In this post, I provide a summary of Will Kymlicka’s very influential book on multiculturalism, titled Multicultural Citizenship: a liberal theory of minority rights. This book is important for everyone interested in multiculturalism since it initiated the contemporary debate about group-differentiated rights. One needs not to fully agree with Kymlicka to acknowledge his courageous effort to challenge liberalism’s atomistic individualism by promoting an interpretation of traditional liberal values which demands special treatment to members of some (minorities and immigrant) groups. In doing so, Kymlicka challenges the long assumed neutrality of the liberal state. His thinking and argumentation comes within liberalism itself, which is what makes his case distinctive (if anyone dares to give a concrete definition of liberalism, be my guest).
There are of course fundamental aspects of his book that I find troubling: firstly, his treatment of culture as a more or less homogenous entity; secondly, the clear cut division of national minorities and immigrant groups; thirdly, the use of ethnicity as the marker for cultural identity which is often advanced at the expense of other identities; and finally, his comprehensive liberal approach to autonomy being the ultimate value that the state needs to safeguard.
As this is not a review but rather a summary of the book, my personal opinion will be put on hold for a future post. In what follows, I will try to illustrate Kymlicka’s arguments. Let us begin.