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Diversity Within – Multiculturalism Reapplied to the Nation State
Växjö University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Social Sciences. Statsvetenskap.
2008 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

When outlining his theory of a liberal multiculturalism, Will Kymlicka argues that having ‘access to a viable cultural structure’ is a necessity for our ability to choose good lives for ourselves. Not because the range of options available to us are otherwise being diminished, but because it is the examples provided by our culture, through the stories we are told and through the roles we see others adopt, that explains and renders the different ways of life vivid to us. Without access to a rich cultural structure our lives may therefore be empty and vain, devote of all meaning. All this, Kymlicka continues, is of special concern in multicultural societies. While the majority culture is upheld and expressed simply by being lived in public and by being articulated in our common traditions, minority cultures that are not actively supported may eventually be eroded. A multicultural society dedicated to treat every citizen with equal concern and respect must therefore, Kymlicka concludes, actively promote not only the majority culture but the minority cultures as well.

So far so good. What Kymlicka doesn’t do—and what I intent to do further on—is to bring this arguments back to the nation state. Kymlicka’s primary interest lies with issues of multiculturalism and his intention is to show how considerations of justice may arise when one cultural structure is subordinated to another. If we take Kymlicka’s argument seriously, we must ask ourselves what ‘access to a viable cultural structure’ really means, if everyone in a given cultural group can be said to have the same access, and, ultimately, whether or not differences in this respect raises considerations of justice not only between different groups, but within them as well. The nation state with its presumed cultural homogeneity provides a suitable milieu to deal with these issues. I will therefore leave the problems posed by the multicultural society behind, retaining only the theoretical contributions from multicultural theory.

So, finally, back to the beginning, what do we need to be able to choose good lives for ourselves? Kymlicka suggests that it is access to cultural structures, but surely it cannot be cultural structures themselves, but rather cultural fragments drawn from such structures. To better understand Kymlicka’s argument, we ought therefore to provide a more nuanced understanding of cultural structures and of how we as individual beings interact with our cultural structures and how we draw material from them. In this paper, as a first step in a larger project, the goods of culture are therefore mapped. What do we need to live good lives? How do we need it? How is our need affected by the needs of others and of what others have? These and similar issues are dealt with, and in the end a more sophisticated concept of culture than the one suggested by Kymlicka is advanced. Finally, without making any claims about the politics we ought to pursue, it is argued that to be consistent, we have no choice but to either abandon Kymlicka’s demands for a politics of multiculturalism altogether, or expand it to include concerns for group-internal differences too.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008.
Keywords [en]
Kymlicka, culture, cultural transmission
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Social Sciences, Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:vxu:diva-3471OAI: oai:DiVA.org:vxu-3471DiVA, id: diva2:203427
Available from: 2008-06-03 Created: 2008-06-03 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved

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Ohlström, Marcus

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