Pluralistic politics is in vogue; but what about political relativism?

There are many approaches to relativism. But if we were to take a general relative approach to politics we could say that there would be a level of respect for the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and that this opinion is grounded in contextual factors. Whilst there are obvious problems to this, I think there are aspects of relativism that could help when it comes to political engagement.

Consider our approach to the BNP, with relativism, we could respect the context of their argument (so poor housing, poverty and inadequate welfare – for example) but then we could step outside the relativist bubble and tackle the idea (immigration, for example) in reference to the context, instead of just the idea per se.

It is understandable why the left and right often distance themselves from relativism, as some forms of relativism argue that everyone’s views are of equal validity. Obviously this is controversial when we consider issues such as basic human rights. However, the ability to put oneself in the shoes of someone else, examine the context and the fundamental reasons for why someone may hold the views they do is important. It can enhance and improve a political viewpoint, you can emphasise but respectfully disagree – putting forward a thoughtful counter-opinion.

Thus, whilst I would disagree with a political system where no one can claim that they are ‘right’, we have to acknowledge that time, space and context alter people’s perception of ‘truth’. We could detest what they are arguing, as most people do re the BNP, but the only way we are going to argue against this is to consider the relative context of which they are constructed.

This can prove to be a rather controversial issue, understandably so, however; as I have argued, there is real scope for relativism in some form to be considered as a political assist – especially when tackling the underlying issues of many political views. Of course, this has to be done with caution – as some conceptions of relativism could result in us having to accept these cuts, for example. However, there are aspects of relativism that may be useful for those standing in Oldham, with Nick Griffin’s recent announcement that he may stand, or for many other complex political issues.


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