Conceptualising tolerance: paradoxes of tolerance and intolerance in contemporary Britain

Published: December 2009

This article uses the examples of young people and ethnic minorities to show how the political rhetoric of British tolerance sits alongside a growing public discourse of intolerance and calls for greater conformity. A conceptual model of tolerance is set out, elucidating how tolerance can have different types of objects, assessments and responses, the latter ranging from static disapproval to dynamic cognitive adjustment. We argue that public policy should consider these foundations of tolerance and appreciate the context-dependent nature of tolerance rather than setting out to tightly define the boundaries of intolerance; the latter strategy runs the risk of stimulating a downward spiral whereby people’s thresholds of tolerance are continually lowered.

Authors / Editors

Research Themes

Young People and Youth Justice

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions