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Will Kymlicka on Multiculturalism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 251
Multiculturalism/Kymlicka/Kukathas: The first systematic theory of multiculturalism was
developed by Will Kymlicka in two major works: Liberalism, Community and Culture (1989)(1) and
Multicultural Citizenship (1995a)(2). This field of inquiry has also been shaped by Kymlicka's other
writings (Kymlicka, 2000)(3) and edited collections (Kymlicka, 1995b(4); Kymlicka and Shapiro, 1997(5); Kymlicka and Norman, 2000b)(6).
Kymlicka's work was born out of a dissatisfaction with the political theory of post-war liberalism which, in his view, had wrongly assumed that the problem of national minorities could be resolved by ensuring the provision of basic individual rights.
Minority rights: Just as religious minorities were protected by the separation of church from state, and the entrenching of freedom of religion, so would ethnic identity be protected by freedom to express in private life those cultural attachments that were no business of the state.
Benign neglect/Glazer: The state would neither oppose nor nurture the freedom people enjoyed to express their attachments to their particular cultures, but respond with what Glazer called 'benign neglect' (1975(7): 25; 1983(8): 124; Kymlicka, 1995a(2): 3). But benign neglect, in Kymlicka's view, was not a plausible option. The question is, why? >Minority rights/Kymlicka, >Minorities/Kymlicka.
Gaus I 252
(...) a modern state may be 'multicultural' in one (or both) of two senses: either because it is 'multinational' since its members belong to different nations; or
because it is 'polyethnic', since its members emigrated from different nations (1995a(2): 18). In
Kymlicka's theory, these two kinds of groups have very different legitimate claims to make, and understanding this should make clear that national minorities need not fear that policies of multiculturalism would reduce them to the status of migrants, just as other citizens need not fear that multiculturalism implied that immigrants had a legitimate claim to self-government. >Minority rights/Kymlicka.
Nationalism: at the heart of Kymlicka's theory of multiculturalism is a form of nationalism - or liberal nationalism, to be precise. It is his contention that the liberal tradition has a history of recognizing group-differentiated rights. This is most evident, in his view, in the fact that most liberal theorists accept that the world is made up of separate states. These states are normally assumed to have the right to decide who may enter their jurisdictions to visit, reside, or acquire citizenship. Kymlicka's view is 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' (1995a(2): 124). >Citizenship/Kymlicka.


1. Kymlicka, Will (1989) Liberalism, Community and Cultuæ. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Kymlicka, Will (1995a) Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. Kymlicka, Will (2000) Finding Our way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.
4. Kymlicka, Will, ed. (1995b) The Rights of Minority Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
5. Kymlicka, Will and Ian Shapiro, eds (1997) Ethnicity and Group Rights: NOMOS XXXIX New York: New York University Press.
6. Kymlicka, Will and Wayne Norman, eds (2000b) Citizenship in Diverse Societies. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
7. Glazer, Nathan (1975) Affirmative Discrimination: Ethnic Inequality and Public Policy. New York: Basic.
8. Glazer, Nathan (1983) Ethnic Dilemmas: 1964-1982. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Kukathas, Chandran 2004. „Nationalism and Multiculturalism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Kymlicka, Will
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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