Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. By Wendy Brown. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. 282p. $29.95.

Alfonso J. Damico, University of Iowa


Globalization, population migration, multiculturalism, identity politics, 9/11, and the war on terror—if one thinks of tolerance as an art for reconciling differences, then the need for it would seem to be greater than ever. However, tolerance, as T. M. Scanlon argues (The Difficulty of Tolerance, 2003), is never easy. At the very least, it means acknowledging that other people whom I dislike are entitled to the same legal protections as I am and should be equally free to decide how to live their lives. Asking me to avert my eyes or look away from those beliefs and ways of life that I find repugnant may mean that tolerance comes close to being an “impossible virtue” (Bernard Williams, “Toleration: An Impossible Virtue?” in David Heyd, ed., Toleration: An Elusive Virtue, 1996), but the alternative—intolerance—seems a nonstarter. So for many of us the choice between tolerance and intolerance seems easy. Indeed, many liberals assume that tolerance is a defining feature of any decent society.