Blaney & Inayatullah  2000
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Blaney & Inayatullah 2000

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this issue below.

On the other side, a regime of toleration involves controlling the move-
ments of people. For Walzer, questions of justice can only be resolved in rela-
tion to the “thick,” “culturally resonant” meanings and practices that make up
the “bounded world” of the community.19 This gives a special importance to
the community’s rules governing “membership,” since being a member implies
a special communal bond and moral obligation that are not present for those

19 Although we have drawn from a quotation used above, Walzer presents these
ideas most clearly in his controversial chapter on “membership” in Spheres of Justice
(1983). The term “bounded world” is used on p. 31.

50 Blaney and Inayatullah

beyond the community. To outsiders we owe some weaker obligation of “mu-
tual aid,” consistent with the general thinness of international society (Walzer
1983:32–33). The links between national identity and territory and sovereignty
and territorial jurisdiction locate the power to control membership and to police
boundaries in the hands of the political community. Indeed, Walzer (1983:39) is
categorical that a defense of the “distinctiveness of cultures and groups depends
on closure.” Thus, he grants primacy to the issue of membership:

The right to choose an admissions policy is more basic than any [other issue],
for it is not merely a matter of acting in the world, exercising sovereignty, and
pursuing national interests. At stake here is the shape of the community that
acts in the world, exercises sovereignty and so on. Admission and exclusion
are at the core of communal independence. They suggest the deepest meaning
of self-determination. Without them, there could not be communities of char-
acter, historically stable, ongoing associations of men and women with some
special commitment to one another and some special sense of their common
life. (Walzer 1983:61– 62).

The policing of boundaries takes on a special urgency here, for not only does
coexistence presume the management of difference within boundaries, the very
value and justification of international tolerance depends on the maintenance of
the purity of the national community. In this set of moves, Walzer, like Bull in
much of his work, defers the problem of difference by circumscribing the thick-
ening of international society and defending the national boundaries that con-
tain the “other.”

Despite Walzer’s unwillingness to directly confront the problem of differ-
ence within global space, he is fairly attentive to the various ways that difference
is managed within boundaries. There are two facets to this issue in his work. First,
Walzer questions that justice and equality are, or ought to be, conceived in terms
of the application of a uniform principle. Rather, the kinds of “thick” communi-
ties within which we live have their own ways of placing goods into different cat-
egories and subjecting each category to a differing principle of distribution (e.g.,
commodities are distributed differently than offices because of the different mean-
ing and place they have in our society). And so we must recognize that every so-
ciety should, and does, have heterogeneous institutional arrangements—plural
forms of justice and complex modes of equality—reflecting the values and vi-
sions of the particular community (Walzer 1983:3–9). Walzer recognizes that this
view flies in the face of most current thinking that favors universal rights and uni-
form procedures; the appeal of uniformity has already been noted in Tully’s ac-
count of the weight of conventional constitutionalism. It is easy given our concerns
to be drawn to Walzer’s argument, since it seems to strike a blow at the quest for
certainty and universality underlying the Westphalian deferral.

The Westphalian Deferral 51

Ronald Dworkin’s critique of Walzer’s picture pushes us further down that
road. Walzer is charged with assuming incorrectly that there is basic agreement
within each community on both the categorization of goods and the principle of
distribution appropriate to each category. Rather, politics is fueled precisely by
such disagreements in meaning and values and the need to strike contingent
bargains and compromises (Dworkin 1983:4). If so, Walzer cannot defend a
clear distinction between a “thick” community of common concern and a “thin”
international society of mutual coexistence. Where this breaks down, the inter-
nal complexity of the political community might be thought to mirror the com-
plexity present in global social space, and the heterogeneous institutional
arrangements created in domestic society might appear as a model for the reor-
ganization of the global political architecture. Though Walzer disputes that he
presumes such unanimity of view within political communities, he still defends
the idea that “in a particular case, in a particular culture, there is, in principle,
a right decision” (Walzer and Dworkin 1983:43– 44). We should note also that
Walzer immediately follows his discussion of the complexity of justice and
equality with his defense of policing borders in the name of the commonality of
national culture.

Second, and despite this conclusion, Walzer admits that cultural homogene-
ity is a rare condition, so that, when we speak of a nation-state, we can mean no
more than “that a single group organizes the common life in a way that reflects
its own history and culture.” In such a situation, tolerance of minority cultures
is difficult. In part, this is because the dominant national group controls the
state and, thereby, the means of cultural reproduction. The alternative practices
of minority nations appear as an encumbrance, as “suspicious,” and subject to,
especially linguistic, assimilation. Tolerance can be extended, but normally only
to individuals as citizens and not to groups. The status of minority groups
therefore is necessarily insecure as they are relegated to the situation of “vol-
untary associations,” lacking the right of cultural reproduction reserved for the
dominant national culture (Walzer 1997:25–27).20

But alternative organizations of political community are possible and even
necessitated by the particular situation. Certain “bi- or trinational” states are
arranged as consociations, where national groups, sharing a certain territory,
agree to a constitutional arrangement, design institutions and divide offices,
and strike a political bargain that protects their divergent interests. Though
“heroic” and desirable in Walzer’s view (1997:25–27), consociations, because

20 This conclusion is supported by much of the debate about minority rights within
liberal societies. See Taylor (1992), Kymlicka (1995), Parkekh (1996), and Spinner

52 Blaney and Inayatullah

they parcel out the power of national reproduction among the national groups,
are also unstable, subject to sudden disturbances of the trust among the groups.21
Or, Walzer (1997:29–35) suggests that, in predominantly settler societies, newer
immigrants may gradually displace the cultural dominance of the original immi-
grant group, forcing a more “neutral” constitutional arrangement. In theory at
least, all national groups lose the right of cultural reproduction and are trans-
formed into voluntary associations. In this arrangement, cultural practices are
(ideally) universally privatized, requiring toleration as an individual perfor-
mance. Walzer (1997:37) admits that each mode has its limits and, consistent
with his notion of complex equality and the heterogeneity of institutions, argues
that mixed modes might possibly be more effective. Still, nothing in this account
suggests to him the need to rethink the boundary of “inside/outside.”

But once again we can see cracks in the edifice he has built; each of the
internal arrangements Walzer describes involves a step away from this “split-
ting” logic and a move towards an overlapping of “self”/“other” and “inside/
outside.” Consociational forms, for example, are a curious blending of the mutual