The chapter considers how groups might be relevant as objects of policies of toleration and the different senses 'group' might have in relation to questions of toleration. The chapter argues that groups can be relevant to toleration in several different ways as objects of toleration. Toleration is routinely defined as involving an objection component, a power requirement and an acceptance component. The objection and acceptance components refer to reasons or dispositions of the subjects of toleration, e.g. public authorities deciding how to act in relation to groups. The power condition refers to the political and social relationship between the subject and the objects of toleration. Finally, toleration is often argued to be a normative requirement on the basis of the way it affects the object or receiver of toleration, e.g. on the basis of the good of or right to freedom from non-interference which toleration allows receivers of toleration to enjoy. The chapter shows how groups may be objects of toleration in different ways in relation to each of these components or conditions of toleration. The sense of 'group' relevant to toleration may differ when the group is an object of power, i.e. when others have the ability to interfere with the group’s activities, an object of dislike or disapproval, an agent enjoying non-interference or a moral patient. This means that 'toleration of groups' can mean quite different things depending on the exact meaning of 'group' in relation to each component. The chapter relates the different possible meanings of groups toleration to widespread criticisms of multiculturalism for being excessively 'groupist' (e.g. to essentialise or reify groups), to promote group rights over individual rights, or to deny or ignore the internal heterogeneity of groups or the multiple identity affiliations of individuals. The chapter suggests that some of these standard criticisms of multiculturalism for being overly tolerant of minority groups, or being so in a way elevating groups over individuals, are less pressing on some understandings of the meaning of 'group' as an object of policies of multicultural toleration than on others. So the chapter both contributes to the conceptual understanding of toleration and groups and to the normative debates about multiculturalism insofar as these turn on the toleration of groups.
How Groups Matter: Challenges of Toleration in Pluralistic Societies, 2014, p. 34-51