Review of Will Kymlicka’s Multicultural Citizenship

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28 Emil Fackenheim points out an ambiguity in Kantian moral freedom, on the one hand man is free to act as he chooses but his will is determined by the moral principle, yet in other places Kant emphasizes man is free to choose evil. “The free or autonomous will liberates itself from the domination of inclination, and determines itself toward obedience to the moral law” (Fackenheim, 1996, pp. 24-26). “Kant has tried to understand moral freedom by viewing man as subject to two laws: the laws of nature governing his inclinations, and the moral law governing his will” (1996, p. 26).

29 See Rawls, 1971, p. 269 for his account of the prisoner’s dilemma.

30 Bader and Engelen chastise that Rawls’s “difference principle” betrays a gross naivety on his part, for its “gross neglect of the political consequences of socio-economic inequalities” (Bader & Engelen, 2003, 389).

31 Similarly, Deveaux argues that “cultural groups that seek special constitutional status would be prevented by neutral liberalism’s deliberative constraints from appealing their community’s distinct traditions, language, history, and ways of life to justify their political claims and proposals” (Deveaux, 2000, p. 94). Further, many minorities political demands are precisely for addressing the issues of marginalization which they face, which Deveaux argues cannot be “articulated in terms of reasons that are sufficiently neutral” (Deveaux, 2000, p. 95).

32 Rainer Forst disagrees with the normative basis of Kymlicka’s theory. He argues that instead of grounding multicultural justice on the notion of personal autonomy and culture as an important context of choice, we should instead be founding our concept on the premise of what he terms, “moral autonomy” and culture as a necessary “context of identity”. In doing so, Forst hopes to avoid some of Kymlicka’s pitfalls, such as the inadequately answered question regarding why the culture that is important to me is the one I was born into (and did not in any way choose) (Forst, 1997, pp. 66-7).

33 See also Judith Shklar for a critique of Walzer’s view (Shklar, 1998, p. 380).

34 See Lehman (2002) for an analysis of anti-globalisation trends in communitarianism more generally and in Charles Taylor’s thought in particular.

35 As cultural lines are never distinct, there are always grey areas between “minority” and “majority” cultures that overlap in tradition and language. The large English-speaking population in Montreal, Quebec is just one example. If English speakers were to gain in number and start insisting on the dual English character of Quebec society, there are many French-speaking members (particularly from other areas within the province outside of Montreal) who would be concerned that this would negatively affect Quebec’s claim to be a distinct society apart from the rest of Canada.

36 For Kymlicka, it is a requirement of a liberal society to schoolchildren not only in their own traditions but also in other ways of life by providing free access to information. “These aspects of a liberal society only make sense on the assumption that revising one’s ends is possible, and sometimes desirable, because one’s current ends are not always worthy of allegiance” (1995, p.82).

37 A clear example of this is the people of the Hilltribes (‘chao khao’) in Thailand. As Mika Toyota says, “recognition” in this case essentialized culture such that “the rhetoric of ethnic distinctions” becomes justified and minorities can becomes trapped “in the representation of ‘the isolated noble savage’, something that is far from the reality [they live in]” (Toyota, 2005, p. 135).

38 Many feminists however are against such measures and find that group rights may lead to repressive conditions for those traditionally oppressed within minority group societies. If women hoping for change wish to appeal to override traditional structures that disempower them, such group rights as those which Kymlicka and the communitarians propose may make it much more difficult for women in the society to advocate change. Kymlicka wishes to override this problem, by saying that such individual members may then appeal to the wider community outside of the group – such as the Canadian or American government; however, it is not clear what benefit this would lead to if the larger government had a mandate of non-interference with the sub-group.

39 Communitarians, by contrast, might argue that this would be considered an unfair outside imposition on a fragile cultural group, which may threaten the structure and values that compose the minority society and therefore should not be allowed.

40 The risk here, from a feminist perspective, as described by leading feminist author Susan Okin in a paper entitled, “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?” is that the majority of ethnic group claims relate to “personal law” – affecting areas typically affecting the domestic sphere such as right to divorce, marriage, inheritance, property, etc. As Okin says, most scholars on group rights, including Kymlicka, ignore the differences within minority cultures and therefore fail to address the fact that all cultural claims are in fact “gendered”. This is an unrealistic assessment of minority rights says Okin, for the majority of ethnic group claims center around difficult questions which negatively affect women such as clitoridectomy, forced marriage, child marriage, denial of divorce rights, purdah, and polygamy. Thus, by providing group rights the freedom and equality of women within the minority culture may be diminished.

41 Kymlicka speaks for example about indigenous land rights. The value of the land is of extreme importance for the Native Americans because it allows them to maintain their traditional lifestyle of hunting. If their preference is unfulfilled they will be at a considerable disadvantage for seeking the "good life" vs. the relatively low disadvantage of the majority who would use the land for forest harvesting or development (Kymlicka, 1995, p.43; see also Kymlicka, 1989, p. 147).

42 A critique of the concept of “societal culture” will be explored in Part Three.

43 As Kymlicka says, the most “relevant” society is one’s nation.

44 Kymlicka uses the term nation and culture synonymously in his writings.

45 Politics for Kymlicka is always “politics in the vernacular” (Kymlicka, 2001b), those who can talk the political talk and gain advantage are those whose political language is their own tongue, arising from their own historical development.

46 I would add here, often in violent opposition to it in many places worldwide.

47 National minorities represent a more significant threat to the legitimacy and stability of the nation than immigrants do because they do not feel committed to the state and as Kymlicka says “wish to weaken the bonds of the political community” (1998c, p. 174-5).

48 As Kymlicka says, it is obvious that these groups see themselves as nations from their own self-labels as “First Nations” and the naming of the Quebec “National Assembly” (Kymlicka, 1995, pp. 196-7).

49 Canada has three national groups: English speaking (the majority of Canadians), the Quebecois (the French speaking minority primarily located in the province of Quebec), and the First Nations (an amalgam of Canada’s many aboriginal peoples, distributed territorially throughout the country but also geographically situated on many aboriginal reserves (also known as bands) across the country).

50 A backlash is often felt by immigrants from the majority culture – such as against the Sikh request for exemption from traditional headgear of national police force – considered by some as an insult to a revered “national symbol”, yet “[t]he fact that Sikh men wanted to be part of Canada’s national police force is ample evidence of their desire to participate in and contribute to the larger society, and the exemption they were requesting should be seen as promoting, not discouraging, their integration.” (Kymlicka, 1998a, p. 203).

51 Polyethnic rights are not described in great detail by Kymlicka other than a general description that they exempt immigrants from laws that disadvantage them and that they are aimed at making the overall system more fair. He cites some examples of what such laws would look like, such as “revision of history and curriculum to give recognition to cultural groups, bilingual education, “institutional adaptation”. Institutional adaptation includes revision of work schedules, dress codes, holidays to accommodate religious practices, prohibition of racism in workplace, guidelines for media to prevent stereotyping and defamation, public information campaigns (against racism and cultural diversity training for government employees), cultural development programs (funding for ethnic festivals, ethnic studies programs), affirmative action (preferential treatment of minorities in education, training, employment), language classes in the immigrant’s mother tongue. (Kymlicka, 1995, p. 6; 1998a, p. 197). For a fuller discussion on Kymlicka’s treatment of polyethnic rights and immigrants see Chapter 4.

52 As Kymlicka says, “some people use ‘multicultural’ in an even broader way, to encompass a wide range of non-ethnic social groups which have, for various reasons, been excluded or marginalized from the mainstream of society…such as the disabled, gays and lesbians, women, the working class, atheists, and Communists…I am using culture (and ‘multicultural’) in a different sense. My focus will be on the sort of ‘multiculturalism’ which arises from national and ethnic differences…I am using ‘a culture’ as synonymous with ‘a nation’ or ‘a people’” (1995, p. 17-18).

53 See Kymlicka (1998b, 106-9) for a discussion of group representation and (1998b, pp. 142-3) for a discussion of assymetry in Canadian federalism.

54 Kymlicka too acknowledges the importance of our ability to modify our culture; indeed, it is one of the central arguments of his theory, but this argument is not mirrored throughout the rest of his writings and remains really isolated to his mentioning of the reasons why culture is valuable for our freedom and why we need to prevent internal restrictions.

55 This is very similar to the view of nation by Anthony D. Smith, whose theory is explained in Chapter 5.

56 A term which Taylor himself rejects as inherently discriminating (see Bouchard & Taylor, 2008, p. 202).

57 Kymlicka associates himself with Tamir among other scholars who define themselves as Liberal Nationalists, an overview of their theories is presented in Chapter five.

58 Of course they are not discrete, borders are never thick.

59 For example, the over 500 year old Catholic University of Leuven which had been run entirely in French though in Flemish territory was subject to a number of nearly unresolved disputes and an entirely new campus for French had to be established in Wallonia as the university came under Flemish control.

60 Kymlicka himself concedes that despite the presence of territorially concentrated minorities, the majorities in the ECE are very hesitant to concede autonomy to these groups.

61 It is an intractable situation, such as that of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where both national groups have labeled Jerusalem as their capital and both identify the wider territory in question as critical to their cultural and physical survival. We have a similar intractable circumstance in Belgium where Brussels is predominantly French-speaking surrounded by a Flemish-speaking land cut off from other friendly “co-national” Walloons (French-Belgians). The tensions towards the large English-speaking population in Montreal surrounded by an otherwise primarily French-speaking province is another case in point.

62 If we consider liberalism to be the amount I can flail my arms around until it reaches my brother’s nose, then we are pretty much fine so long as “my brother” and I have a big backyard with plenty of room to move and run around in. But what happens when we have to share a bed in the nursery? Incidences of getting hurt are inevitably higher. It is these circumstances - of being in bed together - that Kymlicka’s theory fails to address.

63 As Tamir says, “Are Israeli Jews an immigrant or a national group? The same question could be asked with regard to the Palestinians, and if one looks back a century or two, with regard to most national groups.”(Tamir, 1999b, p. 78-79).

64 As Kymlicka says of immigrants, “The experience to date suggests that first- and second-generation immigrants who remain proud of their heritage are also among the most patriotic citizens of their new countries. Moreover, their strong affiliation with their new country seems to be based in large part on its willingness not just to tolerate, but to welcome, cultural differences” (1998c, p. 171).

65 This is not particularly true however, there are numerous Chinese language associations, and indeed, in the province of British Columbia, which has the strongest concentration of Chinese-Canadians, Mandarin Chinese is recognized as an official language alongside English and French.

66 It excludes, for example, consideration of the reported 1.2 million refugees along the Rwandan borders or both Tanzania and Zaire, which fed the 1996-7 Zairean War (Adelman & Rao, 2004).

67 The icy reception with which these developed nations have received these guests and new citizens has been marked by “colonial histories and discourses, by lingering cold-war thoughts, by racist stereotypes or ‘otherised’ representational images’ (Bannerji, 2003, p. 36).

68 But if that is the case, then by the same logic should we not deny national minority rights to the Quebecois, and insist that only France – their mother nation – ought to provide them with their rights? Why do new immigrants not warrant our protection of their societal culture, while older waves do?

69 At the start of 2011, there are approximately 10.4 million refugees worldwide that fall under the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The 1951 Refugee Convention describes a refugee as a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." As the UNHCR website states, since refugees have no protection from their home countries, “if other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights” (UNHCR, 2011).

70 More dangerously, if we begin to apply this line of thinking Y in our national policies – if we want freedom for all, then should we not transfer all French speakers to Quebec and all English speakers out of Quebec? Although this sounds extreme, ethnic transfer in “the name of freedom” and cultural purity is a dangerous and very real threat in many countries worldwide.

71 Modood has served on the UK Commission for Racial Equality, 1985-90. Source:

72 In fact, if we can focus on immigrant communities alone (cultural minorities extend beyond this label) many immigrant communities have a stronger drive to maintain their cultural distinctiveness from the dominant culture than other “minority nations”. Even Kymlicka acknowledges that Quebecois became more culturally similar to the rest of Canada after the Quiet Revolution than previously as the same time that they began to become more vociferous about demanding their rights and separation from the rest of Canada.

73 Further insights may be had by looking towards Asian values as well. In a study that contains insightful revelations into Hindu and Buddhist traditions, Feminist author Luce Irigaray outlines how in the East, ethical traditions focused much more on cross-cultural “between-traditions” as opposed to the homogenizing tendencies of the West. Dallmayr suggests that this can be extended to the Far East as well, in particular in learning from Confucianism. He cites Tu Wei-Ming who has pointed out the dyadic (or “differential”) relationships marked by the Confucian tradition wherein a balance of mutual trust and friendship is sought as “resonating with Irigaray’s differential respect” (Dallmayr, 2003, p. 433).

74 Source: Minority Rights Group International, 2011.

75 The argument disregards socio-economic considerations and internal colonization of the indigenous peoples of North America, and instead places the sources of the problems they face on a lack of a “secure cultural” setting and lack of adequate cultural role models as compared ostensibly to suburban youth in other mainstream North American cities.

76 First Prime Minister of Canada

77 Beiner points out that Bernard Yack offers a variation on Andersen’s statement which is more to the point, “there are no great theoretical texts outlining and defending nationalism. No Marx, no Mill, no Machiavelli. Only minor texts by first rate thinkers, like Fichte, or major texts by second rate thinkers, like Mazzini” (1999, p. 2). Beiner does not try to explain why no one has theorized nationalism before (though he does suggest others find it “involves too much local mythmaking” rooted in particulars to yield the universalistic conceptions needed for “articulation of a coherent political philosophy [of nation]”). His work can be seen as an attempt to fill the gap and ask the difficult theoretical questions about nation which have not been asked before.

78 See: Connor, “Nationalism and Political Illegitimacy”, (1980), Breuilly Nationalism and the State (1982), Gellner Nations and Nationalism (1983), Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983), Hobsbawm, The Invention of Tradition (1983), Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (1987), Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence (1987), Bhabha, Nation and Narration (1990), Greenfield, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (1992), Tamir, Liberal Nationalism (1993), Pfaff, The Wrath of Nations, (1994), Billig, Banal Nationalism (1995), Miller, On Nationality (1995), Ignatieff, Blood and Belonging (1995), Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed (1996), Canovan, Nationhood and Political Theory (1996), Nairn, Faces of Nationalism, (1997), Guibernau, Nations without States (1999), Beiner, Theorizing Nationalism (1999). Seymour, The Fate of the Nation State (2004), The scope of this thesis prevents a full survey of their works, however the leading authors and trends will be covered in the following pages.

79 See for example MacInyre, After Virtue (1981), Bellah, Habits of the Heart (1985), Etzioni, The Spirit of Community (1993), Walzer, Thick and Thin (1994), Margalit, The Decent Society (1996), Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent (1998), Putnam, Bowling Alone (2000), Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (2004)

80 Gilligan, In a Different Voice (1982), Frye, The Politics of Reality (1983), Iragaray, This Sex Which is Not One (1985), Pateman, The Sexual Contract (1988), Taylor, Sources of the Self (1989), Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (1990), Gutmann, Multiculturalism (1994), Fraser, Justice Interruptus, (1997) Butler, Gender Trouble (1999), Connolly, Identity\Difference (2002),

81 The prevailing idea that a wave of nationalist conflict was unleashed by the end of the Cold War is disputed by Aryes, who uses datasets to examine violent nationalist conflicts before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. As Aryes says, while new nationalist conflicts were introduced following the Cold War, they were outnumbered by those that were peacefully negotiated. (Ayres, 2000, p.115). This is also reaffirmed by Gurr who also noted a decrease in violence and increasing management of ethno-political conflict through a politics of accomodation. (Gurr, Harff, & Marshall, 1993, p. 275).

82 Fukyama foreshadowed in Hegelian fashion that we had reached the final progression of human political ideologies with the rise of liberalism, which he projected would spread following the collapse of communism (in both political and economic form) throughout the world.

83 The works of the Liberal Nationalists (covered in Ch 6) are case in point.

84 Where Kymlicka and Gellner differ however, is that Gellner considers nationalism to have been a diffusion of high culture from the elites to the masses. Kymlicka sees the process of nationalism as a two-way diffusion, on the one hand exposing the masses to elite culture, but simultaneously exposing the elite to the culture of the masses. As Kymlicka says, nationalism “involves exposing working-class children to the high culture of the elites, it also involves exposing upper-class children to the popular culture of the masses” (2003, p. 269).

85 See for example Connor (1993), Smith (1995), Smith (1998).

86 Kymlicka detracts from his own argument here however in admitting that this leveling of the classes, particularly with respect to its cultural aspects, did not fully occur and that there are still broad cultural divides along class lines, including the fact he states that the upper “affluent” classes still prefer tennis over lower-class choices for wrestling and tabloids (Kymlicka, 2003, 269).

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