44 / 2016
Helder De Schutter

The Liberal Linguistic Turn: Kymlicka’s Freedom Account Revisited

This article revisits the principal argument Will Kymlicka has developed for a marriage between liberalism and multiculturalism: that the liberal value of freedom requires a cultural context of choice. I show that this freedom argument rests on a romantic philosophy of language. Critics of this freedom argument have pointed out that it is not necessarily an individual’s own culture that provides freedom: any culture could do so. I articulate a romantic-Kymlickean response to this critique by showing how individuals’ life choices come to be entwined with the particular culture that provides their context of choice. But while that safeguards existing individuals from assimilation, it does not block future generations from being introduced into the life-world of an additional cultural context. Such slow intergenerational assimilation projects are not necessarily worrisome, however. They can sometimes have the virtue of realizing non-identity values in addition to freedom.

KEY WORDS: Kymlicka, romanticism, Herder, assimilation, group-differentiated rights, multiculturalism

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