Latest Articles


16.04.2014
Timothy Snyder

Europe and Ukraine: Past and future

The history of Ukraine has revealed the turning points in the history of Europe. On 25 May both Ukrainians and EU citizens can decide which way things will turn this time. Ukraine has no future without Europe, but Europe also has no future without Ukraine. [ more ]

14.04.2014
Tim Groenland

Lost in the funhouse

11.04.2014
János Széky

A tradition of nationalism

09.04.2014
Nataliya Tchermalykh

The warm cold winter

09.04.2014
Eurozine Review

Whoever shoots first loses

New Issues


08.04.2014

Osteuropa | 1/2014

Im Namen des Volkes. Revolution und Reaktion
08.04.2014

Spilne | 7 (2014)

Second World

Eurozine Review


09.04.2014
Eurozine Review

Whoever shoots first loses

"Krytyka" says the protests in Ukraine should make the EU realize it has a global mission; "Prostory" documents the Maidan; "Osteuropa" warns it's high time to focus on the Polish extreme Right; "New Eastern Europe" locates the last frontier of Kundera's Central Europe; "Free Speech Debate" says hate speech bans have no place in fully fledged democracies; "Spilne" anticipates a socialist moment in the western system; "Merkur" analyses the capitalist persona: from civilizing force to the root of all evil; "Kulturos barai" ponders how to survive technology; "Revolver Revue" refuses to forget the Jews lost to the Nazis but erased under Czech communism; and "Dilema veche" asks who's afraid of Romanians and Bulgarians?

26.03.2014
Eurozine Review

Breaking the anthropic cocoon

12.03.2014
Eurozine Review

When TV regimes kick in

26.02.2014
Eurozine Review

Goodbye Gutenberg Galaxy!

12.02.2014
Eurozine Review

The new wretched of the earth



http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2011-05-02-newsitem-en.html
http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2009-12-02-newsitem-en.html
http://mitpress.mit.edu/0262025248
http://www.eurozine.com/about/who-we-are/contact.html

My Eurozine


If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Articles
Share |


Multiculturalism and liberal democracy

Four questions to Will Kymlicka

Liberal values can be twisted to justify limiting civil rights, warns Will Kymlicka in interview. Nevertheless, religious law may not replace the civil code. "The same forces that support ethnic politics within liberal democracy also operate over time to channel it in peaceful and democratic ways."

Focal Point: Post-secular Europe?


From the cartoon crisis and minaret ban to the multiculturalism debate: on the politics of post-secular Europe. [ more ]
Filimon Peonidis: You were the first person who showed to us the significance of minority protection, cultural membership, and multiculturalism for mainstream Anglo-Saxon political philosophy. In the past all these were regarded as political, sociological or legal issues. A long period separates the publication of your first book on this topic, Liberalism, Community and Culture (1989), and your latest one, Multicultural Odysseys (2007). Have your views on liberal multiculturalism undergone any significant change during all these years?

Will Kymlicka: I'm still very interested in the general question of how the claims of ethno-cultural minorities relate to the basic principles of liberal-democratic theory, but my motivation for addressing this question has evolved over the years. Originally, I chose this topic as a test case for exploring the "liberal-communitarian debate" that dominated Anglo-American political philosophy in the 1980s. In the 1970s, liberals like John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin had developed new theories of liberal egalitarian justice that I personally found very attractive. In the 1980s, however, communitarians like Charles Taylor criticized these theories for being too individualistic and "atomistic", and his main proof for this critique was the example of ethnic minorities. According to Taylor, a Rawlsian or Dworkinian theory of liberal justice could not defend the sorts of group-specific rights that minorities need to protect themselves from assimilation. And he concluded that this made liberalism particularly inappropriate for my own country – Canada – where a range of minority rights for the indigenous Aboriginal peoples, for the Quebecois, and for immigrant groups are well-established, widely-accepted, and indeed are vital to the survival of the country.

This argument really worried me, because I wasn't willing to abandon support for Canada's minority rights, but nor was I willing to shift from liberalism to communitarianism to defend them, since I think that communitarianism has a dangerous tendency to limit the freedom of individuals to question and revise traditional ways of life. So my original motivation was to show that a Rawlsian theory has the resources to defend minority rights. More specifically, I wanted to show that (a) liberalism has its own reasons, related to its core values of individual freedom, for recognizing that people have legitimate interests in their culture and community; (b) that these values deserve protection through various group-specific rights, such as language rights or self-government rights; and (c) that these group-specific rights can be implemented without jeopardizing the basic civil and political rights of individuals.

More recently, my motivations have shifted. I'm still interested in defending minority rights, but not so much in the context of communitarian critiques of liberal individualism. Rather, I'm interested in how minority rights fit into broader issues in liberal-democratic theory. Many people worry that even if minority rights can be shown to be consistent with liberal ideas of individual autonomy, they threaten other basic liberal-democratic values, such as values of solidarity, or democratic participation, or simply peace and stability. We could phrase these as issues about the nature of "multicultural citizenship". Once a country embraces multiculturalism, what are the bonds of citizenship that unite people from different ethnic groups, what is the source of solidarity, how do people engage in democratic deliberation, and so on? That has been the main focus of my work for the past ten to fifteen years. One reason why I have shifted in this direction is that, in many newly democratizing countries, the worries about multiculturalism are less to do with individual autonomy and more to do with how to create sustainable democratic forms of citizenship.

FP: In your writings you insist that there are certain limits to the various concessions a liberal democratic state can make to distinct cultural groups. As you say, "it is clear that multiculturalism in Canada is firmly embedded within the framework of liberal democratic constitutionalism and human rights jurisprudence". Minorities are obligated to abide by this framework. However, a critic may object that sometimes minority groups are prohibited in the name of liberalism from engaging in the very activities that constitute their cultural identity. For instance, in some Western democracies Muslim populations are denied access to their own religious tribunals and female Muslim students are not allowed to wear headscarves in school. Should we consider the possibility that liberal multiculturalism just pays lip service to the idea of respecting non-Western and non-Christian collective identities?

WK: There is undoubtedly a trend in recent years towards what Christian Joppke calls "repressive liberalism", particularly in relation to immigrants in Europe. According to Joppke, when western European states seek to justify anti-immigrant policies, they no longer invoke nationally-distinctive myths, identities or narratives, but rather invoke universal liberal values, and argue that immigrants are a threat to these universal values. This is the basis on which France forbids Muslim girls from the wearing the hijab in school, and the basis on which Denmark limits the freedom of immigrants to marry spouses from foreign countries.

I agree this is a worrying trend. But we need to distinguish different cases. In some cases, liberal values are being twisted to justify limiting people's fundamental civil rights – as in the hijab and foreign marriage cases. In my view, this is simply illegitimate. If we are worried that some girls are being coerced by family members to wear the hijab or to marry foreign husbands, we need to find ways to stop the coercion, rather than limiting the rights of all people to wear religious dress or to marry non-citizens. These blanket bans really are repressive.

But in other cases, minorities are seeking not simply to exercise their civil liberties, but also to exercise state power – for example, asking the state to legally enforce the decisions of religious family law tribunals. People have a basic civil right to consult with their own religious authorities on issues of marriage and divorce, but those religious authorities do not have an inherent right to have their judgements be given legal effect and be enforced by state officials. In my view, it is perfectly appropriate for a liberal state to say that religious tribunals will only be legally recognized if they meet certain standards – such as informed consent, due process, professional training, non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, and so on. These standards may conflict with the historic traditions of certain minority groups, but of course they conflicted with the historic traditions of the majority as well. To insist that these standards be respected is not evidence of hypocrisy or insincerity in the application of liberal values. It simply re-affirms core liberal beliefs about the legitimate bases and goals of state power, beliefs that have been invoked to challenge both majority and minority traditions.

FP: You are in favour of ascribing group rights to minorities that would protect them from dangers coming from the larger society ("external protections" as you call them). Some liberals do not seem to agree with this suggestion. They claim that human rights are meant to protect only individuals from certain enduring threats to their life, liberty and property and that it is better to speak of group privileges that will be taken back when the cultural group in question ceases to be regarded as disadvantaged. What would you reply to this objection?

WK: Moral philosophy typically works with a much narrower notion of "rights" than political or legal theory. For many moral philosophers, a claim only qualifies as a "right" if it can be deduced solely from premises about the inherent interests of individuals abstracted from any historical or sociological contingencies. Defined this way, it is indeed difficult to say that minority claims are "rights", since we can certainly imagine circumstances that would make the claims unnecessary. For example, if borders were redrawn around the world, so that some current minorities became numerical majorities within these new boundaries, some of the rights they currently claim – such as affirmative action or guaranteed political representation – might be entirely unnecessary, and even illegitimate. A moral philosopher might conclude that such claims can therefore only be contingent "privileges" not inherent "rights".

But for the purposes of legal and political philosophy, I don't think this strict and narrow definition of rights is helpful. These forms of philosophy inevitably need to take certain institutional contexts for granted. We cannot theorize about citizenship rights, for example, without presupposing certain facts about how the world is divided into territorially-defined political communities. That is a contingent fact, and it may someday change – if we lived in a world with a single global state, there would no longer be a distinction between "citizens" and "non-citizens", and hence no need for a theory of "citizenship rights". But in our world, we do very much need such a theory. And we cannot theorize about citizenship rights without first specifying the institutional context. For contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy, that institutional context is the nation-state. So our political theories of citizenship rights are theories about the sorts of rights that are appropriate in the context of Westphalian nation-states. And in that context, I would argue that minority rights are just as deserving of being viewed as "rights" as many other social, civil, and political rights. Just as nation-states raise certain enduring threats to the life, liberty, and property of all individuals, regardless of cultural membership, so too they raise enduring threats to those individuals who belong to minority groups. So long as we live in a world of nation-states, we will need minority rights to protect against those enduring threats.

FP: It is obvious that the highly successful Canadian model of multiculturalism and minority protection cannot be applied as it is to Balkan states for a variety of historical and geopolitical reasons. However, do you believe that there are any ideas or assumptions underlying this model that would help democratic governments in this region deal in a principled way with minority issues?

WK: I don't think that specific models of multiculturalism can be transported directly from one country to another, particularly not the Canadian model, which is a product of a very unique history. So I would hesitate to offer any advice about immediate policy debates. But I do think there are longer-term lessons from the various Western experiences with multiculturalism and minority rights. The first is simply that ethnic politics must be seen as an enduring feature of a free and democratic society. Too many countries still cling to the hope that once societies democratize, modernize, and develop economically, then ethnic politics will disappear. So far as I can tell, there is no evidence for believing this, and much evidence to the contrary. Some of the deepest values of liberal democracy – including foundational commitments to individual freedom, political equality and human rights – operate to support and sustain ethnic politics. We need to acknowledge this and to prepare for it when thinking about the sort of democratic society we wish to build.

On the other hand, the Western experience also shows that ethnic politics can be peacefully managed within a larger, stable liberal-democratic order. The same forces that support ethnic politics within liberal democracy also operate over time to channel it in peaceful and democratic ways, and thereby pacify and domesticate ethnic politics. So if ethnic politics are an enduring part of democratic life, it can nonetheless become a normal part of day-to-day democratic politics, not a uniquely explosive or destabilizing issue. The long-term goal, therefore, shouldn't be to extinguish or to solve ethnic politics once and for all, but rather to "normalize" it.

 



Published 2008-07-25


Original in English
First published in Cogito (Greece) 7 (2008) (Greek version)

Contributed by Cogito (Greece)
© Cogito (Greece)
© Eurozine
 

Focal points     click for more

Ukraine in focus

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/publicsphere.html
Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive providing background to the situation in today's Ukraine. [more]

The ends of democracy

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/democracy.html
At a time when the global pull of democracy has never been stronger, the crisis of democracy has become acute. Eurozine has collected articles that make the problems of democracy so tangible that one starts to wonder if it has a future at all, as well as those that return to the very basis of the principle of democracy. [more]

Russia in global dialogue

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/eurocrisis.html
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

Hungary

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/eurocrisis.html
In recent years, Hungary has been a constant concern for anyone interested in European politics. We have collected articles published in Eurozine on recent developments in Hungary and broader issues relating to Hungarian politics, history and culture. [more]

The public sphere in the making

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/publicsphere.html
The public sphere is not something given; it is made - over and over again. But which actors are involved and what roles do they play? Is there a difference between an intellectual and an expert? And in which media or public space does the debate take place? [more]

The EU: Broken or just broke?

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/focalpoints/eurocrisis.html
Brought on by the global economic recession, the eurocrisis has been exacerbated by serious faults built into the monetary union. Contributors discuss whether the EU is not only broke, but also broken -- and if so, whether Europe's leaders are up to the task of fixing it. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch a new online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
Robert Skidelsky
The Eurozone crisis: A Keynesian response

http://www.eurozine.com/timetotalk/the-eurozone-crisis-a-keynesian-response/
Political economist and Keynes biographer Robert Skidelsky explains the reasons for the failure of the current anti-crisis policy and how Europe can start to grow again. Listen to the full debate organized by Krytyka Polityczna. [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

There are currently no positions available.

Editor's choice     click for more

Marcus Rediker
Ghosts on the waterfront

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2012-07-27-rediker-en.html
Historian Marcus Rediker describes the sailing ship as linchpin of the emergent transatlantic economic order and instrument of terror for slaves transported from Africa, going on to discuss European harbour cities' role in the slave trade and their responsibilities in reckoning with its moral legacy. [more]

Literature     click for more

Olga Tokarczuk
A finger pointing at the moon

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2014-01-16-tokarczuk-en.html
Our language is our literary destiny, writes Olga Tokarczuk. And "minority" languages provide a special kind of sanctuary too, inaccessible to the rest of the world. But, there again, language is at its most powerful when it reaches beyond itself and starts to create an alternative world. [more]

Piotr Kiezun, Jaroslaw Kuisz
Literary perspectives special: Witold Gombrowicz

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-08-16-kuisz-en.html
The recent publication of the private diary of Witold Gombrowicz provides unparalleled insight into the life of one of Poland's great twentieth-century novelists and dramatists. But this is not literature. Instead: here he is, completely naked. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/literaryperspectives.html
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/europetalkstoeurope.html
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Making a difference. Opinion, debate and activism in the public sphere
The 25th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Oslo, 29 November - 2 December 2013

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/oslo2013.html
Under the heading "Making a difference. Opinion, debate and activism in the public sphere", the 2013 Eurozine conference focused on cultural and intellectual debate and the production of the public sphere. [more]

Multimedia     click for more

http://www.eurozine.com/comp/multimedia.html
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]


powered by publick.net