REVIEWSrnPsychologicalrnPhenomenarnby Paul GottfiriedrnPolitical Tolerance:rnBalancing Communityrnand Diversityrnby Robert WeissbergrnThousand Oaks, California:rnSage Publications;rn272 pp., $54.00rnRobert Weissberg’s study of tolerancernwill not bring him academic goodrnwill, and the drab appearance of this volumernwill not attract a sufficient numberrnof potentially favorable readers to makernits author justly famous. So much thernworse! The book is written with flair,rneven occasional humor, and offers rivetingrnarguments regarding the changingrndefinitions of tolerance and the socialrnconsequences thereofrnHaving criHcally surveyed the professionalrnliterature on “tolerance” writtenrnsince mid-century, Weissberg concludesrnthat the term has undergone a dramaticrnbut widely accepted shift in meaning.rnWliereas tolerance was once a privilegernextended by majority religions or dominantrnpolitical as well as ethnic groupsrntoward partly dissimilar minorities, it hasrnnow become a human right that whiternWesterners — male Christian ones, inrnparticular—must accord to others. Andrnit is not a courtesy to be extended grudginglyrnor performed as an act of noblessernoblige. Rather, tolerance has come tornmean making those who are defiantlyrnand self-consciously different feel goodrnabout themselves, while blaming oneselfrnfor their previous lack of self-esteem.rnThus, where gays and leftist revolutionariesrnare concerned, Weissberg notes, “politicalrnresistance” to their positions hasrnnow been equated with “intolerance.”rnQuoting from the publications of thernHuman Rights Campaign, the NationalrnGay and Lesbian Task Force, and otherrnadvocates of alternative lifestyles representedrnin both national parties, Weissbergrnproves that tolerance has ceased tornsignify even “robust accommodation.”rn”Authentic tolerance” requires more:rn”that unsavory causes be promoted tornqualify ourselves as a genuinely acceptingrnsociety.”rnWeissberg makes another relevant historicalrnobservahon. Well into the 20thrncentury, both the battle for and the practicernof tolerance had to do mainly withrnthe acceptance of religious minorities orrnthe non-persecution of heterodox opinions.rnThus tlie Prussian monarchy in thern18th century was considered tolerantrnfor allowing Catholics and Protestantsrnwho did not belong to the state church tornreside in its territory. Some of the Americanrncolonies gained reputations for tolerancernwhen they allowed EnglishrnCatholics, Spanish Jews, or Cerman Anabaptistsrnto settle among the dominantrnreligious groups, and, in some cases, tornhold political office. Weissberg points tornthe Christian and Jewish millets in thernMuslim Ottoman Empire and to the coexistencernof Orthodox Jewish and ArabrnMuslim communities in Brooklyn as furtherrnexamples of traditional tolerance.rnThough none of these groups had (orrnhave) much to do with neighboring onesrnor with the majority society, they did (orrncontinue to) coexist and “tolerate” eachrnother’s presence. Though tlie AmericanrnConstitution denies to the federal governmentrnthe power to establish a churchrnor to suppress political or religious dissentrnin the states, until recently tolerancernhad extremely close limits in the UnitedrnStates as elsewhere. State and local governmentsrnsupported the majority Christianrn—usually Protestant—attitudes, andrnwhile offensive dissent was not oftenrncriminalized (except in time of war), thernway to success for most Americans was tornavoid trampling on prevailing Judeo-rnChristian beliefs. The Scopes trial exemplifiedrnhow state legislatures dealtrnwith “anti-biblical” views in the Americanrnconstitutional republic.rnWeissberg does not argue that we are arnmore open society for refusing state legislaturesrnthe right to ban the teaching ofrnevolution. Rather, he strongly suggestsrnthat our intelligentsia and our governmentrnnow promote a definition of tolerancernso bizarre as to result in unprecedentedrnbehavioral and verbal restraints.rnMost Americans are browbeaten intornhonoring expressive freedoms attachedrnto particular activists for whose positionsrnthey have no special fondness and indeedrnmight have moral repugnance.rnTolerance now means the forced enthusiasticrnexpression of support for kinkyrnlifestyles, explicitly leftist reconstiuctionsrnof society, or abrasive members of designatedrnvictim groups: “[C]laims of unmercifulrnvictimization bestow a steadyrnflow of government-mandated benefits,rnfrom easier victories in wrongful employmentrntermination to selective exemptionrnfrom law enforcement.”rnThe single bone to be picked withrnWeissberg’s otherwise perceptive stiidy isrna methodological one. His examples ofrnthe new tolerance are drawn largely fromrnacademic experience and academicrnwritings, and the point to which he keepsrnPolitical Tolerance: Balancing Community and Diversityrn** T j y education or public indoctrination, the state remolds citizens to cure the de-rnJLJfect [of intolerance], in principle superficially no different from public healthrninformational anti-smoking programs. Teachers, administrators, publishers, programrndevelopers, and additional components of ‘the therapeutic state,’ guided by governmentrnbureaucracies, assist in eradicating this undemocratic flaw. Researchers are notrnthe ones who demand vigorous state action; that would be inappropriate by disciplinaryrnstandards. Rather, scholarship reinforces the rationale for such intervention byrnscientifically depicting the problem’s definition.”rn— Robert WeissbergrnJANUARY 1999/31rnrnrn