It's been almost five years since I posted the Taxonomy of Jewish pluralism. Since then, it has become the foundation for the influential Hilchot Pluralism series (of which I can't take credit for any of the content, only for writing the ideas up and disseminating them around the world). From the beginning, the taxonomy was identified as a "work in progress", so I'd like to make a revision, inspired by rethinking some of this material in preparation for teaching a workshop on Hilchot Pluralism at this past weekend's Independent Minyan Conference.
The stages of pluralism were originally modeled on Piaget's stages of cognitive development and Kohlberg's stages of moral development. (Thanks, NYC Teaching Fellows, for the free M.A. in education!) That is, the premise was that a community's discourse would advance from one stage to the next to the next (or at least that a community is primarily in a single stage at any given time, and this stage characterizes all of its pluralistic discourse).
Now I'm thinking the stages are actually more like Erikson's stages of psychosocial development (which have previously been mentioned in Hilchot Pluralism, but then I was referencing Erikson's actual content; now I'm just drawing an analogy). That is, even when a community moves on to a new stage, the previous stages remain present.
Even if a community functions primarily in Stage 3, the Hilchot Pluralism series has shown repeatedly that there are many cases in which a Stage 3 solution is not possible. A solution in which no one has to compromise is nice work if you can get it, but in the event that this is not possible, yet the community wants to both stay together and maintain some sort of pluralistic approach on the given issue, it must seek some sort of compromise. This often means functioning in Stage 2 despite its flaws. And there are even cases when Stage 1 is unproblematic even for a community that ordinarily operates in Stage 3. For example, the two-table system may represent a Stage-3 approach to pluralistic potlucks, but if a community is having a catered meal (so that the different approaches to kashrut in participants' kitchens are not relevant), the Stage-1 "common denominator" logic (leading to using a caterer under kashrut supervision) may work just fine. And if Stage 0 is non-pluralism, every community has things that it is non-pluralistic about.
So is it time for a Hilchot Pluralism Part VIII yet? If so, what belongs in it? One question that people asked repeatedly over the weekend is how to deal with "Who is a Jew?" issues, but I'm not aware of any satisfactory pluralistic approach to the question (beyond Stage 1, which is quite unsatisfactory in this case). All the Jewish denominations have official stances on "Who is a Jew", and independent minyanim have the luxury of not taking a stance until it arises as a practical question. This means that if anyone asks the question in theory, an independent community can honestly answer that it doesn't have any official position. But that is no help if and when the question arises in practice.