44 / 2016
Avigail Eisenberg

The Assessment of Cultures and the Autonomy of Communities

Cultural rights are one response to the mistreatment of minorities by dominant groups. Their protection has become a litmus test for the liberal nature of democratic states. At the same time, criticisms of cultural rights abound in scholarship and popular discourse. These include concerns that cultural rights distort and essentialize culture, that cultural protections shield gender discrimination, and that cultural rights legitimize a false narrative about the capacity of Western states to act justly towards subjugated minorities and, in particular, indigenous peoples.The question addressed here is whether the protection of cultural rights, as defended by Kymlicka in his 1989 book Liberalism, Community and Culture, is still an important project today in light of these criticisms and against the background of recent political circumstances which find some political leaders distancing themselves from multiculturalism and where, once again, cultural difference is used to exclude minorities from the full rights of citizenship.

KEY WORDS:  Kymlicka, liberalism, multiculturalism, cultural minorities, colonialism

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