In debates about multiculturalism, it is widely claimed that ‘toleration is not enough’ and that we need to go ‘beyond toleration’ to some form of politics of recognition in order to satisfactorily address contemporary forms of cultural diversity (e.g. the presence in Europe of Muslim minorities as a result of immigration). Such claims are usually based on specific understandings of the concepts of toleration and recognition, namely as consisting in non-interference despite disapproval and active accommodation expressing public affirmation, respectively. In this paper I address this line of argument. I first note that this purely conceptual argument for going ‘beyond toleration’ is inconclusive, since it is far from clear whether, and, if so, how, the classic notion of toleration applies to institutions like the state. States are non-personal institutions regulating society, so it is not immediately clear in what, if any, sense they can be the subjects of the attitudes of disapproval required for toleration, and it is also not obvious that non-interference has the same meaning in relation to a political authority regulating society through general rules as in relation to individual conduct. I then proceed to offer a positive proposal for how institutional toleration can be understood. The question is whether there is still, at this institutional level, conceptual reasons for going ‘beyond toleration’ to recognition? I approach this theoretical question in a problem oriented manner through an examination of the particular Danish case of state recognition of religious minorities. The case is used to illustrate the complexities of institutional toleration and recognition and the differences between various conceptions of institutional toleration. But the case is also used to mount a criticism of the conceptual argument for going ‘beyond toleration’: at the institutional level, recognition, as well as toleration, may be inadequate and inappropriate from the point of view of multicultural accommodation of cultural difference. My diagnosis therefore is that the toleration-recognition issue is not about a conceptual question of whether the relation between states and minorities can be categoriseized in terms of recognition or toleration, but about a normative question of whether and how toleration and recognition secures equality. When toleration is inadequate, this is often because it institutionaliseizes and upholds specific inequalities. But politics of recognition may equally well institute inequalities, and in such cases unequal recognition may not be preferable to toleration.
Tolerance, Intolerance and Respect: Hard To Accept?, 2013, p. 52-76