Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Citizenship

Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Citizenship

Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Citizenship

Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Citizenship


Will Kymlicka is widely regarded as the most influential and original theorist of the rights and status of ethnocultural groups in liberal democracies. This volume brings together fifteen of his most important essays, tackling pressing issues of immigration, nationalism, multiculturalism, and the meaning of citizenship in today's increasingly pluralistic societies. These essays will enrich our understanding of the theory and practice of ethnic relations in liberal democracies.


The essays collected in this volume are part of an ongoing project to examine the rights and status of ethnocultural groups within Western democracies. In my 1995 book, Multicultural Citizenship, I attempted to provide the outlines of a liberal theory of minority rights. I offered some principles for distinguishing the claims of various sorts of minority groups, and for assessing their legitimacy within a liberal-democratic framework. The papers in this volume start from that basic theory, and seek to refine and extend it, and to address some tensions within it. The essays are connected by a number of common themes: I would like to mention three of them.

1. The first, and most fundamental, concerns what we could call the dialectic of nation-building and minority rights. As I try to show throughout this book, liberal-democratic states have historically been 'nation-building' states in the following specific sense: they have encouraged and sometimes forced all the citizens on the territory of the state to integrate into common public institutions operating in a common language. Western states have used various strategies to achieve this goal of linguistic and institutional integration: citizenship and naturalization laws, education laws, language laws, policies regarding public service employment, military service, national media, and so on. These are what I call the tools of state nation-building.

These policies are often targeted at ethnocultural minorities, who have only limited options when confronted with such a nation-building state. They can accept the state's expectation that they integrate into common national institutions and seek help in doing so, or they can try to build or maintain their own separate set of public institutions (e.g. their own schools, courts, media, legislatures), or they can opt simply to be left alone and live in a state of voluntary isolation. Each of these reflects a different strategy that minorities can adopt in the face of state nation-building. But to be successful, each of them requires certain accommodations from the state. These may take the form of multiculturalism policies, or self-government and language rights, or treaty rights and land claims, or legal exemptions. These are all forms of minority rights that serve to limit or modify the impact of state nation-building on minorities.

The crucial point here is that claims for minority rights must be seen in the context of, and as a response to, state nation-building. Minorities often feel threatened by state nation-building, and fear that it will create various burdens, barriers, or disadvantages for them. Minority rights, I believe, are best

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