Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights

Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights

Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights

Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights

Synopsis

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 "collective rights" of minority cultures are consistent with liberal democratic principles, and that standard liberal objections to such rights can be answered. However, the author 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. He looks at issues such as language rights, group representation, religious education, federalism, and secession--issues central to an understanding of multicultural politics, but which have been neglected in contemporary liberal theory. Scholars of political theory and philosophy, as well as the general reader, will find this work to be the most comprehensive analysis to date of this crucial political issue.

Excerpt

Most countries today are culturally diverse. According to recent estimates, the world's 184 independent states contain over 600 living language groups, and 5,000 ethnic groups. In very few countries can the citizens be said to share the same language, or belong to the same ethnonational group.

This diversity gives rise to a series of important and potentially divisive questions. Minorities and majorities increasingly clash over such issues as language rights, regional autonomy, political representation, education curriculum, land claims, immigration and naturalization policy, even national symbols, such as the choice of national anthem or public holidays. Finding morally defensible and politically viable answers to these issues is the greatest challenge facing democracies today. In Eastern Europe and the Third World, attempts to create liberal democratic institutions are being undermined by violent nationalist conflicts. In the West, volatile disputes over the rights of immigrants, indigenous peoples, and other cultural minorities are throwing into question many of the assumptions which have governed political life for decades. Since the end of the Cold War, ethnocultural conflicts have become the most common source of political violence in the world, and they show no sign of abating.

This book outlines a new approach to these problems. There are no simple answers or magic formulas to resolve all these questions. Some conflicts are intractable, even when the disputants are motivated by a sense of fairness and tolerance, which all too often is lacking. Moreover, every dispute has its own unique history and circumstances that need to be taken into account in devising a fair and workable solution. My aim is to step back and present a more general view of the landscape—to identify some key concepts and principles that

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