by Kimberly Kwoka

In today’s world tolerance is more important than ever. As a result of ongoing globalization, and increasing mobility, communication and mergence of cultures, society gets more and more connected as well as in contact with the unfamiliar “other” Tolerance is willingness to accept this plurality of behaviour, moral concepts and beliefs that differ from one’s own The upcoming challenges due to increasing diversity affect the economy and politics as well as the daily social life. Therefore the importance of tolerance and respect for freedom of different opinions will increase in the future. So globalization brings that “newness” to the term of tolerance. But still, fear of the “otherness” as well as fear of the unknown keeps a lot of people from opening up their minds to give human diversity a chance.

In accordance with the respect of human rights, tolerance does neither imply tolerating social injustice nor giving up on one’s own opinion. It means for each and everyone the freedom of choice of belief, but at the same acceptance of the other’s freedom as well. This rule is known in all cultures which reads in its simplest form: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you!

Tolerance also distinguishes certain social power structures. Mainly between the one being in control of the situation and thus has the power to tolerate or not to tolerate, and on the other side the dominated “other”. For example some people do not agree with a same-sex relationship lifestyle. If those people go without harming or assaulting someone who is homosexual, they have practiced tolerance on a certain level. Thus, the dominant still has the power to decide whether being willing to tolerate the “otherness” or not. More precisely, the dominant is in the position to restrain himself from taking negative action against the so called “other”. In other words, tolerance implicates actions of power as well as protects the minority group from repression.

Furthermore, tolerance also affects economy and development. One of the main contemporary economic concepts is diversity. Since the variety of customers has changed especially due to globalization, economies ideally adjust their variety of employees as well. Intolerance, just as group-focused enmity, indirectly forces people to leave certain regions or even countries and make them choose living in places where their lifestyle is more accepted. This is how workforce skills and qualified workers go missing in the particular economic system. According to that, suppression of minorities, like those living a homosexual “lifestyle”, as it could be observed in Russia, for instance, is harming the economy and forces socio-political problems. This does not have to be the case. People need to learn that diversity is a great possibility. Instead of letting differences in race or culture become a limiting factor of human development it is important to focus on the enrichment on a whole set of levels. This way the keyword adds an economic and political perspective on peaceful living in the 21st century as well. Tolerance

Without tolerance, peaceful living to the greatest extent would not be possible at all in this world and intolerance would become a global danger.

„It is not the diversity of opinions (which cannot be avoided), but the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions (which might have been granted) that has produced all the bustles and wars…” John Locke

One special crisis just occurred in France with the attack against the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris on January 7th 2015. As exercising their freedom of expression, the magazine criticizes the radicalization of Islam within its prophet caricatures. The most striking part about the tragic event was that Charlie Hebdo became a victim of exactly those radical terrorists they were criticizing in their, at that time current, journal issue. This way the fanatics offended the freedom of speech, since they did not tolerate the magazine’s fanaticism rejecting position. The tragedy again on closer examination shows that even in the 21th century in a world where tolerance should build the base for peaceful togetherness it still offers a lot of space for conflicts.

In addition to that, mass media played a constructive role in spreading the importance of tolerance as they created an open space for dialogue and discussion about the dramatic incident. They pointed out the dangers of intolerance and the spread of intolerant groups as well as ideologies.


„Educating children and young people according to the principles of tolerance, equality and friendship […]“ is seen to prevent the arise of anxiety for others as well as tendencies of discrimination and social exclusion. They need to get trained on their independent judgment as well as critical thinking and moral reasoning powers:


In conclusion, it has to be stated that tolerance must be seen as the first step rather than a final solution. It is the precondition for peace and the social and economic development of all nations. But in the end it should be all about seeking acceptance and respect of the “other”.

Annotated bibliography: 

1. A Video about the Intolernace of Tolerance

2. The Intolerance of Tolerance; D.A. Carson: In his book Carson does not doubt the that tolerance became a big issue in Western societies these days. What he questions is the contemporary understanding of tolerance. He points out that the way tolerance is understood and constructed today will lead to serious problems and intolerance.

3. Power of Tolerance: A Debate (New Directions in Critical Theory); Wendy Brown, Rainer Forst: This book deals with two different perspectives on tolerance. Also it is reflects issues like power, justice and identity and discusses the difficulty of seeing tolerance as a total response to conflicts.

4. Teaching Toleance; Sara Bullard: This book is about the Teaching Tolerance project directed by Sara Bullard. In her work she emphasizes that everybody is born with the capacity for tolerance and intolerance and which factors might influence our tendency to one of the two. Furthermore, she gives inspirations for parents to serve as open-minded models for their children since family is one of the first influences on a kid’s attitude towards others.

5. Tolerance; Warwick Anderson: This is a text about the fact that the “Tolerance” never made it into Raymond Williams’ book of Keywords. Anderson stated his point of view and explains why tolerance became so important these days.


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