Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference (Paperback)

Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference By John D. Inazu Cover Image
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In the three years since Donald Trump first announced his plans to run for president, the United States seems to become more dramatically polarized and divided with each passing month. There are seemingly irresolvable differences in the beliefs, values, and identities of citizens across the country that too often play out in our legal system in clashes on a range of topics such as the tensions between law enforcement and minority communities. How can we possibly argue for civic aspirations like tolerance, humility, and patience in our current moment?

In Confident Pluralism, John D. Inazu analyzes the current state of the country, orients the contemporary United States within its broader history, and explores the ways that Americans can—and must—strive to live together peaceably despite our deeply engrained differences. Pluralism is one of the founding creeds of the United States—yet America’s society and legal system continues to face deep, unsolved structural problems in dealing with differing cultural anxieties and differing viewpoints. Inazu not only argues that it is possible to cohabitate peacefully in this country, but also lays out realistic guidelines for our society and legal system to achieve the new American dream through civic practices that value toleration over protest, humility over defensiveness, and persuasion over coercion.

With a new preface that addresses the election of Donald Trump, the decline in civic discourse after the election, the Nazi march in Charlottesville, and more, this new edition of Confident Pluralism is an essential clarion call during one of the most troubled times in US history. Inazu argues for institutions that can work to bring people together as well as political institutions that will defend the unprotected.  Confident Pluralism offers a refreshing argument for how the legal system can protect peoples’ personal beliefs and differences and provides a path forward to a healthier future of tolerance, humility, and patience.

About the Author

John D. Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis.

Praise For…

"Into this polluted political atmosphere comes a different sort of academic. Inazu is proposing a national cleanup effort to make our public life more pleasant and productive....We should not downplay the stakes. Tolerance, humility and patience are not the ornaments of a democracy, they are its essence.”
— Washington Post

“Inazu’s Confident Pluralism is a remarkable book that grabs by the throat the most profound problem we face: the question of whether we can live truly with each other, not merely alongside each other, in situations where we genuinely feel most alienated from, and even threatened by, one another’s beliefs or behaviors. With a good lawyer’s acuity and a committed citizen’s painful honestly, Inazu probes for the places where our differences are most tender—race, religion, sexuality—and demands that we address those concerns for what they are. Inazu ultimately hopes—as all our best public thinkers have hoped—for more from us than just resigned indifference. The book’s real bravery means it will make almost all of its readers uncomfortable at different points, and its admirable ambition means that it takes that discomfort as an inevitable, if unintended, consequence of its aims.”
— Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia

"Confident Pluralism is important both as a theoretical book and as a practical one. Inazu’s unusually thoughtful treatment builds on theories of pluralism to show how contemporary legal doctrine and civic engagement can and should put that pluralism into practice.”
— William Baude, University of Chicago Law School

"The 2016 presidential election, assuming both Clinton and Trump are the nominees, may well be the ugliest and most vicious election many of us will have ever seen. There’s no easy or quick way out of this. It will require some large number of Americans to re-think how we are to engage in politics in this era of rage and polarization. Toward that end, Inazu has written Confident Pluralism. It’s so unfashionable, so unrealistic, so out of touch. It’s chic to be cynical. Except for this: Disagreeing with others, even passionately disagreeing with others, without rhetorically vaporizing them is actually part of what it means to live as citizens in a republic. The choice is co-existence with some degree of mutual respect—or the politics of resentment and disaffection, the politics of hate and de-humanization."
— Commentary Magazine

"Inazu’s book should be read by all who desire a more civil, thoughtful society than the one in which we find ourselves."
— First Things

"Confident Pluralism is an illuminating account of how the American experiment, in both law and culture (and the intersections of the two), might help us foster a modest unity of public goals.  Inazu surveys relevant constitutional doctrines—the right to associate, the features of the public forum, the vexed legal dimensions of public funding—with a brevity that also manages to be thorough and clear. his discussion of civic culture is aspirational and guardedly optimistic, but not Pollyannaish.”
— Comment Magazine

“Inazu has presented an accessible and thoughtful case for pluralism in contemporary America. It will not convince all the skeptics. But perhaps it can start a conversation that will continue in the spirit with which Inazu wrote: confidently putting forward ideas, and considering alternatives with humility, patience, and generosity.”
— The New Rambler

"Inazu's vision is an attractive one, and we would all be better off if our political institutions were less eager to intervene in our associational lives—and if those associational (and private) lives were characterized more by tolerance, humility, and patience.”
— Books & Culture

"Inazu offers an important new consideration of the value of pluralism for American democratic society. Confident pluralism, Inazu explains, is a political solution to the problem of deep and pervasive differences in the electorate. It recognizes difference and even invites it while acknowledging the need for consensus and unity in political life. The end goal of confident pluralism is not to resolve all issues but to allow individuals to function despite their differences. Highly Recommended."
— Choice

"American society is becoming increasingly diverse. As that happens, the public square becomes a crowded, and sometimes hostile, place. At times it seems there is no longer room for meaningful public debate. Inazu sets forth a framework for public square engagement that allows citizens to live according to their convictions while actively participating in a diverse society."
— Canon & Culture

"Confident Pluralism makes an important new contribution to our discussion of pluralism and the public good. While Inazu attends to important systemic concerns about constitutional law and precedent, he also rightly recognizes that forging a common life in the midst of deep directional diversity requires specific dispositions of tolerance, humility, and patience.”
— James K. A. Smith, Calvin College

"Inazu has emerged as one of the leading scholars on freedom of association and religious freedom."
— Library of Law & Liberty

"One of the great virtues of Inazu’s work is that it attends to both culture and institutions. Confident Pluralism both prescribes the kinds of institutional and legal changes that would protect the groups and associations that make genuine pluralism possible, and it describes the habits and inclinations that would make those institutions effective."
— Capital Commentary

"It is abundantly clear that we have become a deeply divided country....This country no longer has one clear majority. Inazu explores the ways Americans can live together peaceably despite these deeply ingrained differences."
— Minneapolis Star Tribune

"This country no longer has one clear majority. Inazu explores the ways Americans can live together peaceably despite these deeply ingrained differences."
— Houston Chronicle

"Confident Pluralism is a reminder that—whatever our preferred groups and approved politics might be—bracketing disagreements and building friendships across divides is the essence of 'diversity work' in our fractious republic.”
— Sojourners

“Every once in a while, a book comes along that perfectly suits a cultural moment – not by reflecting the prevailing ethos, but by challenging it at the deepest level.”
— Mike Gerson, Washington Post columnist

"Much of the discourse around diversity these days highlights the differences that people like. For progressives, this often involves talk of women, people of color and LGBTQ identities. For conservatives, religious orthodoxies of varying hues are the favored subjects. Confident Pluralism unabashedly raises a much harder, and more interesting, question: how do we think about diversity when it involves the differences we don’t like?”
— Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core

"Holding together a diverse nation of strongly held interests has been the great American project since our beginning. Inazu calls us to make it our project today.”
— The Christian Century

“Too many people view the freedom to pursue one’s beliefs and associations as important to their own interests, but not for the sake of others. In this timely book, Inazu shows how all people, even those with deep-seated disagreements, can benefit from these freedoms and live together in civil society.”
— Michael W. McConnell, Stanford Law School

"What will it take to create genuinely pluralistic society? That will start not in the courtroom (though the courts are important) but primarily in neighborhoods, at the local level. Inazu’s Confident Pluralism shows the way.”
— Timothy Keller, founding pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church

"We live in divided times—terrifyingly divided times, it sometimes seems....We’ve just concluded one of the ugliest presidential elections in our country’s history, and in a month or so we’ll begin one of the most controversial presidencies, if not the most. How can we navigate a world like this one? [Inazu] wants to offer us a road map of sorts."
— The Christian Humanist

"Could hardly have been more timely. Confident Pluralism anticipated a presidential election cycle in which partisans on both sides would view not just the candidates, but even the voters who supported them, with nearly unprecedented hostility."
— Deseret News

"We are a nation that has become deaf to the other side, to the possibility that 'the other' has insights, belief, ideas, or values worth recognizing and considering. So good for Inazu, in his fine new book Confident Pluralism, for taking on the issue and beginning to create a legal framework to understand how we might move the country back to a place where it was acceptable to disagree and a public necessity to occasionally entertain the idea that the other side might have a perspective worth considering.”
— Ken Stern, former CEO of NPR and president and co-founder of Palisades Media

"These are not confident times. The stridency of today’s rhetoric, the desperate certitude, and the emotional tribalism of our politics and public square betray a deep lack of confidence, and threaten to turn the strength of America’s diversity into a weakness. It is for this reason that Confident Pluralism is right on time.” 
— Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope

"Confident Pluralism deserves to be widely read by academic and lay audiences alike. And as one who upon occasion leads undergraduate book discussion groups, I highly recommend it for that purpose."
— Learn Liberty

"If a new literature of pluralism emerges in this culture-war cycle, Confident Pluralism is likely to be one of its key texts. Inazu’s book is blissfully short, clearly written, aimed at educated general readers rather than academic specialists, and underwritten by personal experiences that cross standard culture-war lines. Confident Pluralism is necessary reading for anyone who is frustrated by the belligerence and inflexibility of the current discussion and looking for ways for different deeply held perspectives and tightly knit communities to survive and thrive.”
— The University of Chicago Law Review

“Inazu addresses a question as old as our republic and as current as protests in Ferguson: with such strongly felt differences, how can Americans live together as one people? In words both scholarly and inspiring, he confronts the notion that we serve the good of the whole when we silence voices of the few. As a law professor, he argues for stronger legal protections for dissenting groups; as a concerned citizen, he calls on us to listen to and respect those with whom we strongly disagree. In this age of rants on social media and campus speech norms, Inazu shows us the way towards a more inclusive and tolerant nation. Confident Pluralism is important reading for our time.”
— John C. Danforth, former United States senator and former ambassador to the United Nations

“We need a unity in this country that is not at the expense of our differences. And that is what Confident Pluralism is about. It’s finding what unites us in order to help us negotiate those deep divisions over matters that are very important in our lives.”
— Charles C. Haynes, founding director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute

Confident Pluralism names the challenge we face as a society that is made stronger by being more diverse and more dynamic, and weaker by being more divided and fragmented at the same time. The answer to that challenge, as Inazu suggests, lies in taking pluralism seriously and framing a political conversation that focuses on our successes rather than dwelling on our failures."
— Yuval Levin, author of The Fractured Republic

Product Details
ISBN: 9780226592435
ISBN-10: 022659243X
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2018
Pages: 176
Language: English