Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 7, September 2004

Sine Just

Communicative prerequisites for diversity - protection of difference or promotion of commonality?


A basic dilemma faces the student of intercultural communication: Should communicative norms that protect substantial differences guide intercultural encounters? Or should formal rules of communication be promoted regardless of the interlocutors' cultural backgrounds and group affiliations? In this article arguments for and against these two positions are presented through a review of the discussion between Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas. It is argued that the theoretically irreconcilable positions may in practice be less than contradictory: in actual communicative encounters interlocutors with different cultural backgrounds do reach agreement on specific issues while preserving their cultural differences. On the basis of this insight, a communicative model that both protects differences and promotes commonality is proposed.

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