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PhD Defense I.A. Mahecha Bustos

Date: Time: 16:30 Location: Aula

(In)tolerance and Political Violence in Colombia Materials for an account of political tolerance

  • Location: Cobbenhagen building, Aula
  • Supervisor: Prof. H.K. Lindahl
  • Co-supervisors: Dr. C. Degamboa, Dr. D.H. Augenstein

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This dissertation argues that, when responding to instances of political intolerance, the main problem an account of political tolerance needs to deal with is that certain conditions be met, yet which are not present in the contexts where political intolerance appears; thus, it seems that in those situations, political tolerance is impossible. This is exemplified through the extermination of la Unión Patriótica (UP), a Colombian political party, framed in a situation of constant and systematic political exclusion and violence in a deeply polarised society.

I hold that this impossibility is not a conceptual problem for tolerance in itself, but rather for how tolerance has been approached heretofore: when dealing with political tolerance, contemporary accounts thereof portray it as the outcome of various processes within a liberal and democratic polity. Accordingly, I argue that these theories of tolerance presuppose that the most fundamental question of social cooperation has already been settled in terms of the constitution of a pluralist liberal-democratic order endorsed by the collectivity of citizens. I also unveil the social, moral, and legal-political background assumptions that recognition, recognition-based tolerance, and liberal theories of toleration rely on. Additionally, I explain how these assumptions are challenged in situations such as the extermination of the UP. Finally, I establish that contemporary theories of tolerance are of limited use in explaining its role in situations of political intolerance, where the very foundations of social and political collaboration are called into question.

This view is juxtaposed to a different (less ambitious) understanding of tolerance, not as the outcome but as the condition of a pluralistic liberal-democratic society. Starting from the claim of the toleree, political toleration must be responsive to that unconditional imperative. As such, it has a role to play in constituting democratic orders in contexts where the conditions for those societies are still disputed and far from being settled.