Culture, Community and the Multicultural Individual

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Cultural Rights , Liberal Multiculturalism , Liberalism , Cultural Diversity
Every theory of liberal multiculturalism is premised on some account of the nature of culture, cultural difference and social reality, or what I call “the conditions of multiculturality”. In this dissertation, I offer a revised account of the conditions and challenge of multiculturality. Beginning with the widely accepted idea that individuals depend on both culture and community as social preconditions for choice, freedom and autonomy, and informing this idea with collectivist and individualist lessons from Tyler Burge’s famous externalist thought-experiment, my analysis shows that social contexts are multicultural when they are characterized by a plurality of social communities offering distinct sets of cultural norms, and individuals are multicultural to the extent that they are capable of using cultural norms from various social communities. The depth, pervasiveness, and complexity of multiculturality raises important normative questions about fair and just terms for protecting and promoting social communities under conditions of internal and external cultural contestation, and these questions are not only restricted to cases involving internal minorities. As a theory of cultural justice, liberal multiculturalism must respond to the challenge of multiculturality generated by cultural difference per se, but it cannot do so adequately in all cases armed with only the traditional tools of toleration, freedom of association and exit, fundamental rights and freedoms, and internal political autonomy. My analysis demonstrates that, upon the revised conception of multiculturality, liberal theories of tolerationism, egalitarianism and nationalism leave significant cultural remainders, or unaccounted for cultural interests. What is needed is a different liberal multiculturalism, which respects the individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms, is committed to the equal and just treatment of individuals, tolerates voluntary cultural groups and practices in the social sphere, recognizes an individual right to culture, and provides some measure of state assistance to individuals seeking to protect and promote their cultural communities in the private sphere. This is a recipe for liberal cultural justice, and for a defensible liberal multiculturalism without nationalism.
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