A. Collier, Being and Worth (London: Routledge, 1999).

[47] P. Donati, La ciudadanía societaria (Granada: Editorial Universidad de Granada, 1999): chapter 2; Id., ‘Different cultures, different citizenships? The challenge of a universal citizenship in a multicultural postmodern society’, The Annals of the International Institute of Sociology, 5 (1996): 245-263.

[48] P. Donati, ‘When Relational Subjects generate relational goods’, in P. Donati, M.S. Archer, The Relational Subject (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015): 183-197.

[49] See P. Donati, Relational Sociology. A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences, cit., p. 227.

[50] Me as a social agent in primary relations, We as a corporate identity, and You as an individual actor who has to enliven a social role (see Archer, Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation, cit., 2003).

[51] ‘Trinitary’ here means able to see ‘the logic of the third’: see W. Hofkirchner, ‘The commons from a critical social systems perspective’, Recerca. Journal of Thought and Analysis, 14 (2014): 73-91.

[52] D. Browning (ed.), Universalism vs Relativism: making moral judgements in a changing, pluralistic, and threatening world (New York-Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).

[53] As Weiler rightly points out, the fault lies in secularizing ourselves, while what is needed is the opposite: to find a dialogical relationship among communities of faith (J.H.H. Weiler, European Constitutionalism Beyond the State. Edited with Marlene Wind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

[54] P. Donati, ‘Towards a New European Citizenship? The Societal Idea’, in Marisa Ferrari Occhionero, Mariella Nocenzi (eds.), Europe Between Memory and Change. Towards the Construction of a European Society (Rome: Aracne editrice, 2006): 277-316.


Towards a Participatory Society: New Roads to Social and Cultural Integration

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