from an email discussing if Indian society is already pluralistic in nature.
the reference to european countries is, I believe, relevant.
exclusivity is usually a manifestation of insecurities of an individual or in case of a society,
of the collective consciousness.
pluralism in such societies are forced from the top to serve the larger interests of the native population, usually those related to trade and manpower shortages and occasionally politics.
if europe finds pluralism is not serving its interests(not necessarily causing any harm !) it will only be too happy to go back to exclusivity.
it doesn't help if the religious doctrines followed in these lands get shaped by similar exclusivist mentality.
One reason for this psyche is the history of ancient and medieval europe. A land which can hardly support its occupants does not encourage people to welcome 'others'.
In this backdrop it is not surprising that europe saw as many wars as it did and that it is still, essentially a fragmented continent.
given its small size, it is surprising that it has so many political entities if we consider say, India as the norm. on the other hand India is surprising if europe is the norm !
Here is why I think this happened.
Inspite of some common heritage from greco-roman times, mainly due to roman occupation, the only common point europeans identified themselves around happened to be the fact that they were fighting for the same lands outside europe and winning against the natives !
with it came a bit of shared racial superiority complex but not much more.
the european identity asserted itself only when there was consistent interaction of a large part of european masses with non-whites elsewhere, something which started in the 15th century but picked up pace with the industrial revolution.
and even this didn't stop them from continuing to fight tooth and nail among themselves, resulting in a number of bloody wars amongst themselves.
another interesting point is the fact that virtually all european nation states started out as city-states and expanded outwards. starting from rome which was always at war with cities of northern italy and the greek cities which were fighting among themselves european history is basically the history of its city-states and NOT of the political entities we call nations today.
therefore, we find that nationhood does not come to europe naturally, the states we see today are basically a forced grouping of city-states overcoming their distrust of each other(as the outsider) in order to protect themselves against the 'alien' (a worse kind of outsider).
a glimpse at the age of these entities gives ample proof of this fact.
the places we call italy or germany today are essentially artificial constructs borne out of a reaction to the 'outsiders' threat.
(it is of course a credit to the rulers that they have successfully removed the internal friction systematically over a few decades)
is it any wonder that the populace there find it difficult to imbibe the values of pluralism ??
USA is a slightly different case as the various europeans who landed there had to work together to defend against (what else ?) the outsider threat !
in the end, the cities did become a melting pot, for whites at least. I suppose the situation is changing now.
US cities are more pluralistic because they have more experience of bringing people outside to do the job, the last major example being the manhattan project. they know the benefit outsiders bring to the country and hence put up with them.
europe will also go the same way if it reaps similar benefits. But I doubt they will, for one, they don't have as much money and two, they are late to the party !
in India, you will find that even the smaller states were much more organic in nature. it is not a case of city-states giving rise to larger states but large chunks of the subcontinent forming states. e.g the maurya empire started as the magadha empire and not as one based in pataliputra. indeed, the capital of magadha was moved from rajgir to pataliputra from the times of the earlier magadha kingdoms without any substantial alteration in the nature of the empire.
essentially, what this means is that Indian states drew their identity from the villages and the common people, in that their roots went much deeper and wider than an alliance forged by a city-state would.
the smaller states were almost always divided by geographical features and not by cultural ones -- a river, a mountain range, an extensive forest.
cultural differences arose later, as an effect of this divison.
the Indian state was thus by design more inclusive in nature, in spite of the likeliness that one geographical area probably had more dialects spoken than all of europe ! (please see NOTE)
In India, unbelievably, throughout this vast and diverse landscape, people still found enough common ground to proclaim themselves as belonging to a shared nationhood of aryavarta.
It is this that prevented the kings from unleashing horrors and rapine on the populace of conquered states -- they may be under an enemy king but they themselves were not enemy.
All this has perhaps to do with the fact that the original blueprint of the glue i.e SD spread from one small geographical area to the whole sub-continent, taking the local hues and colours as it went and emerging all the more richer out of it.
is it pluralism as the west defines it ? I don't think so.
Indians are essentially one people with similar defining characteristics who have certain perturbations from the mean and people who are one nation living together can't be considered pluralism, can it ?
In the Indian context, pluralism check can only be carried out in the instances when foreigners outside of India came into this country.
due to the tolerant ethos of the native creed people who didn't come with ill-will were always accepted into the fold. that, may be called pluralism !
Have I answered any of your questions or is it all gibberish ?
NOTE.1) the more fertile and/or habitable a place is larger the no of languages. equatorial africa has the highest # of spoken languages/sq. km in the world. this happens because communities tend to be self-sufficient w/o much interaction. That, is just a facet of human evolution.