Social intolerance

From Issuepedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Social intolerance is an intolerance towards cultural ideas or ways different from one's own. It is characterized by avoidance of examining such ideas (failure to examine) and an unwillingness to see any value in them (failure to see the good).

Social intolerance is usually just called "intolerance", with the usage being understood in context.

Social intolerance is generally associated with conservatism, and is arguably an essential component of it.


Social intolerance is seen as a bad thing because:

  • the failure to examine means that an intolerant person's misperceptions or misunderstandings about an idea or custom can never be corrected, because the person will decline to go into detail about their understanding as it is and will generally fail to learn from any corrections which might be offered
  • the failure to see the good (a.k.a. "throwing out the baby with the bath water", a form of guilt by association) means that good ideas are often rejected and rendered taboo because of where they were first encountered; the target of the intolerance is not credited for having any good aspects, and can safely be demonized

Although conservatism sees intolerance as necessary for preserving social cohesion, this does not work well in a society such as that of the United States, where interdependencies between different subcultures are necessary for commerce; it also works very poorly in a world where prosperity depends increasingly on interactions between different nations, which may have very different social structures.


Tolerance is the idea which allowed America, the "melting pot" of the world, to achieve much of its early wealth despite the rapid influx of new cultures and customs; it has similarly allowed global commerce to thrive as global transportation and communication have become ever cheaper and easier.

Those who cling to intolerance as a necessary bastion of social cohesion are both ignoring the gains to be had from tolerance and risking global peace (and prosperity). In a time when you could insult your neighbors a few hundred miles away and not worry about what they thought, intolerance was perhaps a more reasonable principle to nurture. In a world where people a thousand miles away from you might decide to cut off your oil supply or hold your journalists hostage, casual dismissal becomes a luxury.

We now risk a great deal even with accurate and necessary criticisms; unnecessary ones benefit nobody except powermongers, and only make us look willfully ignorant.


Rational criticism of religion is often described as "intolerance", but this is an erroneous usage; see tolerance of intolerance/religion.


Derived from Merriam-Webster and Wiktionary; for the physiological definition (as in "drug intolerance"), see those sources.

  • (1) inability or unwillingness to endure [something]
  • (2) unwillingness to grant others...
  • (3) close-mindedness about new or different ideas; indisposition to tolerate contrary opinions or beliefs; impatient of dissent or opposition; denying or refusing the right of private opinion or choice in others; inclined to persecute or suppress dissent.