Sociology 304 – Winter 1999

Notes for January 12, 1999

Introduction to Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship

The first section of Sociology 304 will be based on the book, Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995). Kymlicka has more recently written another book, Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada (Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1998). I will try to find a copy of the latter to put on reserve in the University Library.

A. Overview

In Multicultural Citizenship, Kymlicka focuses on both theory and on contemporary problems – those of diversity, group rights and recognition, and multiculturalism. Kymlicka's analysis deals with the following.

Kymlicka’s analysis is rooted in contemporary social analysis in that it examines the ethnic and racial diversity of societies, and the increasing connection among these societies (with modern forms of transportation and communication). These increased connections have raised the issues of individual and group identity and rights to the forefront in social movements, individual experiences, and in public policy.

The analysis of social issues in Multicultural Citizenship is theoretical. Kymlicka examines the nature of the individual and of culture; the meaning of freedom, liberty, the good life; the connection between the individual and culture, groups and society; and the nature of society as a whole (see pp. 80-81). He sets this analysis in the liberal tradition, one that is more clearly political than sociological. At the same time, much classical sociological analysis can be considered to have emerged out of the liberal tradition. Sociological theory built on the liberal tradition (Durkheim, Weber, Parsons), or developed in reaction to some of the problems associated with liberalism, yet not rejecting the liberal vision in its entirety (Marx).

Kymlicka develops an analysis that leads to policy implications and to implications for the way that we look at ourselves and others, and how we as individuals, and in groups and in society, relate to each other. In societies where there will be increasing ethnic diversity in coming years, these are especially important issues to consider. In Finding our Way, Kymlicka examines policy issues in even more detail, examining a range of federal policies related to immigration and multiculturalism. In this more recent book, he notes that while these policies have generally been successful in terms of promoting immigrant integration and developing good relationships among Canadians and newcomers to Canada, many of the policies have been under severe attack. Kymlicka calls for a truce in the multiculturalism wars, suggesting that Canadians should consider the evidence and examine the record of multicultural policies. While these policies may be limited or inadequate in some ways, they have also been successful in other ways. Kymlicka encourages Canadians to seriously debate both the merits of multicultural policies and the shortcomings of these policies. Where policies can be improved, Kymlicka urges us to develop alternatives.

B. Will Kymlicka.

Will Kymlicka received his B.A. in philosophy and politics from Queen’s University in 1984, and his D.Phil in philosophy from Oxford University in 1987. Since then, he has had research fellowships at various universities in the United States (Princeton), Canada (Queen’s; Toronto; Ottawa), and overseas (European University Institute). He is the author of four books published by Oxford University Press: Liberalism, Community, and Culture (1989), Contemporary Political Philosophy (1990), Multicultural Citizenship (1995), which was awarded the Macpherson Prize by the Canadian Political Science Assocation, and the Bunche Award by the American Political Science Association, and Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada (1998). He is also the editor of Justice in Political Philosophy (Elgar, 1992), The Rights of Minority Cultures (Oxford, 1995), and Ethnicity and Group Rights (NYU, 1997). From 1991-98, he was a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. As of July 1998, he has been appointed as a Queen’s National Scholar in the Philosophy Department of Queen’s University. He is also the coordinator of a SSHRC-funded research network on "Citizenship, Democracy and Identity in a Multiethnic State".

Kymlicka’s writings are in the area of political philosophy and are applied to current issues and debates. His Liberalism, Community, and Culture analyses communitarian writers and issues related to cultural membership. Kymlicka has written about citizenship issues and multiculturalism for the federal government. Among the other writers he discusses and uses are Rawls, Charles Taylor, Walzer, and Sandel. Kymlicka’s work is in the area of political theory, with his work being in the liberal tradition, attempting to defend and expand the liberal view of rights, the individual, and society.

Multicultural Citizenship should be relatively easy to read and understand. The arguments in Multicultural Citizenship are clear and well presented, with many Canadian examples – aboriginal peoples, Quebec, immigrant groups, and multiculturalism. Kymlicka’s carefully reasoned arguments force the reader to rethink his or her approach to issues related to minorities and group rights, and deal with prejudice, misconception, and fuzzy thinking.

C. Multicultural and Immigration Research in the Department

I came across Kymlicka's book by chance, but it appeared to be closely connected to some of my research. In 1992-3, I coordinated a research study of fifty-five individuals who had arrived in Regina as refugees from Southeast Asia, Central America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. This study asked these people about their past, their arrival in Canada, their settlement, and their views on a number of immigration and settlement related issues. Among these were English language knowledge and acquisition, labour force history, health related issues, and family and community issues. The aim of the project was to determine some of the barriers faced by these immigrants, with a view to improving the welcoming, settlement, and integration process. This resulted in a report Refugee Settlement and Integration in Regina, 1995. Note that immigration and refugee arrivals are not great in number in Saskatchewan, but are steady and non-negligible. Later in this section of the course, I will provide some of the figures on immigration to the province.

Among the issues that we asked these immigrants to comment on was multiculturalism. We asked the immigrants whether they were aware of the policy of multiculturalism, and if so, "what does multiculturalism mean to you." Thirty-four of the fifty-five said that they were aware of multiculturalism and volunteered a meaning for it. We had not analyzed these comments until the summer of 1996. Christopher Fries, a Sociology honours student, and I examined these comments in detail in 1996 and wrote a paper "A ‘Great’ Large Family: Understandings of Multiculturalism Among Newcomers to Canada," which we presented at the National Symposium on Immigration and Integration in Winnipeg in October, 1996. In the process of working on the issue of multiculturalism, I came across Kymlicka’s book and thought it presented a useful way of considering multiculturalism, the manner in which newcomers relate to Canada, and the differences between newcomers and national minorities.

Since 1996, several faculty members in our Department and in other parts of the University have become part of the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration, centred in Edmonton. These projects are concerned with political participation of recent immigrants from the former Yugoslavia (Knuttila); individual, household, and family strategies for economic integration (Diaz-Peressini-Gingrich); and religion and community among Laotian immigrants (Hayford). In addition, researchers in Social Work and Education are involved in studies of immigrants and multiculturalism. In dealing with some of the issues involved in these research projects, Kymlicka's approach should be useful.

D. Outline of Kymlicka

1. Diversity. Earlier periods in our history are often considered to be associated with limited cultural diversity, or at least the diverse groups were often teritorially separated. In contrast, cultural diversity has become a central feature of contemporary society, and society may become even more diverse in the future. Some of the factors associated with this are increasing contact among societies as a result of improved communication and transportation. These have been associated with population movements and population change. Increased ethnic diversity in Canada is primarily the result of changed patterns of immigration, with many more people of colour from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America immigrating to Canada. These new patterns differ from European immigration patterns of the past, although the immigrants from southern and eastern parts of Europe were also considered very different at the time they first arrived in the early parts of the century. Around the world, ethnocultural conflicts have become a major form in which social, political, and economic disputes have been expressed –Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Note: One of the issues that I would like you to consider this semester is that of diversity. That is, consider what diversity means, and in what ways there may be greater diversity in society today than historically. At the same time, are there ways in which diversity has declined and we have become a more homogeneous society. Wat are the consequences of all this?

2. Political and Social Movements. The social action of various ethnic and minority groups in Canada has made their presence felt. In Canada, First Nations peoples have become more politically active and have asked for greater recognition and rights, demanding that treaties and earlier promises to them be honoured. Issues related to the connections between Quebec and the rest of Canada have dominated much political discussion in Canada in recent years. This raises the issue of rights for individuals and groups who feel that they have not been equitably or justly treated. What are these rights, how extensive are they, and do such rights adhere to the group or are they rights associated with the individual? Finally, government policy and programs have changed in an attempt to deal with some of these demographic, social, and political changes. Policies related to immigration, land claims, self-government, language, and customs have all changed in recent years. The multicultural policy of Canada is a notable example.


3. Multiculturalism. Multiculturalism has been interpreted and used in various ways in Canada and in other countries. In Canada, multiculturalism has generally referred to relationships among individuals who are part of ethnic or national minority groups. There is a Multiculturalism Act and various government departments (federal, provincial, municipal) with a mandate to undertake activities or policies related to multiculturalism. In addition, there are other government policies that relate to multicultural issues such as immigration and settlement policy and citizenship.

A broader approach is to include analysis of ways in which new social movements and identity groups "seek public recognition of their distinctive identities and needs." (Finding our Way, p. 91). Multiculturalism is sometimes extended to examining relationships with non-ethnic groups, such as women, gays and lesbians, religious minorities, or people with disabilities. In Chapter 6 of Finding our Way, Kymlicka does consider the extent to which his approach might be extended to include all of these, his focus in Multicultural Citizenship is on ethnocultural groups – ethnic groups, national minorities, nations, and peoples. Part of the next section will be to define and understand what these mean – these are some of the most confusing aspects of contemporary theory, partly because of the variety of meanings and the politically charged atmosphere that is part of the discussion of these.

4. Liberal Political Theory. Kymlicka sets his analysis consciously and firmly within the tradition of liberalism. This is a political approach that developed out of the Enlightenment and various social theories in the nineteenth century, and is the political-theoretical counterpart of neoclassical economics (examined in more detail in the second section of the course). Liberalism looks on the individual as autonomous, free, and able to act. This approach emphasizes "individual freedom, whether defined as freedom from coercion, as moral self-determination, or as the right to individual happiness" (Seidman, p. 15). Tolerance and respect for the rights of others are part of this, so that pluralism in social and political affairs is a necessary feature of a liberal society. Freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of association are some of the rights that have typically been associated with liberalism and liberal democracies. As a political philosophy, liberalism has often been seen as "primarily concerned with the relationship between the individual and the state, and with limiting state intrusions on the liberties of citizens" (Kymlicka, Liberalism, p. 1).

5. Rights. Individualism and individual rights are often viewed as a defining characteristic of liberalism, so that there are minimal or no group rights or rights that adhere to collectivities of people. Note, for exmaple, how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights "deleted all references to the rights of ethnic and national minorities." (Kymlicka, Mutlicultural Citizenship, p. 3). In this approach, all rights adhere to the individual, and liberalism has often been criticized for being excessively individualistic. In contrast, Kymlicka argues that "liberalism also contains a broader account of the relationship between the individual and society – and, in particular, of the individual’s membership in a community and a culture" (Kymlicka, Liberalism, p. 1). It is this argument that Kymlicka pursues in Multicultural Citizenship, and where he argues that some group rights can be considered to be an acceptable part of liberal thought. That is, there are certain group rights that can be viewed as admissible within liberalism and even necessary for freedom and equality. In order to understand what these rights might be, it is necessary to consider how various types of social groups are formed and define themselves.

6. Groups. Kymlicka distinguishes two types of ethnocultural groups: (a) national minorities in multination states and (b) ethnic groups in polyethnic states. A particular state could be a combination of these, as is Canada. Most states have aspects of each, although Canada is both multination and polyethnic since it has at least two national minorities (French Canada and First Nations) and many ethnic and immigrant groups.

a. National minorities are groups that have in common some or all of the following characteristics: history, community, territory, language, and culture. A national minority is sometimes referred to as a nation, people, or culture. Such a group may have become a minority involuntarily through conquest, colonization, or expansion, or the minority could have voluntarily agreed to enter a federation with one or more other nations, peoples, or cultures. Kymlicka notes that national minorities must be defined in terms of culture, and not by race, blood, or descent. The latter form of definition would be considered racist and unjust within the liberal tradition and, given the history of most of these groups, is likely inaccurate and impractical in any case.

Kymlicka argues that if a national minority wishes to retain its culture, it should be recognized as distinct, especially in the case where denial of such recognition might threaten the existence of the national minority. The major form of group rights that are associated with national minorities are self-government rights and special representation rights. While these must be developed on a case by case basis, Kymlicka makes a strong case for recognition of these rights when national minorities have a claim to be peoples or cultures. For Kymlicka, these national minority rights are not temporary, but are rights that should be recognized on a permanent basis, because these are inherent rights of the national minority. Of course, these groups could decide to secede from the state of which they are a part, and this may be the best solution in some cases. But in other cases, it may be possible to accommodate the rights of national minorities through a combination of self-government and special representation rights.

b. Polyethnic Rights. In contrast to national minorities, Kymlicka argues that immigrant groups are generally ethnic groups, and can be accorded what he calls polyethnic rights in a polyethnic state. Kymlicka notes that immigration is voluntary (he deals separately with the issue of refugees) and argues that immigrants generally wish to integrate into the society and culture that they enter. At the same time, they may wish to retain some aspects of their culture, and retention of these is especially important to them. While critics of multiculturalism have argued that immigrant retention of aspects of their culture, Kymlicka develops a contrary argument. He notes that empirically, immigrants who retain aspects of culture do integrate (see Finding our Way, Ch.1), and he argues that such retention may actually be necessary for integration of members of some immigrant groups.

Among the rights that Kymlicka argues should be created for or extended to these ethnic groups are policies related to ending racism and discrimination, education, some types of affirmative action, exemption from some rules which may violate religious practices, and public funding of cultural practices. Such rights are not absolute nor are they necessarily permanent, and the exact nature of these rights is dependent on the type and culture of the polyethnic group. Kymlicka further distinguishes two types of rights – internal restrictions and external protections. He encourages the latter and discourages the former. The notes return to this issue in section 9 on illiberal cultures.

7. Culture. In Chapter 5 of Multicultural Citizenship, Kymlicka outlines why certain group rights are so important for national minorities and ethnic groups. The primary argument developed by Kymlicka is based on the importance of culture to the national minority or ethnic group. The argument is that culture, individual freedom, membership in the group, and even integration into the larger society are all tied together. The form of culture that Kymlicka features is societal culture, the history, traditions, and conventions that go along with the society. This is the way of life of a group and the set of social practices and institutions that are associated with the societal culture. Culture of origin provides a basic resource for people, and integration into a new culture is difficult for people. In these circumstances, it may be important to strengthen the culture and provide protections for various minority groups. This can lead in quite different directions for national minorities than it does for immigrant ethnic groups. That latter generally wish to integrate, the protections may not need be permanent, and are often fairly limited, so that cultural protection for ethnic groups assists them in integrating into an initially alien society. For a national minority, the argument may lead in the opposite direction, so that strengthening their societal culture may become permanent and there may be extensive self-government rights. This could lead in the direction of separation of the national minority from the larger society, although Kymlicka notes that this need not necessarily lead to the establishment of a separate nation-state. Kymlicka does not argue for self-government rights for ethnic groups.

8. Difficult and Problem Issues. Kymlicka does not shy away from dealing with problem cases and examples which do not fit his approach. He recognizes that given the wide variety of groups, and the diverse historical experiences of these groups, each different group or parts of groups, may require different types of analysis and treatment.

One example is African-Americans in the United States – neither a voluntary immigrant group nor a national minority. In general, African-Americans have wanted to integrate into the larger society and have extension of full individual rights to them, rather than requesting group rights. The difficulty they face is that many individuals and groups in the larger society oppose such integration and work actively to prevent it.

A second group that may not fit into his models are refugees, who leave their country and culture involuntarily, and enter another society. While they are undoubtedly grateful for the opportunity to find refuge in this new society, they may or may not wish to become part of the culture of the new country where they find refuge. Some may wish to return to their country of origin while others may decide to accept the new situation. In the latter case, refugees are very similar to voluntary immigrants. In the Regina Refugee Study, there were a number of refugees for whom Canada did not seem to be the first choice, and who were quite unhappy with their situation here.

9. Illiberal Cultures. The discussion in Multicultural Citizenship involves an examination of illiberal cultures and how liberals can deal with issues presented by them. These are cultures in which the liberty of group members is restricted and where respect for individual freedom of choice is limited or nonexistent. These could be either national minority cultures or societal cultures that people decide to leave when they become immigrants to a new country. Either may try to maintain or establish illiberal traditions in North America. Being a liberal, Kymlicka does not agree with any traditions or practices which coerce an individual or arbitrarily limit the freedom of an individual. At the same time, if national minorities are to be self-governing, then liberals cannot selectively intervene on some of these issues. This is an important policy point, because members of some First Nations may argue that if they are to be self-governing, they should not be subject to the Charter or to Canadian courts.

For immigrant or ethnic groups, maintaining such practices is inconsistent with integration into a liberal society. For example, if the treatment of girls and women within some cultures is inappropriate or illegal in Canada – e.g. adherence to customs such as arranged marriage or female circumcision – then the group should be expected to abide by Canadian law and discontinue such practices. Kymlicka generally looks on such practices as quite limited, and argues that for the most part immigrant groups attempt to meet the laws and regulations of the new country to which they immigrate. Kymlicka also notes that many of these groups generally argue for liberal individual rights or appeal to human rights principles as expressed by the United Nations – while they may object some of the specific laws or regulations that limit them, they generally support liberal principles.

10. Collective Rights. In order to provide a more systematic analysis of different types of collective rights, Kymlicka distinguishes between internal restrictions and external protections and he examines several arguments for group or collective rights.

a. Internal restrictions are claims "of a group against its own members" (p. 35), while external protections involve "the claim of a group against the larger society" (p. 35). The latter claim could involve claims to speak a language other than English or French, dress codes, vacation for religious holidays, etc. Providing these does not result in infringement on individual freedoms but may rather be a means of extending such freedoms and providing members of the collective a means of participating in the wider society. That is, by not extending such protections, members of the group may decide to separate themselves as much as possible from the wider society.

b. External Protections. In contrast, a collective may attempt to impose restrictions on its members, interfering with rights of individual freedom and generally restricting the ability of the member to participate in the wider society. Examples of these restrictions might include forced marriage of children or requiring attendance at religious or other ceremonies. Liberals oppose such restrictions and some of these restrictions may be illegal in Canada. But Kymlicka is generally confident that such restrictions are minimal for immigrant, ethnocultural groups. For national minorities, such may not be the case, although some members of the national minority may oppose such restrictions, and may demand liberal, individual rights within their national minority group. For Kymlicka's theoretical arguments, the distinction between the two is very important with this distinction often ignored or forgotten by those who are critical of multicultural policies. That is, some analysts do not consider that there is a difference between these two types of collective rights and argue that external protections can lead to internal restrictions. Such need not be the case, and the recent historical evidence in North America is such that members of ethnic groups generally distinguish the two.

c. Arguments for Group or Collective Rights. There are three arguments for group rights that are considered by Kymlicka.

i. Equality. The equality argument is that some minority rights actually increase equality, and that true equality requires different treatment for different groups. The problem is that depriving groups of rights such as language and access to land may leave a group culturally disadvantaged, and unable to fully participate in society. Examples include land and fishing rights for aboriginal people, imposing few restrictions on this minority but having an especially important impact on improving the position of aboriginal people. Part of the argument here is that the state cannot be culturally neutral, there is usually an official language, has particular procedures used in the exercise of power, and determines boundaries that my affect representation for communities of interest. With respect to polyethnic rights, holidays, work week scheduling, education, and public symbols may all present problems for some ethnic groups. Given that these inevitably are part of the functioning of a nation-state, equality for members of some groups may require external protections.

ii. Historical agreements such as treaties, terms of federation, agreement concerning boundaries and use of language should be recognized, especially for national minorities. This may create problems for groups that never did cede control, and there the equality argument would have to be used. There are some difficult examples, such as the Hutterites, who had agreements with and promises from the Canadian government upon entry to Canada many years ago, but where internal restrictions on their members are severe. Note that individuals in these groups do have the possibility of exit, but when doing so may be severely disadvantaged culturally and economically.

iii. Cultural diversity is a third argument that is sometimes used to argue for special minority rights for groups. Kymlicka is generally skeptical of these arguments, noting that national minority rights may do little to increase diversity within the majority culture, and could even reduce diversity. For example, special rights for Quebec might reduce cultural diversity in Western Canada. In order to examine diversity, it is necessary to be clear concerning diversity within a culture as opposed to diversity between cultures. For the majority, increased cultural diversity is likely a positive development, but this is diversity within the culture. This can be achieved, and presently is occurring, by having more immigrant groups integrate into the majority culture.

Note that group rights adhere not just to the national minority or ethnic groups but may be part of the rights of individuals in these groups. For example, special land rights for aboriginal people may be part of the rights of the aboriginal group. But hunting and fishing rights may be primarily important for individuals in these groups. Similarly, allowing Sikhs to avoid wearing motorcycle helmets is a special right that individual Sikhs may wish to exercise.

11. Traditional Approaches

a. Liberal Tradition. Kymlicka notes that the liberal tradition is not exclusively individualistic, and the exclusive focus on individualism is of recent origin. He argues that all liberal societies recognize group rights in some form – even the United States, where liberal democracy is considered most dominant. For example, in the United States the rights of aboriginal peoples, native Hawaiians, and Puerto Ricans may differ in some respects from those of other Americans.

A more recent example is the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the United States which "eliminated literacy tests and empowered the US Attorney-General to review all new voting laws" (Freeman and Jupp, p. 213). The 1975 extension of this Act "granted basic protection to language minorities. In addition, it required that jurisdictions with more than five per cent of a single covered language minority, and an illiteracy rate among the language minority higher than the national English illiteracy rate, provide bilingual election materials" (p. 213). When I visited Chicago a few years ago, notices to vote were posted in both English and Spanish on the CTA subway cars. While these may seem like minor concessions, they developed from the complaints of African-American and Hispanic minorities that claimed unequal treatment. Such special treatment "seeks to assure that all individuals will be treated equally before the law and that state and local jurisdictions will not abridge any individual’s rights" (p. 213). That is, special protection may be necessary to ensure equality. This may lead to complaints from some concerning special treatment and "fomenting divisiveness" (p. 214).

In the nineteenth century, one of the ways in which liberals implicitly considered groups to be important was through recognition of the nation-state as the basic unit of society. John Stuart Mill, one of the most consistently liberal political theorists, argued that a liberal system of self-rule would work only if the population constituted a national group or a single background. Nineteenth century liberals generally supported assimilation of minority groups, colonization, and imperialist expansion of European nations. Kymlicka notes how official languages and official holidays in a nation-state often constitute adoption of a particular dominant culture in that nation-state. In that sense, if in no other, a liberal theory of the nation-state does imply a certain group orientation, one that is not exclusively individualistic.

b. Marxist and Socialist Tradition. In then nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, on this issue the Marxist and socialist tradition was little different than the liberal approach, with the assumption that the great powers – France, Britain, Germany – should be nation-states, but that small nationalities should disappear. More recently socialists have adopted a variety of different approaches, but many of these are problematic in that they emphasize class and the achievement of socialism over the cultural and national issues, or they attempt to combine the two socialism with nationalism in convoluted ways. Many socialists have assumed that issues of culture and nation are part of an ideology that is used by the economically and politically powerful to divide the weak and oppressed. As a result, the socialist tradition does not have a strong theory of culture.

12. Tolerance. In Chapter 8, issues of tolerance within the liberal tradition are addressed. By requiring freedom within (no internal restrictions) and equality between groups (with external protections), Kymlicka’s approach may fall into the same trap that Mill and Marx did. Some have questioned how a liberal emphasis on individual rights could be forced on cultures that do not have such a tradition. Kymlicka argues that liberals cannot force such traditions on other countries, and should go easy on attempting to enforce such individual rights in national minorities. However, for ethnic groups that voluntarily come to a liberal, democratic country, and who wish to integrate into such a society, requiring recognition of individual rights in these groups does not seem unreasonable. In fact, the existence of the rights spelled out in the Charter are generally supported by immigrants, ethnic groups and individuals in those groups.

13. Representation in political bodies is dealt with by Kymlicka in Chapter 7. This is a more specifically political issue, in that the types of formal representation and the types of groups represented in political bodies is discussed there.

14. Solidarity and Social Unity in the Nation State. Chapter 9 of Multicultural Citizenship deals with these issues, and may seem to be a pessimistic conclusion to an otherwise optimistic approach. For ethnic groups integration is key, and many newcomers are among the citizens who are most committed to Canada. (Recall the scrapbook of the royal family in Obasan). In Canada, through multiculturalism, these newcomers are tolerant of and welcome diversity, and work to create a better society. With respect to ethnocultural minorities, Kymlicka is very optimistic that immigrant integration will occur and will create a shared civic identity.

Where Kymlicka is more pessimistic concerning the future of the Canadian state is with respect to national minorities. While he supports group rights for these, he also recognizes that these rights are inherently divisive, may not be integrative, and are unlikely to support the same sense of shared civic identity. Kymlicka does note that if a group wishes to separate, and members of the group consider that this will improve their situation, the liberal solution would be to permit or encourage separation.

In concluding his book, Kymlicka notes that the shared identity associated with the nation state may be difficult to develop in a multination, polyethnic state like Canada. In fact, he refers to Canada as having deep diversity, with two different types of diversity – (a) diverse cultural groups as a result of immigration and polyethnicity, and (b) diverse ways of belonging as a result of the existence of at least two national minority groups. He presents no magic solution or national goals, but argues that we have to work at developing the sense of shared identity if we want Canada to stay intact.

15. Possible Applications of Multicultural Citizenship

Kymlicka’s book and arguments are political philosophy or political theory. His arguments are logical ones constructed within the framework of liberal political theory, with observations of recent developments in North America and other parts of the world. The issues addressed are of practical and theoretical importance in sociology, especially in Canada today and in the near future. In point form, some of the applications might be as follows.

a. Practical Importance for Canada and the World

Increased immigration and population movement around world.


Diversity or common global culture - global village?

Diversity within ethnic groups – See Peter Li's analysis.

Issues important for individuals and for collective identity.

Important for policies related to national minorities and immigrants.

Freedom, justice, equality, and inequality.

Liberalism – dying ideology or basis of current and future society.

Multiculturalism. Many different meanings.

Future outcomes for polyethnic, multination societies?

2. Theoretical Importance

Political theory. No doubt of importance of these.

Look for sociological implications and applications.

Folbre analysis – nature of individual and collective identity.

Ethnic, cultural, national identity

Interdisciplinary – politics, philosophy, and sociology.

Liberalism and origins of sociology.

Social order, individualism, and groups.

3. Specific Theoretical Issues

Nation, people, ethnicity, community, imagined community, national minority

Culture – theories of culture have not been well developed in sociology

Collective identity and structure-agency

Rights and group rights

Various meanings of multiculturalism.

Integration – various meanings, approaches, and implications



Freeman, Gary P. and James Jupp, Nations of Immigrants, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1992.

Kymlicka, Will, Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Kymlicka, Will, Liberalism, Community and Culture, New York, Oxford University Press, 1989.

Kymlicka, Will, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995.

Seidman, Steven, Liberalism and the Origins of European Social Theory, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1983.


Notes from January 12, 1999. Last edited on January 11, 1999.

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