Will Kymlicka

Multicultural Citizenship: A New Theory of Minority Rights


Chapter 2: The Politics of Multiculturalism [10]

Two “broad patterns of cultural diversity”:

  1. National minorities
    These are groups that have been incorporated into a larger state, often by conquest (for example, American Indian tribes).  They typically want to maintain autonomy to survive as distinct societies.
  2. Ethnic groups
    “Loose associations” of people who have immigrated.  For example, the Arab communities in Dearborn.  They “typically wish to integrate into the larger society, and to be accepted as full members of it” [10-11].  For example, many Arab immigrants label themselves as white, and frown on any in their number speaking Arabic in public.


1. Multination States and Polyethnic States [11]

Multination States [11]

States can contain more than one nation (which makes them Multination states rather than nation-states),

where ‘nation’ means a historical community, more or less institutionally complete, occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and culture.

According to Kymlicka, the terms people (as in “a people”) and culture are often used synonymously with nation in this sense [although he has also used the word “culture” as part of the definition of nation].  In multination states, the smaller cultures form national minorities.  Examples of national minorities in the US, all of which were involuntarily incorporated, their special political statuses, and language rights

American Indians (each tribe is a different one)

Recognized as ‘domestic independent nations’ – own governments, courts, treaty rights


Puerto Ricans



Spanish is the sole official language

Chicanos (descendants of the original Mexican inhabitants of Texas, NM and CA, annexed by the US after the Mexican War of 1846-8)



Language rights given by the 1848 Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, but broken after Anglophone settling

Native Hawaiians


Hawaiian has equal status with English

The Chamorros of Guam


Guam is a ‘Protectorate’

Chamorro has equal status with English

Various other Pacific Islanders





Classic example of a European ‘multination state’ – Switzerland.  The Swiss have a strong sense of common loyalty, despite their cultural and linguistic (three official languages) divisions.  But this doesn’t make Switzerland a nation-state: distinguish between patriotism (allegiance to the state) and national identity (sense of membership in a national group).  Different Swiss are members of different nations, but all support Switzerland, because  it recognizes the distinct nations.  (A more recent example: in Lebanon, Christians and Muslims both marched together to demand to get Syrian troops out.  Both groups identified as Lebanese, even as they have very strong cultural differences.)


Immigration [13]

Until the 1960s, immigrants to the three biggest immigrant countries, the US, Australia and Canada, had to fit the ‘Anglo-conformity’ model (AKA the ‘melting pot’), and groups seen as ‘unassimilable’ (for example, Chinese in Canada) were denied entry.  (Canada’s ‘ethnic mosaic’ was really just two melting pots – English and French.)

Immigrants are not nations, do not have homelands.  Their distinctiveness is through family lives and voluntary associations, and is consistent with assimilation.  Even though they have rejected assimilation, they do not want to set up a parallel society.  They are ethnic groups, and nations that contain them exhibit polyethnicity.

(Immigrants can form nations – as colonists typically do.  But it is usually only in that case of conquering.)


pp. 15-17: discussion of the different kinds of Hispanic Immigrants and their different goals and opportunities.  Cuban refugees and Mexican illegal workers are special groups who do not intend to stay, and thus have no incentive to integrate.


The US (like many other countries) is both multination (because of Indians, Puerto Rico, et. al.) and polyethnic (because of Arabs, Chinese, other immigrants). 


Definition of “multicultural” [17]

Kymlicka argues that multicultural is either too vague, because it lumps together multination and polyethnic, or used too broadly to include non-ethnic social groups, like the disabled, gays and lesbians, et. al.  This dispute over the breadth of the term stems from disagreements over definitions of culture.  In the “most localized” meaning of “culture,” that is

the distinct customs, perspectives, or ethos of a group or association

these groups are cultures.  In contrast, in the widest sense of culture,

all of the Western democracies share a common ‘culture’—that is, they all share a modern, urban, secular, industrialized civilization, in contrast to the feudal, agricultural, and theocratic world of our ancestors. [18]

Kymlicka uses ‘culture’ as synonymous with ‘people’ and ‘nation,’ that is, as

an intergenerational community, more or less institutionally complete, occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and history.

Doesn’t this unfairly benefit groups that happen to have a homeland?  If anything, they’re already better off than groups that don’t, so why should they get extra rights?  Kymlicka’s response:

An adequate theory of the rights of cultural minorities must therefore be compatible with the just demands of disadvantaged social groups, and I hope to show that my theory meets this test. [19]

So, we must keep distinct three groups: national minorities, ethnic groups, and ‘new social movements’ – e.g., Gays, the disabled, the poor, women, et. al.


Is the distinction recognized?  No, it is often confused, as in Nathan Glazer’s New World/Old World contrast.  He thinks of the second as multinational and the first as polyethnic.  However, both are both.  In fact, the governments of the US, various South American countries and Australia and New Zealand fought to be classified as purely “immigrant nations” so that they did not have to recognize the rights of their indigenous national minorities.  This allowed great abuses:

Brazil has been particularly insistent in its claims that it has no national minorities, and the decimation of its Indian tribes is dangerously close to making that claim true. [21]

National groups not defined by race or descent [22]

Obvious example: the linguistic community of Quebec, which actively seeks immigrants from French-speaking nations in Africa and the Caribbean.  Some national groups have defined themselves in “blood” terms – for example the Germans (Russian ethnic Germans have automatic citizenship, but third-generation Turks never used to – this is changing, though).

Kymlicka’s view of how it should work:

National membership should be open in principle to anyone, regardless of race or colour, who is willing to learn the language, and history of the society and participate in its social and political institutions. [23]

BUT: why should they have to assimilate into the culture?


The case of African-Americans [24]


2. Three Forms of Group-Differentiated Rights [26]


1.     Self-Government Rights [27] – not seen as temporary
According to the UN Charter, “all peoples have the right to self-determination”
In Kymlicka’s terms, that means national minorities.  But what kind of determination?  Possibilities:
federalism, as with Quebec in Canada.  Is federalism in effect in the US?  Not for national minorities in the contiguous states.  In fact, “a deliberate decision was made not to accept any territory as a state unless these national groups were outnumbered” either by re-drawing boundaries (Florida) or waiting to grant statehood until enough Anglophones where settled (Hawaii, the Southwest).  Where the national minority couldn’t be outnumbered (Puerto Rico, Guam, new non-federal political units were created (‘commonwealth’, ‘protectorate’)

2.     Polyethnic Rights [30] – not seen as temporary, but intended to promote integration
From anti-racism demands to exemptions from laws that disadvantage them (helmet laws for Sikhs, no-Sunday hours for Jews and Muslims

3.     Special Representation Rights [31]
These apply to the third group, ‘new social movements’, as well as national minorities and ethnic groups.  They include primarily a demand for proportionate representation amongst political representatives of racial, ethnic, sex-and-gender-based, ability-based groups.
If seen as a response to oppression, then these are viewed as temporary, but as a corollary to self-government, they wouldn’t be.


Chapter 3: Individual Rights and Collective Rights [34]


1. Internal Restrictions and External Protections [35]

Internal Restrictions:

·         the claims of a group against its own members

·         intended to protect the group against the destabilizing effect of internal dissent

·         “the ethnic or national group may seek the use of state power to restrict the liberty of its own members in the name of group solidarity”

·         For Kymlicka, used to refer to cases where the “basic civil and political liberties of group members are being restricted” [36] (i.e., not just things like jury duty)

·         can and do exist in culturally homogenous societies

External Protections:

·         the claims of a group against the larger society

·         intended to protect the group against the impact of external decisions

·         “the ethnic or national group may seek to protect its distinct existence and identity by limiting the impact of the decisions of the larger society” [36]

·         only arise in multinational or polyethnic states

I will argue that liberals can and should endorse certain external protections, where they promote fairness between groups, but should reject internal restrictions which limit the right of group members to question and revise traditional authorities and practices. [37]

The three kinds of rights from Chapter 2, section 2 can be used to provide external restrictions:

  1. Self-government rights:
    When the group is in a smaller political unit, it can’t be outvoted on issues of importance to the group
  2. Polyethnic rights:
    Can protect cultural practices not supported by the free market (e.g., Welsh Language TV) or exempt groups from practices of the dominant culture (Sunday closing for Muslims or Jews)
  3. Special Representation Rights:
    Mean that groups won’t be ignored on the state-wide stage

Two of the three can be used to impose internal restrictions:

  1. Self-government rights:
    Indian tribes want to be exempted from the Bill of Rights and UN Charters.  This could be innocuous (Tribes claim the rights are too individualistic, and undermine traditional consensual decision-making practices) or not (Pueblo Indians denying housing rights to converted Protestants [40])
  2. Polyethnic rights:
    Allowing withdrawal of children from school (Amish) or potentially wife-beating, or even clitoridectomy.

These are, in general, unacceptable.  But existing exemptions are not a result of recent multiculturalism, but rather a holdover from past practices.  We don’t allow exemptions for Arabic or Asian cultures.  Thus, recent claims that multiculturalism hurts (e.g.) women in minority groups do not hold up – they have led to external protections instead.

Problem cases:

·         Group Libel:
The Salman Rushdie affair led Muslims to ask for such a rule, but it could be used to punish blasphemy or apostasy within the group.

·         Indigenous Land Rights:
It is true that a very effective way to break up smaller cultures has been to refuse to recognize collective property and insist that each member owns private property.  So insisting that Indigenous People get group rights is an external protection.  But it can also work as an internal restriction because owning land is a source of private wealth for individuals.

Examples of good and bad from Canada [44]

·         Good external protections: fishing rights

·         Bad internal restrictions: man kidnapped and forced to undergo painful initiation ceremony


2. The Ambiguity of ‘Collective Rights’ [45]

The label of ‘collective rights’ is used to smear rights associated with groups with the implication that they are opposed to individual rights (and therefore illiberal).  A better term is group-differentiated rights, which can be attributed to, and used by, individuals.  Examples of group-differentiated rights, and the various entities, including individuals, which can exercise them:

·         Right of francophones in Canada to use French in federal courts [right of individuals]

·         Right of francophones to have their children educated in French schools [exercised by individuals but ‘only where numbers warrant’]

·         Special hunting and fishing rights of indigenous peoples [exercised by tribe/band]

·         Right of the Quebecois to preserve and promote their culture [exercised by the province of Quebec, which has non-francophones too]


Chapter 5: Freedom and Culture [75]


1. Defining Cultures [76]

“Culture” has been used in a myriad of ways, so Kymlicka proposes to concentrate on what he calls societal cultures, which involve “not just shared memories or values but also common institutions and practices.”

Dworkin: the members of a culture have “a shared vocabulary of tradition and convention.”

K: “In the case of a societal culture, this shared vocabulary is the everyday vocabulary of social life, embodied in practices covering most areas of human activity.”  That is, the culture is expressed in the institutions (public holidays, education, form of government, et al) of the society.

Immigrants do not have “institutionally complete” societal cultures, in particular because English is the language of public life, and so by the third generation at the latest, immigrant families are by necessity and desire more-or-less fully integrated.

This is not true of national minorities, however (e.g., native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Inuits, et al) because they had institutions before the Europeans arrived.

“In short, for a culture to survive and develop in the modern world, given the pressures towards the creation of a single common culture in each country, it must be a societal culture.”


2. Liberalism and Individual Freedom [80]

Given that people make imprudent decisions, why shouldn’t the government intervene and prevent us from choosing the wrong plan of life?

a)     governments may not be trustworthy

b)     some individuals have idiosyncratic needs

c)      supporting controversial conceptions of the good may lead to civil strife

d)     paternalism does not work: lives do not go better “led from the outside” [Dworkin’s endorsement constraint]

In fact, there are 2 preconditions for leading a good life (according to liberalism):

1.     “that we lead our life from the inside, in accordance with our beliefs about what gives value to life” [choice and negative freedom to pursue one’s choice]

2.     “that we be free to question those beliefs, to examine them in light of whatever information, examples, and arguments our culture can provide” [revisability]

(1) requires privacy and opposition to ‘enforcement of morals’.  Religious parallel is freedom to choose and pursue one’s religion.

(2) requires education (about the various options) and freedom of expression.  Religious parallel is freedom of individual to question church doctrine (heresy) and to convert (apostasy), and freedom of various faiths to recruit (proselytization).

Mustn’t forget about (2): “It is all too easy to reduce individual liberty to the freedom to pursue one’s conception of the good.  But in fact much of what is distinctive to a liberal state concerns the forming and revising of people’s conceptions of the good, rather than the pursuit of those conceptions once chosen.”


3. Societal Cultures as Context of Choice [82]

How does this liberal conception of freedom relate to membership in societal cultures?

Put simply, freedom involves making choices amongst various options, and our societal culture not only provides these options, but also makes them meaningful to us. [83]

To be able to make a choice about a plan of life, one must first grasp its meaning, and our culture is what provides such meanings: it “provides the spectacles through which we identify experiences as valuable” [Dworkin – sounds like Boas’s Kulturbrille]

That means that cultures have instrumental value because they promote the liberty of individuals, and thus must be protected from “structural debasement or decay”

THUS: one can make a case for a “distinctively liberal defense of certain group-differentiated rights” - that is, a commitment to individual freedom can (somewhat paradoxically) demand that cultures be protected against the kind of destruction that sometimes follows from the free action of individuals.


1.     Does choice require access to one’s own culture (which would demand protecting minority cultures and multiculturalism), or just any culture (which would be compatible with assimilation)? [answered in section 4]

2.     If the former, should immigrant groups be given the rights and resources necessary to recreate their own societal cultures?

3.     What if a culture is illiberal, e.g., if it limits women to the home? [see section 5, “Hard Cases”]


4. The Value of Cultural Membership [84]

Q: What’s so special about YOUR OWN culture?  If access to culture is important, why not let minority cultures disintegrate so long as we ensure that their members have access to the majority culture?

A: “This sort of proposal treats the loss of one’s culture as similar to the loss of one’s job.”  BUT Movement between cultures is

1.     RARE.  Remember we’re talking about societal cultures (see section 1): to really move between them you can’t just sample different cultures (Chinese food, Cuban cigars, Brazilian music, French wine, etc.) you have to be able to move to a society whose institutions embody a particular culture and integrate fully.

2.     DIFFICULT.  (Difficulty varies according to age and distance between cultures)

In this sense, the choice to leave one’s culture can be seen as analogous to the choice to take a vow of perpetual poverty and enter a religious order.  It is not impossible to live in poverty [but]... [l]eaving one’s culture, while possible, is best seen as renouncing something to which one is reasonably entitled.  This is a claim, not about the limits of human possibility, but about reasonable expectations. [86]

Q: Why are the bonds of language and culture so strong for most people?  This is particularly pressing in a liberalized culture, which may be very similar in important respects to several other cultures.

Example of QUEBECOIS [87-8]: liberalization (the “Quiet Revolution”) has led to a greater diversity among the Québécois, while at the same time a greater similarity with other diverse cultures (in particular Anglophone Canada, BUT now there is a greater drive towards Quebec independence than before and “[m]any of the liberal reformers in Quebec have been staunch nationalists” [88]


Margalit and Raz’s explanation of the bonds:

1.     role of cultural membership in self-identity

2.     belonging-not-achievement makes national identity particularly suited to be “the primary foci of identification” because it’s secure

This means that if a culture is not generally respected, then the dignity and self-respect of its members will be threatened.


ALSO (Tamir):

1.     Being part of a culture gives us a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves that will outlive us (and to that extent gives our lives more meaning)

2.     Having one’s social institutions embody one’s culture means that they will be immediately comprehensible to us and therefore easier to use

3.     The mutual intelligibility will promote relationships of solidarity and trust (“we all understand one another, don’t we?”)


Rawls writes that the bonds of culture are “normally too strong to be given up.”  Is this placing a limit on the freedoms of the individual?  No, because

The freedom which liberals demand for individuals is not primarily the freedom to go beyond one’s language and history, but rather the freedom to move around within one’s societal culture, to distance oneself from particular cultural roles, to choose which features of the culture are most worth developing, and which are without value. [90-91]

This is not a communitarian view, for two main reasons:

1.     Liberals say revising or rejecting fundamental beliefs is possible.
Communitarians deny the possibility of divorcing one’s self from one’s culture, because what we are is in large part defined by our culture, so there is no way to separate self from culture.  Liberals can concede that it’s difficult, but would never deny that it is possible, if not for all of one’s beliefs at once [Dworkin: “no one can put everything about himself in question all at once” [439]] then certainly when you take particular beliefs or practices in isolation – e.g., some Christians can reject the idea that homosexuality is immoral, some can endorse it.)

2.     Scope
Communitarians are chiefly concerned with subnational groups defined by shared conception of the good (churches, families, neighborhoods, etc.) whereas (as Margalit and Raz insisted of encompassing groups) nations tend to be anonymous and consisting of people who share a language and history and little else.


SUM: “the liberal ideal is a society of free and equal individuals” [93] where the limits of the society are defined and are not the whole world.  “Few people favor a system of open borders” despite the obvious increase in negative liberty that would bring because “open borders would also make it more likely that people’s own national community would be overrun by settlers from other cultures, and that they would be unable to ensure their survival as a distinct national culture.”

People would “rather be free and equal within their own nation, even if they have less freedom to work and vote elsewhere, than be free and equal citizens of the world, if this means they are less likely to be able to live and work in their own language and culture.”

This is Liberal Nationalism.


5. Hard Cases [94]

1.     How should liberals respond to illiberal cultures? [94]

2.     If people have a deep bond with their own culture, shouldn’t we allow immigrants to re-create their own societal cultures? [95]

3.     Have some national minorities lost their societal culture? [100]


6. Individuating Cultures [101]

Argument with Waldron:

Waldron accepts that the meaningfulness of options depends on the fact that they have cultural meanings.  But he rejects the assumption that the options available to a particular individual must come from a particular culture. [102]

Waldron cites examples from many cultures that we all find meaningful – the Bible, Roman mythology, Grimms’ Fairy-Tales.

Kymlicka’s response: what makes these options ‘available’ or meaningful to us is that they have

become part of the shared vocabulary of social life—i.e., embodied in the social practices, based on a shared language, that we are exposed to. [103]

That is, Grimms’ have only had an influence on Americans because they were translated into English – in other words, they aren’t really part of another culture any more.


Waldron is also worried that a desire to maintain separate cultures will lead to isolationism in an attempt to maintain cultural purity.  Kymlicka’s response: distinguish a culture’s existence (which is protected by giving it self-government rights) from its character, which need not remain the same.  Again, the Quebecois are not stuck in the past, but have evolved and become more liberal, but have, if anything, a greater desire for autonomy.

It is right and proper that the character of a culture change as a result of the choice of its members.  This is indeed why systems of internal restrictions are illegitimate from a liberal standpoint. [104]

But this is different from the culture itself being threatened—that is, for the very survival of the culture as a distinct society to be in jeopardy—as a result of decisions made by people outside the culture. [105]

BUT: can you really separate a culture from its character?  If the Amish became just like us, in what sense would they have a distinctive culture, and in what sense would they deserve the right to withdraw their kids from school?  Presumably Kymlicka thinks there are some features that are essential to cultures – French speaking for the Quebecois, for example – that they couldn’t lose without ceasing to be that culture.


7. Conclusion [105]


Chapter 6: Justice and Minority Rights [107]


1. The Equality Argument [108]

Two opposed positions, both supposedly concerned with preserving equality:

1.     Accommodationists, who think that (in the words of the Canadian Supreme Court) “the accommodation of differences is the essence of true equality”

2.     ‘Benign Neglect’ proponents: true equality requires equal rights for each individual regardless of race or ethnicity


Two big problems for benign neglect, on Kymlicka’s view:

(i)     The language of government [relevant for national minorities]

When the government decides the language of public schooling, it is providing what is probably the most important form of support needed by societal cultures, since it guarantees the passing on of the language and its associated traditions and conventions to the next generation….
The government therefore cannot avoid deciding which societal culture will be supported. [111]

This means that the proponents of benign neglect can’t make the argument that culture is like a church, and that, just as a government can (and should) remain neutral between churches, so it should between cultures.  Unlike churches, the government can’t remain neutral between languages.

Can’t we just solve this problem by allowing political subunits to decide on their language of government?

Kymlicka: no, because who decides what the boundaries of those subunits are?  The US has a history of ensuring Anglo domination (compare gerrymandering).

So the real question is, what is a fair way to recognize languages, draw boundaries, and distribute powers?  And the answer, I think, is that we should aim at ensuring that all national groups have the opportunity to maintain themselves as a distinct culture if they so choose…
Hence group-differentiated self-government rights compensate for unequal circumstances which put the members of minority cultures at a systematic disadvantage in the cultural market-place, regardless of their personal choices in life.  This is one of many areas in which true equality requires not identical treatment, but rather differential treatment in order to accommodate differential needs. [113]

(ii)  Other ethnically-based elements of government [relevant for ethnic groups, including immigrants, as well]

a.     public holidays

b.     government uniforms

c.      flags, anthems, mottoes


2. The Role of Historical Agreements [116]

Can we just rely on historical pacts, such as treaties signed (and since ignored by the powerful majority) with minorities?

if we wish to defend group-differentiated rights, we should not rely solely on historical agreements.  Since historical agreements must always be interpreted, and inevitably need to be updated and revised, we must be able to ground the historical agreements in a deeper theory of justice.  The historical and equality arguments must work together. [120]

3. The Value of Cultural Diversity [121]

Liberals could value cultural diversity for two main reasons:

1.     it creates a more interesting world

2.     it offers new ideas that can help people adapt to new circumstances (for example, indigenous peoples can teach Westerners about sustainability.

BUT neither of these are a firm basis for valuing the cultural rights of national minorities, because they support intrastate diversity, but national minorities want interstate diversity (that is, they want each culture to have its own governing body, which might limit exposure to the culture by outsiders).


4. The Analogy with States [124]

Most liberals want to adopt a compromise position that it is inconsistent between these two consistent alternatives:

1.     Open borders, with no separate states, and a global system of equal rights and movement for all (nowadays called cosmopolitanism)

2.     Kymlicka’s position of culturally-based states.

The compromise position is a system of states that are not culturally based, with limits on immigration allowed.  The only way to justify such states against the “open border” challenge is to recognize them as designed to protect cultures.  Otherwise, why would individuals need distinctions between states (with the inequality that that entails)?

I believe that the orthodox liberal view about the right of states to determine who has citizenship rests on the same principles which justify group-differentiated citizenship within states, and that accepting the former leads logically to the latter.

5. Conclusion [126]



Chapter 8: Toleration and its Limits [152]

So far Kymlicka has

defended the right of national minorities to maintain themselves as culturally distinct societies, but only if, and in so far as, they are themselves governed by liberal principles. [153]

BUT, tolerance is also a fundamental liberal principle.  To what extent should liberals tolerate illiberal national minorities?


1. Liberalism and Tolerance [155]

The development of religious tolerance was one of the historical roots of liberalism.  But there are different kinds of religious toleration:

  1. Western liberal freedom of conscience
  2. The Ottoman Empire, where each religion was given its own millet, each under theocratic control.  Thus, the empire tolerated different religions, but each religion controlled its adherents strictly – no conversion allowed.  “The millet system was, in effect, a federation of theocracies.”

So, how do we characterize specifically liberal toleration?  Kymlicka: its commitment to autonomy.


2. Is Liberalism Sectarian? [158]

If liberals’ idea of tolerance is built on autonomy, especially the freedom to revise one’s deeply held (including religious) beliefs, how is this compatible with people who do not even consider it possible that they will give up their religion?  Rawls suggests a political liberalism, which limits the idea of autonomy to the public sphere.  That is, everyone is recognized as having the right to change religions, even if nobody exercises it.  And autonomy need not be prized by everyone.  (Contrast with John Stuart Mill’s comprehensive liberalism, which requires rational reflection in all aspects of life.)

Kymlicka points out that Rawls’s political liberalism is rejected by judges in two cases, one in Canada, the other in the US:

1.     Hofer v. Hofer
Two lifelong members of the Hutterite Church were expelled for apostasy, and demanded their share of the colony’s assets.  The Canadian supreme court denied them, agreeing with the Hutterites that their religious freedom required them to be allowed to expel members in this way.

2.     Wisconsin v. Yoder
The Amish won the right to pull their kids out of school at age 13 so that they wouldn’t get enough education to be “prideful”.

From these cases where groups successfully demanded the right to quash internal dissent, Kymlicka concludes that Rawls’s compromise position, attempting to protect Western liberal freedom of conscience without requiring people to endorse personal autonomy, is impossible:

There is a genuine conflict here, which we need to face honestly.  If we wish to defend individual freedom of conscience, and not just group tolerance, we must reject the communitarian idea that people’s ends are fixed and beyond rational revision.  We must endorse the traditional liberal belief in personal autonomy. [163]


3. Accommodating Non-liberal Minorities [163]

Kymlicka argues that liberals should be comprehensive, endorsing a personal value of autonomy.  HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that liberals should impose that view on people like the Amish.  He gives an analogy with other countries, like Saudi Arabia (which denies political rights to women or non-Muslims) and Germany (which, at the time, denied political rights to the children and grandchildren of Turkish “guest-workers”, although this may have since changed).  Where Mill advocated invasion and installing liberal institutions, modern liberals favor promoting liberal values “through education, persuasion, and financial incentives” [166].  Ironically (according to Kymlicka), although contemporary liberals “have become more reluctant to impose liberalism on foreign countries,” they have become “more willing to impose” it on national minorities:

This, I think, is inconsistent.  Many of the reasons why we should be reluctant to impose liberalism on other countries are also reasons to be skeptical of imposing liberalism on national minorities within a country…  The plight of many former colonies in Africa shows that liberal institutions are likely to be unstable and transient when they have arisen as a result of external imposition, rather than internal political reform. [167]

What should liberals do about illiberal national minorities?

Liberals have a right, and a responsibility, to speak out against such injustice. [and] lend their support to any efforts [a group of internal reformers] makes to liberalize their culture. [168]

International bodies like the EC and the UN can provide incentives.  Indian tribes are actually more likely to listen to/be adjudicated by the UN than US federal government, as only the latter has engaged in genocidal practices against them.


4. Conclusion [170]

Liberals have no automatic right to impose their views on non-liberal national minorities.  But they do have the right, and indeed the responsibility, to identify what those views actually are. [171]

Things to remember:

·         Not only national minorities are illiberal (and in fact, some minorities are more liberal than their majorities)

·         The liberality of a culture is a matter of degrees.