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Comparative Perspectives on Social Integration in Pluralistic Societies: Thick Norms versus Thin

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For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

AbstractI address major challenges to dealing with contentious public issues by replacing thick norms with thin ones: (1) Secularism, individual liberty, equal rights, and rule of law lend themselves to politics more thin than thick; does this condemn the approach to its own kind of thickness? (2) If the unit of analysis is the individual, and if the individual’s primary project is his or her liberty, must this approach threaten the communitarian self-understandings of some groups? (3) Does it fundamentalize political liberalism? (4) What about addressees likely to reject thin norms, such as persons guided by an otherworldly authority or an authoritarian ideology? (5) Is this approach defeated where territorialized membership rights clash with thin norms, for example in the European Union: a political and economic community internally somewhat thin yet externally thick?

Affiliations: 1: University of Texas at Austin,Department of Government 1 University Station A1800, Austin, TX 78712, USA, Email:, URL:


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