Permanent Fellow at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI) and Professor of Political Science, University Duisburg-Essen
Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:October–December 2020
Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:»›We need thicker skins‹: Tolerance in fractured societies«
We live in times in which many people who are deeply concerned about the rising intolerance toward stigmatized groups nevertheless reject the language of tolerance as patronizing, depoliticizing and morally flawed. Among political philosophers from Herbert Marcuse to Wendy Brown, there is a broad consensus that tolerance is a highly ambiguous attitude and a questionable political principle. Tolerance is criticized for being both unjust and unstable. Instead of tolerance, mutual recognition is championed as a more appropriate democratic ideal. I argue that demands of recognition, when overstretched, become incompatible with the growing pluralization of liberal societies. Beyond the social contributions and moral qualities which deserve recognition, there is also a wide range of religious or secular speech acts and attitudes which, depending on the perspective, ought to be tolerated even if they cannot be wholeheartedly accepted or embraced. Whereas theories of recognition are often marked by their orientation to harmony, theories of toleration are more plausible for those who believe that in fractured and divided societies modus vivendi settlements are sometimes to be preferred to the futile search for a universal consensus. The fellowship project therefore argues for a concept of tolerance that cannot be entirely reduced to recognition. Following Jeremy Waldron and others, the project also shifts attention from the subjects of tolerance to those citizens, for example office-holders, who can be expected to develop an even »thicker skin« than ordinary citizens. Based on a definition of tolerance as the willing acceptance of the limits of one’s own social power, I will also dwell on some recent controversies surrounding the »no platform« campaigns against public figures such as Germaine Greer, Judith Butler or Achille Mbembe. (Volker Heins)
Research partner:Volker Heins follows the invitation of Ferdinand Sutterlüty (Professor of sociology at Goethe University) and the University's research center »Religiöse Positionierung. Modalitäten und Konstellationen in jüdischen, christlichen und islamischen Kontexten«.
Scholarly profile of Volker Heins Volker Heins is a Permanent Fellow at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI) and teaches Political Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. In addition, he is a member of the board of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg in Duisburg. After studying political science and philosophy in Bonn, Florence and Frankfurt am Main, he worked at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. Various visiting professorships and fellowships took him to India, Israel, the USA and Canada, where he taught at McGill University in Montreal for several years. He is co-founder of the Academy in Exile, which invites persecuted scholars from authoritarian states to Germany.
Please find more information about Volker Heins here.
Main areas of research:Modern political theory; migration and democracy; exile
- Offene Grenzen für alle: Eine notwendige Utopie, Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe 2021 (forthcoming).
- »Can the refugee speak? Albert Hirschman and the changing meanings of exile«, in: Thesis Eleven, No. 158, 2020, p. 42-57.
- (with Cristine Unrau) »Anti-immigrant movements and the self-poisoning of the civil sphere: The case of Germany«, in: Jeffrey C. Alexander, Trevor Stack, Farhad Khosrokhavar (Eds.), Breaching the Civil Order: Radicalism and the Civil Sphere, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2020, p. 145-169.
- »More Modest and More Political: From the Frankfurt School to the Liberalism of Fear«, in: Samantha Ashenden, Andreas Hess (Eds.), Between Utopia and Realism: The Political Thought of Judith N. Shklar, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press 2019, p. 179-197.
- »Kultureller Pluralismus und Kritische Theorie«, in: Ulf Bohmann, Paul Sörensen (Eds.), Kritische Theorie der Politik, Berlin: Suhrkamp 2019, p. 672-693.
- »Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man«, in: Jacob T. Levy (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Classics in Contemporary Political Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2017, doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198717133.013.48.