Notes for February 3, 1998
Conclusion to Multicultural Citizenship
1. Diversity and Contemporary Society. Focuses on a key
aspect of contemporary society and provides a way of interpreting
diversity. The argument is at the theoretical level, but the
applications noted by Kymlicka are practical ones and are reasonable
ways of interpreting and sorting through some of the current issues
related to ethnicity, culture, nation, people, self-government,
and distinctive society in North America.
2. Liberalism and Group Rights. Connects the traditions
of "the priority of traditional ways of life and cultural
identities ... [and] a liberal, legalistic perspective stressing
the primacy of individual 'rights'" (Wolin, p. 135). Important
arguments concerning traditional and contemporary liberalism.
Revises and updates liberal tradition and makes it more applicable
for contemporary societies.
3. Culture. Importance of culture for people. Resource
and context of choice. Important for (i) freedom and individual
choice and (ii) self-identity and belonging. The discussion is
a contemporary sociological approach, although stated in more
political form. While Kymlicka connects culture to rights, the
important point for sociology is the definition of culture, the
key role it plays, how it forms a basis for social and political
structures, and what are the implications of culture for identity
and social relationships. That is, culture is not only a part
of the superstructure of society, but it has an independent basis
for existence and it plays a key role in individual and group
identity, and how these change over time and place.
4. National Minorities or Polyethnicity. Different situations
and different rights that emerge from this. For example, distinguishes
situation of Quebec or aboriginal peoples from that of Ukrainian
or Chinese Canadians.
5. Multiculturalism. Kymlicka provides some strong arguments
for multicultural policies and practices in ethnically diverse
societies. How much these principles can be applied to other
cultural groups that do not have an ethnic basis is not clear
from his discussion.
1. Liberal Critique. Might argue that individual rights
and freedoms are just that, and they do not extend to groups.
In an extreme liberal approach, groups and societies might be
regarded as not existing, with all that matters being the individual
and individual happiness, choice, freedom, etc.
2. Conflict Critique. Kymlicka is primarily concerned
with political rights, and these are largely a product of economic
position. Highly stratified late capitalist societies have very
great degrees of inequalities in wealth, income, and opportunities.
Given the existence of these, the concern with individual and
group rights is misplaced, and without greater economic equality,
concern with individual or group rights is meaningless.
3. Problems of Definition. In the end, Kymlicka does
not seem able to define people, nation, or ethnic group clearly,
although he recognizes this as a difficulty and one that must
be carefully considered with respect to each group. The nature
of rights, self-determination, self-government, etc. are all questionable,
although Kymlicka recognizes the difficulty of carefully defining
4. Illiberal Cultures. Kymlicka's comments on these seem
incomplete. He does not seem to emphasize the ability or inability
to exit from the group. This may be very important for members
of immigrant and ethnic groups. If there is a great ability to
exit, then the illiberalism may not be a matter of great concern,
but if ability to exit is hampered or is difficult, then attempting
to apply liberal or other ideals within the group may become important.
5. Social Unity. In the end, Kymlicka is somewhat pessimistic,
although he may be realistic. This is not so much a criticism
as a disappointment. If liberal ideals are important for individuals
and groups, yet lead to situations where social unity cannot occur,
so that divisiveness and conflict result, then the values of these
liberal ideals become questionable. The critiques of Bibby, Bisoondath,
and Peter Lamborn Wilson may not be adequately addressed.
6. Political and Historical Reality. Kymlicka makes a
strong theoretical case that group rights are derived from individual
rights, and he also argues for tolerance, respect, and rights
for different cultural traditions. In practice though, it is
not clear that history and current trends support this. Conflicts
in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and the Middle East do not seem to support
Kymlicka's approach, although the liberal tradition is not strong
in each of these regions. For a test of the Kymlicka model, Canada
and the United States, each with their strong tradition of liberalism,
might provide better cases. In each of these, there is both strong
support for and many questions about the model developed by Kymlicka.
7. Freedom and Self-Realization. Kymlicka argues that
freedom means the capacity to act in accordance with and realize
the terms of one's own cultural tradition, e.g. he notes that
"societal cultures are important to people's freedoms"
(p. 80). One problem with this may be that self-realization implies
that I "flourish at the expense of other cultures, or by
usurping their claims to autonomy" (Wolin, p. 138). Further,
Wolin argues that national identity and democratic principles
operate at cross purposes (Wolin, p. 141).
Wolin, Richard, "Democracy and 'Distinctive Status,'" Dissent, Winter, 1997, pp. 135-141.
See also the special Summer 1996 issue of Dissent
Embattled Minorities Around the Globe.
Review of Concepts, Terms, Arguments in
Midterm Examination - February 5, 1998.
Three sections with choice in each section.
Part 1. Short identification and definition of terms.
Part 2. Paragraph explanations of particular arguments of Kymlicka.
Part 3. Essay on one of newspaper articles.
Notes from February 3 class. Last edited on February 3, 1998.
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