Skip to main content

The Dynamics of Liberal Indifference and Inclusion in a Global Era

Abstract

Growing ethnic and economic diversity exacerbates a longstanding tendency for members of a modern, liberal democracy to disassociate from each other. On the other hand, a wide range of organizations and communities actively bring together members across societal cleavages. The dynamic of inclusion is exemplified among communities that expect a high degree of obedience to a set of beliefs and practices, but allow such authority to be limited and contested by different persons. Inclusion is also more likely among new or outsider organizations less associated with societal divides. To the extent that authoritative communities nurture diverse social networks, they contribute to bridging social capital and inclusive political attitudes. The essay draws on studies of various organizations and polities that articulate shared, moral goods (e.g., army, churches, martial arts schools, rural towns).

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. Liberalism is defined broadly as “a tradition of thought that emphasizes toleration and respect for individual rights and that runs from John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill to John Rawls” (Sandel 1996: 4). I use the broad, historical meaning of “liberal/liberalism” to describe American mainstream institutions.

  2. Simmel (1971: 71) writes that the logical opposite of cooperation is not conflict, but indifference, or the absence of social ties between two or more actors. “[Both conflict and cooperation] are fundamentally distinguished from the mere indifference of two or more individuals or groups. Whether it implies the rejection or the termination of sociation, indifference is purely negative. In contrast to such pure negativity, conflict contains something positive.”

  3. For this essay, group is defined as a collection of persons perceived to have certain similarities; organization is two or more persons grouped for a particular purpose; institution is a well-established social organization or practice; polity is a state or one of its subordinate civil authorities, such as a province, prefecture, county, municipality, city, or district. The essay uses the term community (or actor) broadly to include both social organization and sub-national polity.

  4. This essay draws on both on existing literature and my ongoing study of various organizations. Since 1999, I have observed and interviewed members of Christian churches, martial arts schools, and direct selling organizations, mostly in Chicago (1999–2003), but also in Spokane, WA (2006–09), Los Angeles and Orange Counties (1999-current), and Seoul, Korea (2012-current). Members of these organizations adhere to core doctrines and practices and active invite newcomers.

  5. “The political philosophy by which we live is a certain version of liberal political theory. Its central idea is that government should be neutral toward the moral and religious views its citizens espouse. Since people disagree about the best way to live, government should not affirm in law any particular vision of the good life. Instead, it should provide a framework of rights that respects persons as free and independent selves, capable of choosing their own values and ends…. this liberalism asserts the priority of fair procedures over particular ends” (Sandel 1996: 4).

  6. Acts of Convention, Resolution #2000-D039, “Acknowledge Relationships Other Than Marriage and Existence of Disagreement on the Church”s Teaching.”

  7. The term builds upon Charles Taylor’s (1998: 154) call for a “complex and many stranded version of liberalism.”

  8. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Reeve translation; Volume II, “Of the Principal Source of Belief Among Democratic Nations.”

  9. The “martial arts” are defined as “various forms of self-defense, usually weaponless, based on techniques developed in ancient China, India, and Tibet…. The traditional Asian martial arts emphasize allowing ki (cosmic energy; also known as chi) to flow through one’s body.” Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2003.

  10. 2002 census statistics in Renee Tawa, “A kick, a jab and a ‘ki-up’,” L.A. Times, August 11, 2003, 1(F), http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/383041081.html (accessed May 27, 2008)

  11. Some martial arts schools have adopted the commercial, individualist ethos of American sports and fitness organizations: teachers are mainly motivated by money, students by tournament championships. Students bounce from teacher to teacher, without lasting attachment to any one martial art or instructor. In contrast, tradition-minded masters offer low-cost or free training to low-income students, in return for the latter’s personal dedication and loyalty. The commercialized, individualized schools are less likely to sustain intimate ties across socioeconomic lines than are schools that retain traditional Confucian mores (e.g., teacher-student loyalty).

  12. Emmilie Buchanan-Whitlock, “From ‘Book of Mormon’ musical to Mormon convert,” Deseret News, May 3 2013.

  13. “A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.,” Pew Forum, July 24, 2009, http://www.pewforum.org/2009/07/24/a-portrait-of-mormons-in-the-us/#5

  14. The term “frame” denotes “schemas of interpretation” or cognitive structures that shape how individuals define reality (Goffman 1974: 21).

  15. Elites refer to key actors that influence the distribution of material resources and social recognition and serve as gatekeepers to large populations.

  16. ‘Inside the Black Belt Way Inside the Beltway,’ AEHQ Blog, Fox News, 2012, http://politics.foxnews.mobi/quickPage.html?page=24841&content=43318516&pageNum=−1

  17. John Eligon, ‘In Karaoke, Lawmakers Find a Catalyst for Collegiality,’ New York Times, June 22, 2012.

Further Reading

  • Alba, R., & Nee, V. 2005. Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Banerjee, N. 2006. Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance. New York Times.

  • Bellah, R., Madsen R., Sullivan V., Swidler A., Tipton S. M. 1996 (Updated Edition). Habits of the Heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Berg, J. A. 2009. Core Networks and Whites’ Attitudes toward Immigrants and Immigration Policy. Public Opinion Quarterly, 73(1), 7–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Biggart, N. W. 1989. Charismatic Capitalism: Direct Selling Organizations in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bishop, B. 2008. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blau, P. M. 1977. Inequality and Heterogeneity: A Primitive Theory of Social Structure. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bushman, C. L. 2006. Contemporary Mormonism: Latter-Day Saints in Modern America. New York: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  • Conger, K. H., & McGraw, B. T. 2008. Religious Conservatives and the Requirements of Citizenship: Political Autonomy. Perspectives on Politics, 6(2), 253–266.

  • Dart, J. 2001. Hues in the pews: Racially Mixed Churches an Elusive Goal. Christian Century.

  • Dixon, J. C. 2006. The Ties that Bind and Those that Don’t: Toward Reconciling Group Threat and Contact Theories of Prejudice. Social Forces, 84, 2179–2204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dougherty, K. D., & Huyser, K. R. 2008. Racially Diverse Congregations: Organizational Identity and the Accommodation of Differences. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47(1), 23–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duneier, M. 1992. Slim’s table: race, respectability, and masculinity in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Eck, D. 2002. A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation. New York: HarperCollins.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eck, D. 2006. What is Pluralism? The Pluralism Project, http//www.pluralism.org/pluralism/what_is_pluralism.php. Accessed Dec 6 2008.

  • Elshtain, J. 1995. Democracy on Trial. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Emerson, M., & Woo, R. 2006. People of the Dream. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Emerson, M. O., & Smith, C. 2001. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Emerson, M. O., & Chai Kim, K. 2003. Multiracial Congregations: An Analysis of Their Development and a Typology. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Federico, C. M., & Sidanius, J. 2002. Racism, ideology, and affirmative action revisited: The antecedents and consequences of “principled objections” to affirmative action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(4), 488–502.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Finn, K. 2012. U.S. Southern Baptists elect first black president. Reuters/Chicago Tribune.

  • Fox, J. 1996. How Does Civil Society Thicken? The Political Construction of Social Capital in Rural Mexico. World Development, 24, 1089–1103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Frank, T. 2004. What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. New York: Henry Holt.

  • Fukuyama, F. 1995. Trust: Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fukuyama, F. 1999. Social Capital and Civil Society. IMF Conference on Second Generation Reforms.

  • Goffman, E. 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guthrie, S.R. 1995. Liberating the Amazon: Feminism and the Martial Arts. Women & Therapy 16 (2/3).

  • Hill, A. 2010. Yoga and meditation for nontraditional populations (M.A.), The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://gradworks.umi.com/14/76/1476678.html

  • Hollinger, D. 1995. Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism. New York: Basic Books.

  • Hunsberger, B., & Jackson, L. M. 2005. Religion, Meaning, and Prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 61(4), 807–826.

  • Hunter, J. D. 1991. Culture Wars: The struggle to define America. New York: BasicBooks.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins, K. E. 2005. Awesome Families: The Promise of Healing Relationships in the International Churches of Christ. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

  • Kim, R. Y. 2006. God’s New Whiz Kids?: Korean American Evangelicals on Campus. New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krucoff, C. 1999. Marshaling the Forces: Martial arts enjoys a healthy boom—thanks to the masses who want to learn self-defense, get in shape and spend time with the family, Los Angeles Times, 1(S).

  • Landau, P. S., & John Gross, J. B. 2008. Low Reincarceration Rate Associated with Ananda Marga Yoga and Meditation. International Journal of Yoga, 18, 1.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lay, J. C. 2012. A Midwestern Mosaic: Immigration and Political Socialization in Rural America. Temple University Press.

  • Laythe, B., Finkel, D. G., Bringle, R. G., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. 2002. Religious Fundamentalism as a Predictor of Prejudice: A Two-Component Model. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(4), 623–635.

  • Marti, G. 2009. Affinity, identity, and transcendence: The experience of religious racial integration in diverse congregations. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48(1), 53–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mauss, A. L. 2003. All Abraham’s children: changing Mormon conceptions of race and lineage. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Brashears, M. E. 2006. Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades. American Sociological Review, 71, 353–375.

  • McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & James, M. 2001. Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415–444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moskos, C. C., & Butler, J. S. 1996. All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pettigrew, T. F. 1998. Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 65–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Putnam, R. D. 2007. E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century, The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture. Scandinavian Political Studies 30(2).

  • Putnam, R. D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. 2010. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reardon, S. F., Bischoff, K. 2011. More Unequal and More Separate: Growth in the Residential Segregation of Families by Income, 1970–2009.” Report prepared for the Russell Sage US2010 project. www.s4.brown.edu/us2010/Data/Report/report11111 1.pdf.

  • Reardon, S. F. 2011. The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations. In R. Murnane & G. Duncan (Eds.), Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality and the Uncertain Life Chances of Low-Income Children. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rousseau, J-J. 1978. On the Social Contract (Edited by Roger D. Masters). New York: St. Martins.

  • Sandel, M. 1996. Democracy’s Discontent: America In Search of a Public Philosophy. Cambridge: Harvard/Belknap Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schware, R. 2012. Yoga: How We Serve Women in Prison. Huffington Post, 27 October 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/prison-yoga.

  • Simmel, G. 1971. On Individuality and Social Forms: Selected Writings. In D. N. Levine (Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Skocpol, T. 1999. Advocates without Members: The Recent Transformation of American Civic Life. In T. Skocpol & F. P. Morris (Eds.), Civic Engagement in American Democracy. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stark, R., & Iannaccone, L. 1997. Why Jehovah’s Witnesses Grow So Rapidly: A Theoretical Application. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 12(2), 133–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Starkman, R. 2013. Confessions of an Application Reader: Lifting the Veil on the Holistic Process at the University of California, Berkeley. New York Times.

  • Swain, C. M. 2002. The New White Nationalism in America: its challenge to integration. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, C. 1998. The Dynamics of Democratic Exclusion. The Journal of Democracy 9(4).

  • Thernstrom, S., & Thernstrom, A. 1997. America in black and white: One nation indivisible. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thumma, S. 1991. Negotiating a Religious Identity: The Case of the Gay Evangelical. Sociology of Religion, 52(4), 333–347.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tocqueville, A. de. 1969. Democracy in America, trans. George Lawrence, ed. J.P. Mayer. New York: Anchor Books.

  • Tocqueville, A. de. 1899. Democracy in America. Transl. Henry Reeve, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/colophon.html. Accessed July 1 2012.

  • Turner, F. J. 1893/1935. The Frontier in American History. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

  • Wei-ming, T. 2002. Confucianism and liberalism. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, 2(1), 1–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weisinger, J. Y., Salipante P. F. 2005. A Grounded Theory for Building Ethnically Bridging Social Capital in Voluntary Organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 34.

  • Wilson, W. J. 1996. When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor. New York: Knopf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, W. J. 2009. Toward a Framework for Understanding Forces that Contribute to or Reinforce Racial Inequality. Race and Social Problems, 1(1), 3–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wimmer, A., & Lewis, K. 2010. Beyond and Below Racial Homophily: ERG Models of a Friendship Network Documented on Facebook. American Journal of Sociology, 116, 2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Malcolm, X., & Haley, A. 1965. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yi, J. 2009. God and Karate on the Southside: Bridging differences, Building American communities. Lanham: Lexington Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yi, J., Graziul C. 2012. Religious Conservatives, Outsiders, and Pluralist Virtues. Paper presented at the annual American Sociological Association, Denver, CO.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joseph Yi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Yi, J. The Dynamics of Liberal Indifference and Inclusion in a Global Era. Soc 52, 264–274 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-015-9897-z

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-015-9897-z

Keywords

  • Liberalism
  • Tocqueville
  • Civil society
  • Social capital
  • Race
  • Religion