Toward a Substantive Right of Exit

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Mertel, Kurt Cihan Murat
political philosophy
This paper deals with an important problem in contemporary political thought: the problem of ‘minorities within minorities’. The problem lies in the fact that, on one hand, while illiberal cultural or religious groups may seek to impose internal restrictions on their members which violate their basic rights as citizens - in the name of the freedom of religion/conscience, and/or cultural preservation – the state has a responsibility to protect the members of such groups from harm. On the other hand, the state would be overstepping the boundaries of legitimate authority - ignoring the freedom of association and conscience - if it intervened in the affairs of such groups to forcibly change their internal structure to cohere with liberal values. The necessity of a right to exit one’s inherited religious or cultural community has been widely acknowledged by philosophers as a solution to the problem of internal minorities, in that, it is seen both as a means to protect individuals from oppressive cultural and religious practices, as well as, establishing the necessary threshold groups must meet in order to be immune from state intervention. But while there may be a broad consensus on the necessity of the right of exit, there is significant disagreement over the specific content of a right: some philosophers support a ‘minimalist’ or formal conception while others endorse a more substantive formulation, which involves supplementation with other negative and positive rights. The aim of this paper is to provide an outline of a substantive right of exit. The conception I defend involves the provision of an array of negative and positive rights and is based on a consistent and unequivocal commitment to autonomy, manifested in its most important element: the provision of a liberal (multicultural) education for minimal autonomy. The upshot of the education requirement for my conception of the right of exit is that it possesses considerable transformative power in addition to an enhanced protective role. The distinctiveness of my account revolves around its emphasis on the transformative function of exit, which seeks to address the underlying problem by focusing on the long-term challenge of 'liberalizing' cultures.
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