Diversity Discourses: Moral, Ethical and Pragmatic Reasoning in the Swedish Immigration and Integration Debate, 1968-1975 and 1991-1995

Carly Elizabeth Schall (2020)

American Journal of Cultural Sociology. Online first.

Abstract. This article seeks to understand how values enter into political discourse via justification and how those values are negotiated over time. The article maps out the terrain of diversity discourses, both as a specific type of discourse and as an example of ethical, moral and pragmatic modes of argumentation. The author examines Swedish “diversity discourses” in the periods of 1968–1975 and 1991–1995 in an effort to tease out the pragmatic, moral and ethical aspects of these discourses. Diversity discourses are defined as discourses regarding how much and what kind of diversity is acceptable or desirable in a society, as well as how such diversity should be handled. I find that values, both contextually-dependent ethical values and universal moral values, rather than being “prior” to politics, arise out of the intersection of pragmatic, ethical and moral discourses. What is moral and ethical, then is colored by the particular nexus of moral, ethical and pragmatic concerns such that what is acceptable at one particular time and location, may be unacceptable in another, even coming from the same actors with the same ideological commitments. Shifts in the ethical/moral modes of justification, then, lead to shifts in who is included in a democratic community.

Extract. “Efforts to negotiate ethical plurality within moral boundaries often takes the form of seeking the correct level of abstraction at which all parties can agree. As cultural actors work to reach agreement in order to coordinate action, they seek “higher common principles” on which all parties can agree (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006) – in other words they move from the pole of specificity represented by ethics towards an increasingly “universal” moral pole. As actors move towards agreement, the principles that agreement rest on must be justifed, which Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) argue entails a form of justice as these higher level, more general (moral) principles become bases for agreed-upon judgements about behaviors or people.” (p. 4)

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