44 / 2016
Jeff Spinner-Halev

Uncertain Theoretical Foundations of Cultural Rights

Will Kymlicka’s Liberalism, Community and Culture attempted to explain why cultural identity was important to people, and how liberal theory could accommodate cultural identity. Kymlicka’s book argued that minority cultures deserve to have certain kinds of rights to help them survive. Cultural membership, he argued, was such an important good that liberal political theory was amiss in overlooking it; it needed to be amended in order to recognize that the self-respect of most people was tied to cultural membership, and that people needed a secure cultural context in which to make choices. Yet the importance of the self-respect argument fades in Kymlicka’s later book Multicultural Citizenship, which gives more emphasis to larger cultural groups that are marked off by language.  In this article, I focus on the shift that Kymlicka makes between the two books, arguing that the revisions that Kymlicka made to the argument in Liberalism, Community and Culture were necessary, while making the argument less theoretically satisfying.

KEYWORDS:  Kymlicka, cultural rights, multiculturalism, liberalism, minorities, nationalism, community, pluralism, culture

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