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Multiculturalism

Definition

  Multiculturalism is a body of thought in political philosophy aboutthe proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity. Meretoleration of group differences is said to fall short of treatingmembers of minority groups as equal citizens; recognition and positiveaccommodation of group differences are required through“group-differentiated rights,” a term coined by WillKymlicka (1995). Some group-differentiated rights are held byindividual members of minority groups, as in the case of individualswho are granted exemptions from generally applicable laws in virtue oftheir religious beliefs or individuals who seek language accommodationsin schools or in voting. Other group-differentiated rights are held bythe group qua group rather by its members severally; such rights areproperly called group rights, as in the case of indigenous groups andminority nations, who claim the right of self-determination. In thelatter respect, multiculturalism is closely allied withnationalism.

While multiculturalism has been used as an umbrella term tocharacterize the moral and political claims of a wide range ofdisadvantaged groups, including African Americans, women, gays andlesbians, and the disabled, most theorists of multiculturalism tend tofocus their arguments on immigrants who are ethnic and religiousminorities (e.g. Latinos in the U.S., Muslims in Western Europe),minority nations (e.g. Catalans, Basque, Welsh,Québécois), and indigenous peoples (e.g. Native peoplesin North America, Maori in New Zealand).

Claims of multiculturalism

  Multiculturalism is closely associated with “identitypolitics,” “the politics of difference,” and“the politics of recognition,” all of which share acommitment to revaluing disrespected identities and changing dominantpatterns of representation and communication that marginalize certaingroups (Young 1990, Taylor 1992, Gutmann 2003). Multiculturalism isalso a matter of economic interests and political power; it demandsremedies to economic and political disadvantages that people suffer asa result of their minority status.

Multiculturalists take for granted that it is “culture”and “cultural groups” that are to be recognized andaccommodated. Yet multicultural claims include a wide range of claimsinvolving religion, language, ethnicity, nationality, and race. Cultureis a notoriously overbroad concept, and all of these categories havebeen subsumed by or equated with the concept of culture (Song 2008).Language and religion are at the heart of many claims for culturalaccommodation by immigrants. The key claim made by minority nations isfor self-government rights. Race has a more limited role inmulticultural discourse. Antiracism and multiculturalism are distinctbut related ideas: the former highlights “victimization andresistance” whereas the latter highlights “cultural life,cultural expression, achievements, and the like” (Blum 1992, 14).Claims for recognition in the context of multicultural education aredemands not just for recognition of aspects of a group's actualculture (e.g. African American art and literature) but also for thehistory of group subordination and its concomitant experience(Gooding-Williams 1998).

Examples of cultural accommodations or “group-differentiatedrights” include exemptions from generally applicable law (e.g.religious exemptions), assistance to do things that the majority can dounassisted (e.g. multilingual ballots, funding for minority languageschools and ethnic associations, affirmative action), representation ofminorities in government bodies (e.g. ethnic quotas for party lists orlegislative seats, minority-majority Congressional districts),recognition of traditional legal codes by the dominant legal system(e.g. granting jurisdiction over family law to religious courts), orlimited self-government rights (e.g. qualified recognition of tribalsovereignty and federal arrangements recognizing the political autonomyof Quebec) (for a helpful classification of cultural rights, see Levy1997).

Typically, a group-differentiated right is a right of a minoritygroup (or a member of such a group) to act or not act in a certain wayin accordance with their religious obligations and/or culturalcommitments. In some cases, it is a right that directly restricts thefreedom of non-members in order to protect the minority group'sculture, as in the case of restrictions on the use of the Englishlanguage in Quebec. When the right-holder is the group, the right mayprotect group rules that restrict the freedom of individual members, asin the case of the Pueblo membership rule that excludes the children ofwomen who marry outside the group.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/multiculturalism/


Mark Styne critiques Multiculturalism

Styne on Muliticulturalism










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