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Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights [Paperback]

Will Kymlicka
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1996 0198290918 978-0198290919 Reprint
The increasingly multicultural fabric of modern societies has given rise to many new issues and conflicts, as ethnic and national minorities demand recognition and support for their cultural identity. This book presents a new conception of the rights and status of minority cultures. It argues that certain sorts of `collective rights' for minority cultures are consistent with liberal democratic principles, and that standard liberal objections to recognizing such rights on grounds of individual freedom, social justice, and national unity, can be answered. However, Professor Kymlicka emphasises that no single formula can be applied to all groups and that the needs and aspirations of immigrants are very different from those of indigenous peoples and national minorities. The book discusses issues such as language rights, group representation, religious education, federalism, and secession - issues which are central to understanding multicultural politics, but which have been surprisingly neglected in contemporary liberal theory.

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Review

`It's not surprising ... that Canadian political theorists like Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor have been prominent in thinking about problems of culture, identity and collective rights. Kymlicka's Multicultural Citizenship is a powerful intervention in that argument.' Stephen Howe, New Statesman and Society

`An important addition to liberal theory and necessary for students and scholars at all levels.' Choice

`There is an engaging honesty in his attempts to discuss the possibilities of developing a politics that allows for cultural pluralism and diversity and the contradictions of a commitment to common citizenship.' Times Higher Education Supplement

`This is a very important book, one that is indispensable for the present discussion of multiculturalism ... this is an immensely rich, informative, and above all clarifying work, written by a first-class philosophical mind, animated by a humane outlook. It ought to be compulsory reading for all those who want to carry on the debate in this area.' Charles Taylor, American Political Science Review

`Will Kymlicka is among the most important and interesting liberal political theorists writing today ... [he] produces an elegant and extremely interesting liberal account of the character, applicability and conditions suitable for the deployment of the notion of the rights of minority cultures considered as group rights. The book is subtitled a liberal theory of minority rights and it is not too exaggerated to say that Kymlicka provides not only the first fully worked out theory of liberal minority rights but one of the most successful and satisfying accounts of liberal political theory in recent years.' N. Rengger, International Affairs

`The overall argument of his book, and its attentive consideration of almost every issue vital to a complex notion of multiculturalism make invaluable reading for anyone weary of simplistic declamations.' Mitchell Cohen, Times Literary Supplement

`This timely and well-argued book offers a liberal defense, based on individual autonomy and social equality, of certain group-specific rights to self-government, to support for cultural differences, and to political representation. Clear, unpolemical, and open-minded, it nicely marries normative political theory and institutional analysis ... In all, this is a fine book, and the one to which students of multiculturalism must first be sent.' Leslie Green, Journal of Politics

`This excellent book sketches a theory of minority rights and argues that such rights can find a comfortable home within liberal political philosophy.' James Nickel, Journal of Philosophy

`It is full of many stimulating insights, throws valuable light on many complex issues, and grapples with agonizing dilemmas. Above all, it appreciates the cultural embeddedness of the individual and creates theoretical space for cultural rights, thereby making liberalism hospitable to the moral imperatives of cultural pluralism.' Bhikhu Parekh, Policy Studies

`Kymlicka's achievement is in putting culture, nationality and minorities at the centre of liberal theory. He is a philosopher who always has one eye on policy, and his book can be recommended as an exemplar in "philosophy and public affairs".' Tariq Modood, Political Quarterly

About the Author

Will Kymlicka is Research Director of the Canadian Centre for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Ottawa, and Visiting Professor, Department of Philosophy, Carleton University. His previous books include: Liberalism, Community and Culture; Contemporary Political Philosophy and Justice in Political Philosophy.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent treatise on a thorny issue Feb. 24 2000
Format:Paperback
This is a long-awaited book. Those who believe that the liberal tradition requires a back row, laissez-faire attitude to the problems of minorities are put to flight.
Kymlicka shows clearly that there has been a long tradition of leading liberals who have felt that in order for national minorities to be as free as majorities, they need affirmative action to counteract the all-pervading influence of dominant cultures, through the education system, the media, and the general majority discourse.
He sees the individual's freedom as the right to belong to his of her ancestral group, and this of course means that unless the group's rights are recognised and implemented, the individual that belongs to the group cannot be a free person. Kymlicka distinguishes neatly between minorities whose aim is to be considered and treated as the same as anyone else (that is, anyone belonging to the dominant group): women, Afroamericans, etc.; and between minorities who wish not to lose their differentiated culture and identity: American Indians, Quebeckers, Catalans, Welsh, etc. He points out to majority members that what they take for granted is neither the only worldview possible, nor the best worldview, and defends minorities' right to hold other views, their own.
He is also masterly in drawing the limits to allowing national minorities full control over their own affairs: naturally, no-one should tolerate practices, however ancient, which clash with universal human rights. These include the individual's freedom to leave the group, the rejection of female ablation, etc.
The fact that the book has been published in Catalan attests to its international appeal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Individual and collective rights March 12 2002
Format:Paperback
Kymlicka covers the issues related to each of individual and collective rights, as well as comparing them to each other. He provides a really interesting outlook on the ways in which the quest for rights for any group of people can result in conflict. I suppose I like this book so well because it follows my own philosophical view on people claiming rights in general, that at some point if we were to claim all rights we believe we're entitled to, we would eventually come into conflict with someone else's human rights. As such, we must necessarily make sacrifices of some rights in order to live peaceably among all people. Kymlicka doesn't really say that as I do, but much of what he discusses seems to be related to it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars important work April 12 2000
Format:Paperback
Along with Tamir's "Liberal Nationalism" and Miller's "On Nationality", "Multicultural Citizenship" is fast becoming a classic work on liberal nationalism. Of the 3, Kymlicka's may be the most clearly laid out. It uses case material, particularly that of aboriginals in Canada, very effectively. A more refined version of some of the arguments presented in "Liberalism, Community, Culture". Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A strong argument for multiculturalism March 9 2004
Format:Paperback
Kymlicka's arguement is both forceful and articulate, making Multicultural Citizenship a valuable work for both specialists and those simply currious about political though and multiculturalism. While by no means perfect, this book does an admirable and subtle job of reconciling the needs of individualism within a liberal political society with the recognition of miniority differences and culture.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great for Insomnia Nov. 30 1999
By Abe
Format:Paperback
This book is very hard to read, the concepts and arguements are not difficult to understand but are very one sided. May questions are raised, but the author does not provide any answers. This book needs a makeover starting with triming some of the long-winded areas and adding some opposing veiw pionts.
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