Multicultural Citizenship: Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford Political Theory) Hardcover – 1 Jun 1995
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L'autore intende... portare ordine in un dibattito largamente confuso e percorso da posizioni che spesso hanno rischiato più di mistificare che di analizzare i termini reali dei problemi. (Nicola Marcucci, Jura Gentium site, Centre for Philosophy of International Law and Global Politics, 07/06/2003)
This is a very important book, one that is indispensable for the present discussion of multiculturalism ... this is an immensely rich, informative, and above all clarifying work, written by a first-class philosophical mind, animated by a humane outlook. It ought to be compulsory reading for all those who want to carry on the debate in this area. (Charles Taylor, American Political Science Review)
Will Kymlicka is among the most important and interesting liberal political theorists writing today ... [he] produces an elegant and extremely interesting liberal account of the character, applicability and conditions suitable for the deployment of the notion of the rights of minority cultures considered as group rights. The book is subtitled a liberal theory of minority rights and it is not too exaggerated to say that Kymlicka provides not only the first fully worked out theory of liberal minority rights but one of the most successful and satisfying accounts of liberal political theory in recent years. (N. Rengger, International Affairs)
The overall argument of his book, and its attentive consideration of almost every issue vital to a complex notion of multiculturalism make invaluable reading for anyone weary of simplistic declamations. (Mitchell Cohen, Times Literary Supplement)
This timely and well-argued book offers a liberal defense, based on individual autonomy and social equality, of certain group-specific rights to self-government, to support for cultural differences, and to political representation. Clear, unpolemical, and open-minded, it nicely marries normative political theory and institutional analysis ... In all, this is a fine book, and the one to which students of multiculturalism must first be sent. (Leslie Green, Journal of Politics)
An important addition to liberal theory and necessary for students and scholars at all levels. (S. Majstorovic, Choice)
This excellent book sketches a theory of minority rights and argues that such rights can find a comfortable home within liberal political philosophy. (James Nickel, Journal of Philosophy)
It is full of many stimulating insights, throws valuable light on many complex issues, and grapples with agonizing dilemmas. Above all, it appreciates the cultural embeddedness of the individual and creates theoretical space for cultural rights, thereby making liberalism hospitable to the moral imperatives of cultural pluralism. (Bhikhu Parekh, Policy Studies)
Kymlicka's achievement is in putting culture, nationality and minorities at the centre of liberal theory. He is a philosopher who always has one eye on policy, and his book can be recommended as an exemplar in "philosophy and public affairs". (Tariq Modood, Political Quarterly)
A powerful intervention in that argument [about culture, identity and collective rights]. (Stephen Howe, New Statesman and Society)
This is an important book which clarifies the issues at stake in the current debate between individual and collective rights. (Chantal Mouffe, Political Studies)
Kymlicka's book is undeniably a valuable contribution to the ongoing, liberal-communitarian debate. Those wishing to survey this terrain will find his book an excellent starting point. (Patrick Malcolmson, Canadian Journal of Political Science) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
The increasingly multicultural fabric of modern societies has given rise to many new issues and conflicts, as ethnic and national minorities demand recognition and support for their cultural identity. This book presents a new conception of the rights and status of minority cultures. It argues that certain sorts of collective rights for minority cultures are consistent with liberal-democratic principles, and that standard liberal objections to recognizing such rights on grounds of individual freedom, social justice, and national unity can be answered. However, Professor Kymlicka emphasizes that no single formula can be applied to all groups, and that the needs and aspirations of immigrants are very different from those of indigenous peoples and national minorities. The book discusses issues such as language rights, group representation, land claims, federalism, and secession - issues which are central to understanding multicultural politics, but which have been surprisingly neglected in contemporary liberal theory. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
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Most modern states face multicultural problems. For example, the Catalans in Spain strife for their own state. Belgium consists of two nations, Flanders and Wallonia, which causes trouble for the future of Belgium. The rise of worldwide migration causes large ethnic minorities with ethnic and racial tensions.
This diversity is often ignored by a "benign neglect" on the part of liberal theorists because a liberal government should assign equal rights to its citizens. Distinctions based on creed, gender, colour or culture should not influence one's rights and duties. This contemporary liberal concept is challenged by Will Kymlicka. In his book "Multicultural Citizenship" (1995), he asserts that a government cannot be culturally neutral, even if it wants to be. Decisions such as state language and education are made by the majority culture, and minority cultures are put in an unequal and unjust disadvantage. This injustice can be cured by giving such minority groups special rights, such as self-governance, special representation and "polyethnic rights", explained below. Does it follow that not all citizens should enjoy the same rights in a multicultural state? His answer is both yes and no, as will be explained below.
Multination states and polyethnicity
Kymlicka replaces the word "multicultural" by two more specific terms. Multination states are states that harbour two or more nations. A nation is a "historical community, ... occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and culture". An example is Canada, in which Quebec is a nation of its own and where Indian tribes have special rights. Polyethnic states, on the other hand, have ethnic minorities as a result of immigration. Such immigrants come on an individual or familial basis and typically do not form a nation of their own in their new homeland. Most modern states are multinational, polyethnic, or both. This distinction between two types of minorities has important consequences.
National minorities have a historic claim on self-governance, education in their own language, and protection of their land and institutions. Group-differentiated rights are needed to give them equal opportunities in a state where the majority culture speaks another language.
Immigrants who form polyethnic minorities, on the other hand, have chosen to leave their own culture out of free will. It is not unreasonable to require them to adapt to the new culture of their own choosing. Thus, most of the minority rights defended in the book are meant for national minorities.
Self-governance is a collective right that can both restrict its members and protect its members. A group can require its members to behave according to the rules of the community. Some rules restrict individual freedom, such as the exclusion of woman of education. Such internal protections should not be granted to a national minority in a liberal state. But external protections can protect the culture without restricting individual freedom of its members. For example, a national minority can be given more self-governing rights to control migration to its territory and to arrange education in their own language.
Collective rights are not conflicting with individual rights as long as only external protections are provided and as long as the collective rights are needed to protect the minority against an unjust advantage of a majority culture. The protection of cultural membership is important because a societal culture does provide its members with a rich menu of individual choice.
Minority cultures must be represented to include them in the political decision making. The line of argument in the book is based on the Anglo-Saxon political system where each district elects one representative. In such a system, minorities will often be underrepresented. Strangely, Kymlicka does not explore the possibility of a proportional electoral system such as in The Netherlands, where even very small political parties will be represented in the parliament. He also makes no mention of Arend Lijphart, who has done extensive research in this field. Instead, he proposes measures to fix the Anglo-Saxon system, while he admits that such an approach can be difficult to implement.
Sikhs in Canada enjoy exception from motor-cycle helmet laws and police uniform laws because their religion requires them to wear a tulban (p. 31). Kymlicka is enthusiastic about such measures, because in this way ethnic or religious groups can be included in the society. He calls such financial and legal protection polyethnic rights.
I am not sure if such exceptions are as great as Kymlicka assumes. Treating people different based on their religion can erode the respect for, in this case, motor-cycle helmet laws. If some person X with religion Y is allowed without a helmet, why am I not allowed? Lady Iustitia carries a sword and scales and is often depicted blindfolded. The blindfold not only ignores religion, it also symbolises that justice should be meted out without regard to identity.
In the view of Kymlicka, some individuals should get additional rights because they are member of a minority culture. At first sight, this means that the state no longer consists of citizens with equal rights. But members of such minorities are put in a disadvantage, and the additional rights are only meant as an external protection against unjust majority decisions. By giving group-differentiated rights, equality can be restored.
I am not sure of the practical value of his solutions. Polyethnic rights pose ethical problems, while his chapter on special representation is too much focused on the peculiarities of the Anglo-Saxon electoral system. Self-governance can surely strengthen minority cultures, but this idea is not novel and is already implemented in many states such as Canada.
Still, Kymlicka offers an interesting group and culture oriented liberal political theory. He is right that contemporary liberalism is often blind for cultural dilemmas. His book offers a well-balanced theory to think about multicultural problems in a liberal framework. This is a huge improvement over the "benign neglect" that characterizes many liberals today.
Kymlicka shows clearly that there has been a long tradition of leading liberals who have felt that in order for national minorities to be as free as majorities, they need affirmative action to counteract the all-pervading influence of dominant cultures, through the education system, the media, and the general majority discourse.
He sees the individual's freedom as the right to belong to his of her ancestral group, and this of course means that unless the group's rights are recognised and implemented, the individual that belongs to the group cannot be a free person. Kymlicka distinguishes neatly between minorities whose aim is to be considered and treated as the same as anyone else (that is, anyone belonging to the dominant group): women, Afroamericans, etc.; and between minorities who wish not to lose their differentiated culture and identity: American Indians, Quebeckers, Catalans, Welsh, etc. He points out to majority members that what they take for granted is neither the only worldview possible, nor the best worldview, and defends minorities' right to hold other views, their own.
He is also masterly in drawing the limits to allowing national minorities full control over their own affairs: naturally, no-one should tolerate practices, however ancient, which clash with universal human rights. These include the individual's freedom to leave the group, the rejection of female ablation, etc.
The fact that the book has been published in Catalan attests to its international appeal.
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