This chapter examines multiculturalism and its main assumptions, especially the emphasis on the need to supplement the focus on common rights with greater attention to cultural diversity and group-differentiated rights. It begins with a discussion of three distinct stages in the debate over multiculturalism. In the first stage, proponents of multiculturalism were initially drawn to communitarianism as a possible philosophical foundation for minority rights. The second stage of the debate revolves around the question of the possible scope for multiculturalism within liberal theory, and the third stage highlights the role of multiculturalism in nation-building. The chapter proceeds by describing five types of ethnocultural groups that are found within Western democracies and how they have been affected by majority nation-building: national minorities, immigrants, isolationist ethnoreligious groups, metics, and racial caste groups such as African Americans. It concludes with an analysis of the politics of multiculturalism.
This chapter studies multiculturalism. The term ‘multiculturalism’ can refer to the fact of cultural diversity and may also describe the coexistence of different kinds of cultural group within a country. Multiculturalism emphasizes status, as well as economic inequalities. Thin multiculturalism views all cultural differences as disagreements between groups that agree on liberal values. This view may underestimate the extent of conflict between cultures. Meanwhile, thick multiculturalism appreciates that some cultural differences occur between liberals and non-liberals. While the solution to cultural conflicts in thick multiculturalism is often a modus vivendi, the question is whether this solution treats non-liberal minority cultures fairly. Defenders of cultural rights hold that governments should recognize that all citizens deserve equal opportunities for developing self-respect and autonomy. However, by respecting cultural rights, a government risks supporting injustice against individuals within groups.