European inventory of
societal values of culture


Tolerance refers to the ability and willingness to accept, respect, and coexist with beliefs, practices, or individuals that differ from one's own. It involves recognising and acknowledging diversity in opinions, cultures, religions, races, and lifestyles without necessarily agreeing with or adopting them. Tolerance is essential for promoting diversity, inclusivity, and peaceful coexistence in the globalising world.

Key elements of tolerance include: acceptance of the existence of diverse perspectives, cultures, and identities without judgment or prejudice; respect for others and their right to hold different beliefs or live according to their cultural norms; open-mindedness, which includes being receptive to new ideas, and willing to listen and learn from others; empathy, expressed in attempts to understand the experiences and feelings of others; rejection of any form of discrimination or prejudice based on characteristics like race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation; and peaceful conflict resolution, resolving differences through dialogue, compromise, and peaceful means rather than resorting to violence or hostility.

Within the study of culture, tolerance is usually understood as an attitude linked to openness, diversity, heterogeneous cultural practices, and a cosmopolitan or culturally globalised mindset. These attributes are usually seen as positive and highly useful resources in a globalising society and as the opposite of closed or narrow-minded attitudes.

In cultural sociology, the most well-known conceptualisation of tolerant cultural practices is that of the 'omnivore'. As Richard Peterson and his collaborators claimed in the 1990s, highbrow snobbery was being replaced by new open-minded, broad, and especially tolerant cultural practices. While the original conceptualisation of the omnivore received many critiques, the scholarly literature largely agrees that tolerance, as an attitude directing cultural practices, is itself distinctive. A logical counterpoint to high levels of tolerance is, according to many studies, found in the lowest status groups, which show many more intolerances than other groups. At the same time, research has pointed out that it is a simplification to claim that all high-status groups are tolerant, while all low-status groups are intolerant: omnivorous and tolerant cultural practices seem to be situated in the middle regions of the social space rather than at the uppermost layers.

Recent research has highlighted how openness includes cultural, interpersonal, and political dimensions. It has also been shown that differences in openness are connected primarily to individual background factors. In particular, researchers have demonstrated that openness is linked to the consumption of foreign culture, book reading, and foreign news consumption. For cultural policy, this suggests that in order to foster openness, it would be key to broaden horizons beyond purely national causes. Many cultural policy researchers have criticised cultural policies for continuing to view public cultural policy as a national issue despite the globalisation of cultural production, dissemination, and supply chains. (RH)


See also:  Multiculturalism; Diversity; Diversity of cultural expressions; Agonistic politics, dissonance and disagreement