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Tolerance - as a hegemonic relation

Erik Empson and Arianna Bove

1. Hierarchical relation: As a hierarchical relation tolerance presupposes an effective power determining the acceptable. As an embodied relation it presupposes an unequal relation between self and other.

2. As prejudice: This works as an enclosing force and limits affirmation from going beyond what is prescribed as identity. This is not just a limiting of the other, tolerance limits the possible affirmation of all parties. The exchange of info, communication and solidarity is written off. Tolerance and prejudice have the same roots.

3. Negative ascription of identity: Where tolerance is interiorised as a value, i.e. in a political system or community, it is always a matter of political expediency. We often regard tolerance as a positive value. But what does it really mean? Your tolerance of drugs and alcohol is a built up saturation, it is a capacity to endure through normalisation, through steady imbibing of the poison. Tolerance is a putting up with things, tolerance is always ready to become intolerance; violent vomiting, pogrom etc. Of pressure and endurance, its collapse is given by a strike or blow, a repulsion or expulsion, the 'I'm beyond my tether' when mum finally screams at the kids. Seeing that tolerance and intolerance constantly pass over to one another, imply one another helps us situate its use as a value where containment takes the form of interiorisation, marginalisation and containment. Tolerance always comes with a limit in the christian democratic and forgiving conception - we tolerate you to a point, 'don't mind gays so long as they don't go near me'. Tolerance is an active form of regulation and of the drawing of boundaries.

4. Political Authority: tolerance as interiorised value assumes a moral right on behalf of the 'genuine' resident democratic majority to determine the limits and obligation of others. It is often premised by the fear of the other. As such it is also a form of withdrawal, engagement with other fractures the pristine sense of identity. Tolerance is thus about distance too, keeping the 'different' a stage apart, preserving the other (and oneselves) in constructed difference. As such tolerance is a form of maintaining divisions when the priori formal processes of subjugation have either failed or been exhausted. As such it is a typical post-colonial form of political authority.

5. As a hegemonic process tolerance need not be articulated by a hegemonic group. Even the most disenfranchised and oppressed communities can have tolerance as internal or external value. And yet the promotion of tolerance within communities could not occur without functionaries of the process. These functionaries can not be separated from the generalised hegemonic processes and have no autonomy from it. Whether the intentions are hegemonic or not, the promotion of tolerance always seems to accompany dividedness, fear, dislike and distrust and the positing of limit on behaviour and integration.

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