This section will investigate Kymlicka’s treatment of immigrant minorities and underscores the ways majority nation-building oppresses a variety of groups throughout the society, not limited to national minorities alone. Kymlicka defines immigrants as those individuals who have chosen to leave their home country and native societal culture and have immigrated to a new country which they have willingly joined. Immigrants desire to integrate into the majority societal culture of their new home. This is not an easy process because immigrants have to navigate in a foreign political vernacular. Nevertheless, being disadvantaged in this new vernacular is often still an advantage over continuing life under an oppressive government in one’s own societal culture. Still, despite whatever benefits immigration brings, Kymlicka says that life for first generation immigrants is analogous to “enter[ing] a religious order”, and taking a “vow of perpetual poverty” (1995, p. 86) since they are faced with the hardships of leaving the comfort of their societal culture behind.
Immigrants, cut off from their source of cultural stability and uneasily navigating their new societal culture are at a “distinct disadvantage”. Unlike national minorities however, immigrants lack the resources and the desire to create a new societal culture for themselves in their new country and instead desire integration. Moreover, immigrants do not formulate their demands for rights in nationalist terms. They do not seek secession or to form a parallel society apart from the majority nation. Indeed, Kymlicka says that the majority of immigrants willingly enter the nation and wholeheartedly commit to integrating into the societal culture of that majority nation, although this process of integration is sometimes difficult and may even take several generations before a full transition to the new culture is achieved. However, so long as the majority nation advocates a non-ethnic form of nationalism and takes measures to welcome these immigrants into their society (and to ease their cultural transition by acknowledging this period of adjustment by giving special accommodation rights or by making the overall national culture more open) then these immigrants will not seek separation. Nor will they remain in separate isolated enclaves but will become committed citizens.
Prima facie, this definition seems correct. It casts immigrants in a positive light through portraying them as deeply committed to their new country of citizenship. When subjected to further scrutiny however, this summary is revealed as an inadequate representation of the complexity that characterizes group relations and group identity in the world today.
The Category Immigrant Belies a Much Greater Complexity
First, the category “immigrant” in itself is problematic in a globalized world marked by increasing migration, increasingly multicultural cities and growing inequalities. Applying the word “immigrant” to the highly complex and diverse fabric of Canadian society is a misnomer to say the least. Indeed, properly speaking, all but the aboriginals are immigrants in Canadian society. When Kymlicka speaks about immigrant, the groups he is referring to are not people “just off the boat.” The Chinese in Canada who Kymlicka refers to when he speaks of immigrants (2001b, p. 160) have been in Canada long before Confederation, many of whom trace their ancestry back over several generations, and who number over 1 million (nearly the same size population as the Native Americans). The Jews in Europe and in North America are also certainly not “minority nations” but they can hardly be considered “immigrants” either, the same goes for other diaspora groups. The Turkish have lived in Germany without citizenship Germany in some cases for over three generations. Arabs in USA, although their numbers are increasing in proportion to the largely nonmigratory “European” population, can also hardly be considered immigrants as they were counted among Americas earliest settlers.
In an article in the book Multiculturalism in Asia, which Kymlicka co-edits, Kymlicka diversifies this category somewhat, by borrowing a term employed by Walzer, “Metic” to describe citizens without citizenship, long-term residents who lack citizenship rights and permanent residency. He describes this as a “heterogeneous category, including people who enter a country illegally…or as asylum-seekers…or as students or ‘guest-workers’ who have overstayed their initial visa” (Kymlicka, 2005, p. 28), yet apart from this Kymlicka devotes scant attention to the issue of those who fall within this category or beyond it and his other defined categorizations, which is rather strange given the political currency of migratory issues these days.
Indeed, a category “immigrants” belies the very diverse nature of our increasingly multicultural societies. Though the growth of “visible minorities” in North America in numbers in recent years is now making their presence felt more strongly (Kymlicka, 2001b, p. 187), the label “immigrants” does a great injustice to these long-seated communities, who stretch back in North America nearly as far as the early English and French (and indeed Spanish) colonizers. But the problematic of the term immigrant is not limited to North America by any means. Let us consider Eastern Europe for example, in Kosovo there are many long-seated “immigrants”, who have been living in the society for literally hundreds of years, some perhaps can trace their ancestry back on the lands earlier than the now dominant (and former national minority group) of ethnic Albanians. The difficulties that result from categorizing such groups as immigrants remain unaddressed by Kymlicka but should be a part of any attempts to move his theory further forward.
Unconvincing Distinction between Immigrant and Minority Nation
The difficulties in the term immigrant are further apparent in that the distinction Kymlicka draws between immigrant and minority nation is not always clear (Tamir, 1999b, pp. 78-9). In most places worldwide it is very difficult to define who are the “original” inhabitants of a land. As Jeremy Waldron says, unlike plants, people are not so easily defined as indigenous or non-indigenous (Waldron, 2003). Human beings are migratory and have been so since the dawn of time. The distinction that Kymlicka draws between minority nations (such as the Quebecois, or French-Canadians) and immigrants (such as the Chinese Canadians) is that the former had societal cultures prior to their integration into the majority nation. This is a somewhat arbitrary distinction based on a specific time in history; namely, the creation of the majority nation-state. Indeed, the argument boils down to a distinction between early settlers and more recent ones – based not on their presence but on their size and numbers. Yet it seems hardly in keeping with liberal fairness to accord someone rights on the basis that they were in the society longer than someone else.
Tamir points out that while Kymlicka’s distinction between immigrant and national minority may be tenable in Canada, it would be impossible to apply it to Middle Eastern, Asian, or African societies. She points out the incredibly diverse fabric and interweaving of Israeli and Palestinian society as case in point, as to how far-fetched it would be to try to apply these categories to them (Tamir, 1999b, pp. 78-9).63 Similarly, anthropologist John R. Bowen refers to wide-ranging literature on indigenous groups in Asia and Africa and suggests along with other authors that due to the complexity and closeness of the temporal gap between “indigenous” and “immigrants” it is nearly impossible to distinguish between them outside of the prototypical indigenous communities of the Americas (Bowen, 2000, p. 13). Kymlicka himself admits that while minority rights in the west have developed into “three parallel tracks”: rights for immigrants, national minorities, and indigenous peoples respectively, he nevertheless questions the applicability of such “categories” in an “African or Asian context”. As he points out, “On what basis could one divide the various ethnic groups in Indonesia into immigrants, national minorities and indigenous peoples? If we cannot identify universal categories of minority groups, can we identify universal minority rights?” (Kymlicka, 2001d, p. 21).
Immigrants can create a National Culture
The lines between “immigrant” and “minority nation” are further blurred because immigrants could become a national minority despite Kymlicka’s arguments to the contrary that immigrants cannot – nor have any interest – in doing so. Kymlicka says that societal cultures are very difficult to sustain and that only national minorities have enough “capacity and motivation” to engage in such an extensive project of nation-building. Immigrant groups are too dispersed, too few in numbers, often too impoverished, and further lack the political will to carry out the tremendous task of establishing separate political institutions, schools, hospitals, and media in their own language promoting their own version of history and of cultural values. For immigrants to create and sustain a societal culture, Kymlicka says “would require changes in virtually all areas of public policy and all political institutions”, a project that would be immensely “ambitious and arduous” (1997b, p. 51).
Societal cultures for immigrants are deemed “impractical” for Kymlicka. Kymlicka’s argument is this: national minorities are territorially concentrated and have had fully developed societal cultures (institutions, dispersed common language, etc.) prior to the intrusion of the state. Immigrants on the other hand are territorially dispersed, comparatively small groups for whom it would be difficult to unite into a common societal culture. In Kymlicka’s words, if they attempted to form any sort of societal culture they would inevitably "have a shadowy existence at the margins of society" (1997a, p. 76; 2001b, p. 54).
Yet, Israel is the perfect example of an immigrant society that did in fact create a vibrant and thriving societal culture. Israelis were not territorially concentrated, nor did they have any established societal institutions apart from religious ones (which had no overarching system in the way papacy ruled Catholicism) nor did they even have a language – they created all of these and came together to form a national home. The revival of Hebrew, says Chaim Rabin, was a political act (Rabin, 1996, p. 759).
Beyond “immigrants” creating their own societal cultures in the form of separate nation-states, other de facto movements are occurring towards creating separate institutional structures to promote cultures of minority groups in other places. Bhamra describes the situation of the Afro-Asian diasporas in Britain, wherein she says, “voluntary immigrants are recreating societal cultures, complete with their own institutional structures” (2007, p. 23). Bhamra believes that Kymlicka speaks against the ability or desire of immigrant communities to form societal cultures, not out of a true inability to do so, but out of a fear that they may (2007, p. 26). But to say that societal cultures are incapable of being formed, Bhamra argues, not only does not reflect societal realities, but is also philosophically unsupported.
Indeed, Kymlicka underplays the immigrant history of Quebec and even English Canada for that matter. If we go far back enough, both English and French Canadians were at one time immigrant cultures that established their own societal cultures without integrating into the then majority indigenous population’s traditions or institutions. Kymlicka however, states that this was colonization and is no longer accepted in today’s world. But if the nationalism of these earlier waves of immigrants was possible and is condoned still through national rights such as those which Kymlicka’s theory supports, then there seems to be no logical reason to assume that a separate national culture could not arise from amongst the other newer immigrant waves to North America, should there exist the political will on the part of the minorities themselves and the majority nation (with perhaps the additional support of the international community).
Using Kymlicka’s own argument: that he challenges anyone to deny a national minority its own societal culture when the majority gets to live in their own, we might also ask: if the majority (who were in many cases colonizers) were able to create their national culture despite the existence of other societal cultures (preexisting cultures of the aboriginal inhabitants) why should later groups of immigrants be denied the same thing? Particularly when land is scarce and territorial wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, why is redistribution or change in cultural boundaries now no longer permissive? If we condone the majority to continue living in this societal culture which they have created to the exclusion of the culture of the other original inhabitants, why should we not allow new groups to do the same?
Kymlicka’s answer to this is simply they do not wish it. But a better answer to this is that they are seeking rights and recognition and that to accomplish this what is needed is not a separate national framework emphasizing their particular cultural habits, but a more inclusive system that does not marginalize them on the basis of their particular cultural habits. But this leads us to a second point: the political will. Kymlicka identifies, correctly, a lack of will on the part of immigrant communities to form a separate nation. So while “immigrant” communities could indeed gain the financial and political resources necessary to institutionalise a separate national polity from the majority, they choose not to define themselves in national terms and accept integration with the majority.
Kymlicka is conflating two issues here, first, that immigrants are incapable of sustaining a societal culture (or separate nationalism), and second, that immigrants lack the political will to do so. The while the former argument has already been demonstrated as erroneous, the latter shows some merit. The Chinese in Canada could become a national minority. Kymlicka himself admits as much, stating that if the Chinese were to settle close to one another and “acquire self-governing powers” they could become national minorities in the same way the “English colonists [did] throughout the British Empire” (1997b, p. 59; 1998b, p. 37; 2001b, p. 160). The colonists, says Kymlicka, more than immigrants were national minorities because they “did not see themselves as ‘immigrants,’ since they had no expectation of integrating into another culture” (1998a, pp. 198-9). Yet, this seems to unfairly reward special privileges and status to those who refuse integration over those who choose (or have forced upon them) a more assimilatory approach to the majority.
Kymlicka distils the distinction between immigrants and colonizers (or those entitled to polyethnic: limited ethnic rights, vs. national minority: full ethnic rights) to a distinction between those who accept and those who refuse integration; but why should the latter group be rewarded rights and not the former group? It seems like an unfair distinction to draw – colonizers that refuse integration, enter on non-peaceable terms, impose their identity and later receive rights to reinforce this identity, while immigrants enter on peaceable terms and thus have theirs denied? (Kymlicka, 1998c, p. 171)64
As Melanie C. T. Ash says, “although Kymlicka acknowledges that colonialist/conquerors are technically ‘immigrants’, he nevertheless groups them with aboriginal nations”, which he categorizes separately from “voluntary immigrants” (2004, p. 401). She draws out a quote from Kymlicka’s book “Multicultural Citizenship” in which Kymlicka quotes Steinberg on the nature of the English colonists in America,
‘it is not really correct to refer to the colonial settlers as “immigrants”. They came not as migrants entering an alien society, forced to acquire a new national identity, but as a colonial vanguard that would create a new England in the image of the one they left behind.’ They distinguished themselves from the non-English colonials who ‘were typically regarded as aliens who were obliged to adapt to English rule in terms of both politics and culture’ (as cited in Kymlicka, 1995, p. 95).
On the basis of Steinberg’s assessment, Kymlicka asks whether it is really fitting to call newer waves of immigrants “colonialists” in this former sense and to support them in building their own societal cultures, to which he believes there is very little sense, since, as he has already said in other places, immigrants nowadays lack the motivation to do so (Kymlicka, 1995, p. 96). Ash expresses difficulty however that on the basis of the former group being a “colonial vanguard” (essentially exclusionary and coercive), that they be considered “founders of nations” and hence granted greater rights and recognition than later waves of immigrants who Kymlicka refers to only as ethnic groups or simply “immigrants” (Ash, 2004, p. 401).
Are we to reward cultural privileges on the basis of those who demand separation vs. those who choose integration? As Bhamra says, it is highly problematic that Kymlicka reduces “the cultural rights of voluntary immigrants to virtually nothing” (2007, p. 23), and indeed hypocritical that while he affirms through his theory the strong relevance of culture for our lives, it is precisely this which he denies to non-national ethnic minorities. “Ethnic groups are, therefore, penalized twice” she says, first on account of the difficult circumstance that drove them to migrate in the first place, and secondly by the “thinning of the rights they can claim” as a result of that migration (2007, p. 23).
The Quebecois and English Canadians on the other hand, did not integrate into the native American culture when they first immigrated to Canada but instead wanted to preserve their distinct traditions. Why should we deny future immigrants the same access to their roots – particularly if societal cultures are as critical to one’s liberty as Kymlicka claims they are? This would seem to reward acts of aggression and intolerance above tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Strangely, Kymlicka does not recognize this point, and even goes so far as to wildly suggest that, “it would in principle be possible to encourage Chinese immigrants today to view themselves as colonists” (italics mine); however, he says that modern public institutions, and multiculturalism policies in particular, have prevented the rise of such nationalist movements amongst the Chinese and other immigrant groups (1998a, pp. 198-9).65
Special Privileges given to Early Groups but not Later Ones
A part of Kymlicka’s definition of who is entitled to national minority status is that they had a pre-existing societal culture before the state was created. But does the fact that national minority groups were already present before the state had fully expanded and consolidated its borders entitle them to more rights than those who came later and had similar acts of injustice enacted upon them? Such as the complete disenfranchisement and racially-based internment of the Japanese population of Canada during World War II? Even without a history of violence against a particular group, Choudhry asks, is it fair to award rights and “establish different categories of citizenship on the basis of historical priority?” (2002, p. 56). Kymlicka acknowledges that special privileges were given to early Christian European immigrant groups in North America (such as the Amish or the Hutterites), but gives no discussion of similar rights for later groups. Oddly, Kymlicka himself denounces the trend of others not to accept accommodations for new immigrants but to accept those of these historical communities. As Kymlicka himself says,
One could argue that there is an element of racism in the way that many Americans and Canadians accept the historical accommodations made for these white Christian sects – accommodations that are genuinely separatist and marginalizing—while bitterly opposing the accommodations made for more recent nonwhite, non-Christian immigrant groups, even though these accommodations are integrationist (1998a, p. 205).
Yet, within this same article Kymlicka proceeds to say that there is no obligation for liberal states to allow the same status as these earlier “special” immigrant groups for newer ones. Kymlicka does not address the issue of such exceptional groups, but he does go into further detail as to why he believes national minorities should be entitled to separate societal cultures while immigrants must assimilate to the majority societal culture.
Cornell and Murphy offer an important argument that lends insight into the above discussion. They argue that if recognition is limited to “already-constituted identities” then “new formations of minority cultures can fall through the cracks”. Particularly, they are concerned with the already “official” and “dominant” cultures leveraging political and social institutions to deny newer cultures official status and recognition (Cornell & Murphy, 2002, p. 421). In a similar vein, Bannerji, when speaking of the politics of recognition and in particular the writings of Charles Taylor, says that he detects in such writings “a tone of impending cultural doom” as waves of new immigrants invade “our” societies (Bannerji, 2003, p. 41). This fear however is a recent development, says Bannerji, associated with the more recent empowerment of colonized peoples and the rise of democracies in former colonial regimes. In the past, “when ‘they’ lived among us as slaves, indentured workers or defeated peoples on reserves”, such ethnic minorities posed little challenge for us. The problem is now that they have “become politically significant and powerful”, which is seen by many in the west as a threat (Bannerji, 2003, p. 41), and I would add here a challenge to former models of assimilation and even Kymlickian “integration”.
On the “Voluntary” Nature of Immigration
For Kymlicka, there are three distinctive forms of multiculturalism that arise from majority nation-building. The first is marginalization, the second integration, and the third nationalist separatism. While most non-immigrant national minorities opt for nationalist separatism, the majority of immigrants opt for integration (Kymlicka, 1998a, p. 178).
Kymlicka identifies the disadvantages accruing to national communities from nation-building but not to other non-national minority groups. After all, it is a national definition that is being imposed, so it makes sense that only another national group would feel burdened by its imposition. While in some parts Kymlicka admits that it is difficult for immigrants to adapt to their new national culture, in other parts of his writings he speaks of integration as if they willingly leave their national culture. And yet elsewhere, Kymlicka concedes that “liberal democracies not only allow immigrants to integrate, they also pressure them to integrate” (2001c, p. 263) (italics mine).
In Kymlicka’s view, access to a secure societal culture allows individual freedom and autonomy. At the same time, Kymlicka says it is precisely this societal culture, which immigrant communities leave behind when they immigrate. For Kymlicka, since immigrants join the majority nation by choice and are not forcibly integrated into the society in the way that minority nations are, they therefore have less difficulties to leave behind their own societal cultures and to enter the new societal culture of the majority. As Kymlicka states, the reason immigrants integrate is that they “have voluntarily left their own culture with the expectation of integrating into another national society. That is just what it means to become an immigrant” (1998a, pp. 184-5) (italics mine). Since they no longer desire their original culture, these immigrants do not need to receive special privileges to help sustain it. Integration may be difficult and it may take several generations for the full transition from one societal culture to another to occur, but most immigrants willingly leave behind their societal culture to integrate into the majority national culture.
Indeed, the desire for integration on the part of “voluntary immigrants” is disputed by Bhamra who states in the case of post-war labour migrants to Britain, there is ample documentation that was never an expectation on the part of these groups to “integrate” or even assimilate, or even become accepted (recognized) by the dominant society, and yet they still decided to migrate (Bhamra, 2007, p. 24). Even if this first wave of immigrants through the “voluntary” nature of their migration did, in Kymlicka’s terms, “waiver” their “right to live and work in their own culture” (Kymlicka, 1995, p. 95), then there is still the problem of their children and the generations which followed them, who, as Bhamra reminds us, neither voluntarily gave up their culture, nor elected to leave their home country (Bhamra, 2007, p. 25).
Kymlicka is clearly basing his assumption that immigrants do not need a societal culture because they willingly choose to enter the main nation on the false premise that human migration is indeed a product of our choice and not of our circumstance. This is a highly naïve view of the difficult pulls and pushes in the global society which cause migratory currents, particularly with respect to refugee populations66. Moreover, this is a gross underestimation of world migration trends, which see an overwhelming disparity in the riches and stability of nations and the one-way migration stream leading talented individuals worldwide out of the developing world. Bannerji provides us with a far less Panglossian view than Kymlicka on the “voluntary” nature of immigration. “Wars, economic predations, and political destabilization”, says Bannerji, “have sent peoples of the third world and former communist countries all over the ‘developed’ world to look for shelter and survival” (2003, p. 36)67. Looking at these migratory trends and the modern nation-state, one immediately sees the tensions and awkwardness nationalist formulations have for responding to these growing issues. As Appadurai rightly remarks, one of the inherent difficulties faced by nation-states today, is “that the nationalist genie, never perfectly contained in the bottle of the territorial state, is now itself a diasporic” (1993, p. 798).
Yet with respect to refugees, Kymlicka feels that the only place that can redress their problems is an obligation on their home national government, the only one that can provide them with the secure societal culture they are entitled to (Kymlicka, 1995, p. 98). But is there no sense of justice unless it is a national one? Counter to his above statement about the sole ability of national governments to provide stable cultural contexts, Kymlicka then states that he believes “that rich countries have obligations of international justice to redistribute resources to poor countries; had we done so, perhaps she would not have faced this awful choice” (1995, p. 98). Kymlicka says that wealthy countries ought to feel compelled to redistribute their wealth to stem the tide of immigrants or “eliminate the need for labour migration” (Peled & Brunner, 2000, p. 73). Instead of accepting that perhaps his conclusions about the “voluntary” nature of immigration are ill-conceived, or that “immigrants” may warrant greater rights than his theory provides for, Kymlicka feels the solution is to be found in the lofty aspiration of redressing world imbalances (Choudhry, 2002, p. 64). Indeed, Kymlicka seems to think that if we can simply improve the conditions in the immigrant’s home country, then we would not be faced with this “problem” of immigrants adapting to a societal culture – one may presume because they would just stay back in their own land, since after all as Kymlicka says, the burden of providing a stable societal culture for an individual lies with his home nation.68
While undoubtedly most people would agree with Kymlicka on the need to stop the widening gap between rich and poor, a more cosmopolitan view would not need to tie this in to a reduction in immigration. Further, decreasing immigration is hardly a solution for addressing important minority issues faced within a country. Kymlicka has no commitment to group rights to preserve the culture of “immigrants”, only measures to facilitate their absorption into the mainstream. He does not consider at any length the many ways that absorption may entail marginalization, as it seems for Kymlicka that it is an inevitable and willing choice of immigrants to join the new culture, notwithstanding being relegated for a generation or two to a lower social standing. How does Kymlicka know that for the majority of immigrants this is considered “an acceptable trade-off”? (Kymlicka, 2001b, p. 288)
If we tie societal culture to liberal freedom, than is losing this freedom really an acceptable trade-off for inclusion in an overarching nationality that doesn’t reflect your culture? Is that not itself a variant of ethnic nationalism? Wanting to join a new society and be included and wanting to give up your previous culture are two different things. Kymlicka writes as if people are happy to adopt white-Anglo culture and indeed, as if Canadian citizenship entails precisely this. For Kymlicka, because immigrants want to become part of the new nation, they willingly accept the new societal culture of the majority nation, even if it will under-privilege them. But what about their children who had no choice to immigrate but may represent a minority cultural preference in the society, how can we justify denying them cultural rights, when we deem it fit for national minorities to have such cultural privileges?
Are some Citizens more Equal than Others?
Certainly, the issue of immigrants throws Kymlicka’s definition of societal culture into question. If societal culture is so pivotal for human freedom, how can Kymlicka theoretically justify support of societal cultures for national groups and not for other cultural groups? As Joppke points out, there is an irony that while debates on multiculturalism in the west are raging on the question of migration, it is precisely these “‘voluntary’ immigrants who have the weakest claim to cultural protection” (2004, p. 239). Choudhry similarly argues that “accounts like Kymlicka’s finesse or ignore the two different sets of policies adopted by liberal democracies”, which in a seemingly discriminatory fashion operate to selectively promote some cultures while inhibiting others (2002, p. 56). If societal cultures are critical to our human freedom, then in a sense migrants are “choosing” to lose their freedom when they leave the safe confines of their home national culture. If our societal culture is really crucial for our human freedom as Kymlicka says it is, then Kymlicka is basically conceding that the only people capable of having human freedom are in fact national majorities and national minorities, and anyone who cannot prove themselves to be a viable nation has to settle for less. Kymlicka after all does say that it is as if immigrants choose to live in “perpetual poverty” (1995, p. 86) when they leave their own native societal cultures. Are immigrants therefore to be less equal and less free?
Another aspect of Kymlicka’s definition of societal cultures that is particularly worrying is his insistence that “individual choice is dependent on the presence of a societal culture, defined by language and history, and that most people have a very strong bond to their own culture” (Kymlicka, 1995, p. 8). Again, freedom is being tied to history and language, in a subtle way undermining individualism and freedom itself. The preposterousness of this proposal is made clear when we consider the case of a refugee escaping from a war-torn country under authoritarian rule. The refugee arrives in a new country wherein the culture and the language are not his or her own, very different from all they knew and grew up with, and yet, they are eventually accorded full citizenship in this new country, secure a good job, and receive all the privileges of citizenship including voting rights69. Is this person really to be considered less free now because they are living in a culture that is not their own?
What about francophone communities living outside of Quebec, are they less free than those living inside Quebec? As Brian Walker points out, if we extrapolate from Kymlicka, a Montrealer in Toronto will feel disoriented and unable to make “intelligent judgements” from the lack of access to their societal culture, whereas someone from a rural village in Newfoundland living in Toronto would feel at home because in Ontario he is in the same “societal culture” as in Newfoundland (Walker, 1999, pp. 149-150).70 Yet freedom does not work in this way and is not in fact always tied so closely to secure “national” structures in the way Kymlicka says it is.
Finally, while indeed there are disadvantages to being a minority, being a cultural minority also has its advantages and is not always a life of “poverty” as Kymlicka says it is. Indeed, there are numerous advantages to coming from a cultural perspective distinct from the majority: new insights, a more objective view, and new ways of thinking. In contrast to the writings of Kymlicka, Bhikhu Parekh’s sensitive writings on the topic of racial equality and multiculturalism emphasize the importance of exposure to diverse cultures for helping us to understand our own cultures and indeed form a better picture of all humanity71. As fellow UK scholar Tariq Modood describes Parekh’s thought,
It is a meta-ethical commitment to the cultural diversity that constitutes humanity, an understanding of humanity that eludes every culture but is glimpsed in the dialogue between cultures. It is an understanding of humanities that is much bigger than any ‘-ism’, that is hinted at in Oakeshott’s ‘conversation of mankind’ (Modood, 2001, p. 247).
In this respect, we might even say that immigrants, to the extent that they are forced to live in multiple spheres of identity and engage in dialogue with other cultures are the ones who are more liberated than their non-immigrant counterparts because of the objectivity, the multiple perspectives, and the enhanced ability for self-reflection that their mobility between cultures affords them.
Finally, why does Kymlicka suppose it is easier for an immigrant to adjust than national minority? If we are simply limiting ourselves to a cultural argument, as Kymlicka bases his theory on, then it seems hard to justify why one cultural group should have access to their home and stable societal culture (minority nations), while another group (of immigrants for example) should not. I believe that this is where Kymlicka’s cultural argument fails us. To say simply, well, it seems that the immigrants see no problem with integration while national minorities do, is not an adequate answer. At root, there is a failing here in Kymlicka’s definition of societal cultures and their importance for our human freedom (Choudhry, 2002, p. 62). Immigrants (or other non-white Anglo communities) adapt to their new societies when they are given adequate recognition and inclusiveness (not assimilation or exclusion). This recognition and inclusivity means exactly what Kymlicka’s theory sets forth to explain – the ability to make cultural choices dear to them, to choose to live by a particular religion or hold a certain worldview, even if it differs from the power-holding majority. At bottom, minorities aim to feel respected for their differences and for the richness that these differences contribute to the whole, and for the strengthening of democracy by virtue of their non-conformity and involvement in an ongoing dialogue about justice and fairness.