Can Liberal Pluralism Be Exported? Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe

Can Liberal Pluralism Be Exported? Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe

Can Liberal Pluralism Be Exported? Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe

Can Liberal Pluralism Be Exported? Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe


'An important and very interesting volume on a topic of great contemporary significance... This is a very successful volume... The book as a whole is an exciting venture in the field of applying normative ideas to an often refractory and complex social reality.' -Nations and Nationalism'The best reflection and most comprehensive and authoritative summary of the debate on the universality of the western conception of ethnocultural justice.' -The Global Review of Ethnopolitics'The quality of the commentaries on Kymlicka's introductory chapter and his own concluding response ensure that the volume overall fulfils its purpose of critically examining the applicability of western political theory to the ethnopolitics of Central and Eastern Europe. The mix of contributors allows for a balanced debate of Kymlicka's views.' -The Global Review of EthnopoliticsMany post-communist countries in Central/Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are being encouraged and indeed pressured by Western countries to improve their treatment of ethnic and national minorities, and to adopt Western models of minority rights. But what are these Western models, and will they work in Eastern Europe? In the first half of this volume, Will Kymlicka describes a model of 'liberal pluralism' which has gradually emerged in most Western democracies, and discusses what would be involved in adopting it in Eastern Europe. This is followed by 15 commentaries from people actively involved in minority rights issues in the region, as practitioners or academics, and by Kymlicka's reply. This volume will be of interest to anyone concerned with ethnic conflict in Eastern Europe, and with the more general question of whether Western liberal values can or should be promoted in the rest of the world.


Will Kymlicka

The newly-democratizing states of Eastern and Central Europe sometimes look to the older Western democracies to see how various political issues have been handled. It is rarely possible or appropriate to simply transplant institutions or policies from one country to another, particularly when these countries have such different histories and economic conditions as those in Western and Eastern Europe. However, democratic reformers often want to at least understand the basic principles and ideals that underlie the operation of Western liberal democracies, and which have provided them with stability and legitimacy. Put another way, reformers often want to understand the political theory of Western democracies, even though the practical implementation of these underlying principles may differ substantially in Eastern and Central Europe (ECE).

In some areas, particularly with respect to basic individual civil and political rights, it is relatively easy to identify these basic principles. All Western democracies have the rule of law, freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, habeas corpus, free elections, universal adult suffrage etc., and there is a large and long-standing literature by Western legal and political theorists explaining why these are important values. Indeed, we can say that the protection of these rights and liberties is part of the very definition of a liberal democracy. and so the claim of ece countries to be 'democratic' is measured by how well they accept and uphold these principles.

But when we turn to issues of ethnic relations, it is far more difficult to identify the principles guiding Western democracies. We can find a wide range of policies in the various Western democracies, and

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