But there's a catch. In practice, it's difficult to have significant and conflicting forms of social life and identity sharing the same space. And so liberals have to find ways to overcome this problem.
One way is to "privatise" serious forms of belief and identity. For instance, religion can be held to be a personal matter only, and not something that is to inform public life. But this then begins the process of making such belief matter less, of confining it to a more limited sphere and role.
The process is ongoing. For instance, a French High Commissioner declared recently that,
True integration will be when Catholics name their child Mohammed.
So it's not thought good enough for Catholics to accept that the public square will be secular. Now the test of a successful pluralism is that they identify with another religion closely enough to name their children after its prophet.
A serious religious identity has to weaken further, so that it is "fluid" and can mix with other religions.
See the problem here? Pluralism comes at the cost of a trivialisation of identity. Instead of the chance to participate fully in a significant tradition of your own, you get the "identity lite" option of participating at a level that doesn't draw too much of a line between different traditions.
There's a similar problem when it comes to an ethnic identity. There are plenty of liberal politicians who allow themselves to have an ethnic identity. But this is assumed to be a personal matter, not relevant to public policy.
If I remember correctly, Sir Robert Menzies, the long-serving Liberal Party PM, declared himself to be "British to the bootstraps". But he regarded this as merely a personal sentiment.
Former Liberal Party PM, John Howard, put it this way:
It's perfectly possible for an Anglo-Celtic Australian who sort of has a lot of reverence to the traditional institutions of the country, and the traditional characteristics of Australia, and to want to hang on to those, to be completely tolerant and colour-blind and so on.
This is the more "conservative" interpretation of pluralism and non-discrimination. It's hopelessly ideological. It requires limiting your identity to the personal realm, so that you can't make the defence of the mainstream tradition a part of public policy. And it requires a commitment to creating ethnic "pluralism" (mass immigration) and dampening or eroding the existing mainstream identity to fit in with such pluralism.
So this "conservative" approach is contradictory: you can't "hang onto" an existing identity and at the same time be ideologically committed to liberal pluralism.
And what are the more radical options? Consider what the leading politicians of liberal Sweden have to say on the matter:
Our prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said the following soon after he was elected in 2006:
“The core Swedish is only barbarism. The rest of the development has come from outside.”
Mona Sahlin, now the party leader of the Social Democrats, which is the largest party in Sweden with about 35% of the votes, said in 2002:
“I think that what makes so many Swedes envious of immigrant groups is, you have a culture, an identity, a history, something that binds you. And what do we have? Mid-summers’ eve and such ridiculous things.”
The party leader of the Center Party, who is in the current government coalition, said the following:
“It is really not the Swedes that built Sweden. It was people that came from abroad.”
This is an ideological attack on the mainstream Swedish identity. It's obviously untrue that others and not the Swedes developed Sweden. It is obviously a lie that the Swedish have no culture of their own. So why say such things?
One reason is that it weakens Swedish identity to the point of allowing pluralism. If the Swedes have no culture and did not develop their own society, then there is no common achievement that they might take pride in and sustain a positive sense of identity with.
So note what pluralism has led to in Sweden. Leading politicians there openly adopt a "we are nothing" attitude. It is not even an "identity lite" but a non-identity. The mainstream identity has been trivialised out of existence.
This is what an ideological commitment to pluralism leads toward. Without it, the mainstream might not be so accepting of being reduced to the status of one amongst many or the loss of their long-term viability, and there might be issues of successfully integrating the newly arrived "other".
I'm not suggesting that pluralism is wrong in all instances. But I think it's clear that the liberal approach to pluralism is misconceived. The end result is not to give individuals a multiplicity of significant beliefs and identities to fashion a life from, but to increasingly trivialise and undermine such aspects of life.
And what tends to replace them is a single, uniform commitment to liberalism itself. The pluralistic society becomes the politically correct one.