kymlicka politics in the vernacular

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Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and CitizenshipWILL KYMLlCKA

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Introd uctionThe essays collected in this volume are part of an ongoing project to examine the rights and status of ethnocultural groups within Western democracies. In my 1995 book, Multicultural Citizenship, I attempted to provide the outlines of a liberal theory of minority rights. I offered some principles for distinguishing the claims of various sorts of minority groups, and for assessing their legitimacy within a liberal-democratic framework. The papers in this volume start from that basic theory, and seek to refine and extend it, and to address some tensions within it. The essays are connected by a number of common themes: I would like to mention three of them. 1. The first, and most fundamental, concerns what we could call the dialectic of nation-building and minority rights. As I try to show throughout this book, liberal-democratic states have historically been 'nation-building' states in the following specific sense: they have encouraged and sometimes forced all the citizens on the territory of the state to integrate into common public institutions operating in a common language. Western states have used various strategies to achieve this goal of linguistic and institutional integration: citizenship and naturalization laws, education laws, language laws, policies regarding public service employment, military service, national media, and so on. These are what I call the tools of state nation-building. These policies are often targeted at ethnocultural minorities, who have only limited options when confronted with such a nation-building state. They can accept the state's expectation that they integrate into common national institutions and seek help in doing so, or they can try to build or maintain their own separate set of public institutions (e.g. their own schools, courts, media, legislatures), or they can opt simply to be left alone and live in a state of voluntary isolation. Each of these reflects a different strategy that minorities can adopt in the face of state nation-building. But to be successful, each of them requires certain accommodations from the state. These may take the form of multiculturalism policies, or self-government and language rights, or treaty rights and land claims, or legal exemptions. These are all forms of minority rights that serve to limit or modify the impact of state nation-building on minorities. The crucial point here is that claims for minority rights must be seen in the context of, and as a response to, state nation-building. Minorities often feel threatened by state nation-building, and fear that it will create various burdens, barriers, or disadvantages for them. Minority rights, I believe, are best




understood as mechanisms for protecting minorities from these possible injustices. Since different kinds of minorities face distinct threats from state nation-building, their corresponding minority rights claims will also differ. The injustices faced by indigenous peoples are not the same as those faced by immigrants, and this is reflected in the sorts of minority rights they claim. This, in a nutshell, is the dialectic of state nation-building and minority rights. I try to flesh out this core idea, and give concrete examples, throughout the book. But it should be obvious, I hope, that viewing minority rights in this way-as a defensive response to st.atenation-building-requires revising our standard vocabulary for discussing these issues. In both scholarly analysis and everyday public debate, minority rights are often described as forms of 'special status' or 'privilege', and people wonder why all of these pushy and aggressive minorities are demanding concessions and advantages from the state. In reality, however, while minorities do make claims against the state, these must be understood as a response to the claims that the state makes against minorities. People talk about 'troublesome minorities',' but behind every minority that is causmg trouble forthe state, we are likely to find a state that is putting pressure on minorities. Many of these minority rights claims are, I believe, legitimate. That is, the minority rights being claimed really do serve to protect minorities from real or potential injustices that would otherwise arise as a result of state nationbuilding (Chapter 4). And indeed we can see a clear trend throughout the Western democracies towards accepting more of these claims. We see a shift towards a more 'multicultural' form of integration for immigrants, for example (Chapter 8).I We also see a greater acceptance oflanguage rights and selfgovernment claims for national minorities and indigenous peoples (see Chapters 5 and 6). There is growing recognition that such rights are needed to ensure justice in diverse societies. If the presence of state nation-building helps to justify minority rights, one could also turn the equation around, and say that the adoption of minority rights has helped to justify state nation-building. After all, we cannot simply take for granted that it is legitimate for a liberal-democratic state to pressure minorities to integrate into institutions operating in the majority language. Liberal nationalists argue that there are certain valid purposes that are promoted by these nation-building policies, and I agree. But it is not legitimate to pursue these goals by assimilating, excluding, or disempowering minor1 Here and elsewhere in the book I use the term immigrants to refer to those newcomers to a country who are legally admitted. and who have the right to gain citizenship. I distinguish them from guest-workers and illegal immigrants (and asylum seekers in certain countries) who do not have the right to become citizens, even though they may be permanent residents in the state. Pollowing Michael Walzer, I call these latter groups 'metics'-the term used in Ancient Greece to refer to residents of Athens who were permanently excluded from citizenship.

ities, or by imposing costs and burdens on groups that are often already disadvantaged. Unless supplemented and constrained by minority rights, state nation-building is likely to be oppressive and unjust. On the other hand, where these minority rights are in place, then state nation-building can serve a number oflegitimate and important functions (Chapters 10 and II). What we see, then, in the Western democracies, is a complex package of robust forms of nation-building combined and constrained by robust forms of minority rights. On my view, the two are interrelated, and must be understood and evaluated together. This is my first major theme. 2. The second major theme is that the particular package of nationbuilding and minority rights that we see emerging in Western democracies is in many respects working quite well. In particular, I focus on two broad patterns of minority rights that are increasingly common in the West: immigrant multiculturalism and multination federalism. My view is that these have both been a success, ,atleast according to the various criteria that should matter to liberals, such as peace, democracy, individual freedom, economic prosperity, and inter-group equality. Partly as a result of adopting these minority rights, Western democracies have learned how to deal with ethnic diversity in a peaceful and democratic way, with an almost complete absence of militancy, terrorism, violence, or state repression. Ethnic conflict is now a matter of ballots not bullets' (Newman 1996). Moreover, this has been achieved within the framework of liberal constitutions, with firm respect for individual civil and political rights. It has also been achieved without jeopardizing the economic well-being of citizens-indeed, the countries which have adopted robust forms of immigrant multiculturalism and/ or multination federalism are amongst the wealthiest in the world. And, last but not least, these minority rights have helped promote equality between majority and minority groups, reducing relations of ethnic hierarchy or domination/ subordination. Minority rights have reduced the extent to which minorities are vulnerable to the economic, political, or cultural domination of majorities, and have helped to promote greater mutual respect between groups. Of course, there are many difficult issues that remain to be resolved. There are many groups that are very far from achieving full equality: AfricanAmericans in the United States, guest-workers in northern Europe, illegal immigrants in southern Europe, indigenous peoples in the Americas, Australasia, and Scandinavia. I discuss some of these cases in this volume (Chapters 6-9). Moreover, even where policies are working well there is always the danger that some of these advances will be reversed. And the fact that these policies are working well is often more a matter of good luck than foresight and careful planning. Still, I believe there are grounds for cautious optimism that Western democracies really have made important steps in learning how to deal with ethnocultural diversity in a way that respects and promotes liberal values of freedom, justice, and democracy. The particular




package of state nation-building and minority rights that we see emerging in many Western democracies is better than our earlier approaches to ethnocultural diversity, and better than the apparent alternatives. This is my second main theme. 3. The third theme that recurs in the essaysis the gap between the theory and practice of liberal-democracies. Liberal political theorists, until very recently, have had little or nothing to say about eithe