COMMUNITY AND MULTICULTURALISM Will Kymlicka Most post-war liberal philosophers had little to say about the ideal of community. If community was discussed, it was often seen as derivative of liberty and equality – i.e., a society lives up to the ideal of community if its members are treated as free and equal persons. Liberal visions of politics did not include any independent principle of community, such as shared nationality, language, culture, religion, history or way of life. In the 1980s, however, community re-emerged. An entire school of thought, known as ‘communitarianism’, has arisen in political philosophy whose central claim is precisely the necessity of attending to community alongside, if not prior to, liberty and equality. Communitarians believe that the value of community is not sufficiently recognized in liberal theories of justice, or in the public culture of liberal societies. So the new communitarians are united by the belief that political philosophy must pay more attention to the shared practices and understandings within each society. They also agree that this requires modification of traditional liberal principles of justice and rights. In response to the communitarian critique, many liberals have attempted to show that they, too, are sensitive to the importance of community and culture, and that they can accommodate at least the ‘forwardlooking’ dimensions of communitarianism. Hence we have witnessed a proliferation of theories of ‘liberal republicanism’, ‘liberal patriotism’, ‘liberal nationalism’, ‘liberal multiculturalism’ and ‘liberal civil society’. All of these are intended to show that a liberal society is not exclusively ‘individualistic’, and can accommodate and support a rich array of collective identities and associations, without compromising the basic liberal commitment to the protection of individual civil and political rights. Given these developments, the original liberalcommunitarian debate of the 1980s has given way to a number of new, more differentiated, positions and issues. Instead of a stark choice between ‘individualism’ and ‘communitarianism’, we now face a range of debates about how to sustain bonds of moral solidarity and political community in an era of individual rights and cultural diversity. How to build a common national identity without suppressing ethnic and religious diversity? How to nurture feelings of trust and solidarity in mass societies where people share little in common? How to foster a vibrant public sphere that encourages civic participation and democratic dialogue? How to support family life without imposing traditional gender roles? THE COMMUNITARIAN CRITIQUE OF LIBERALISM We can distinguish three distinct, sometimes conflicting, aspects in the original communitarian critique of liberalism that emerged in the 1980s. Some communitarians argued that community replaces the need for principles of liberal justice. Others saw justice and community as perfectly consistent, but argued that a proper appreciation of the value of community requires us to modify our conception of what justice is. These latter communitarians fall into two camps. 1- community should be seen as the source of principles of justice (i.e., justice should be based on the shared understandings of society, not on universal and ahistorical principles); 2- community should play a greater role in the content of principles of justice (i.e., justice should give more weight to the common good, and less weight to individual rights). COMMUNITY AND THE LIMITS OF JUSTICE Justice does not displace love or solidarity, and nothing in the idea of justice prevents people from choosing to sacrifice their rightful claims in order to help others. Simply ensures that these decisions are genuinely voluntary, and that no one can force others to accept a subordinate position. Justice enables loving relationships, but ensures that they are not corrupted by domination or subordination. JUSTICE AND SHARED MEANINGS Communitarian attempts to define justice in terms of a community’s shared understandings. Many communitarians agree with Rawls about the importance of justice. However, they claim that liberals misinterpret justice as an ahistorical and external criterion for criticizing the ways of life of every society. Utilitarians, liberal egalitarians and libertarians may disagree about the content of justice, but they all seem to think that their preferred theory provides a standard that every society should live up to. They do not see it as a decisive objection that their theory may be in conflict with local beliefs. In order to resolve these disagreements, we need to assess competing understandings in the light of a more general conception of justice. So even if we start with local understandings, as Walzer suggests, we are driven by the existence of disagreement, and our own critical reflection, towards a more general and less parochial standpoint. INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND THE COMMON GOOD For many communitarians, the problem with liberalism is not its emphasis on justice, nor its universalism, but rather its ‘individualism’. According to this criticism, liberals base their theories on notions of individual rights and personal freedom, but neglect the extent to which individual freedom and well-being is only possible within community. Once we recognize the dependence of human beings on society, then our obligations to sustain the common good of society are as important as our rights to individual liberty. Hence, communitarians argue, the liberal ‘politics of rights’ should be abandoned for a ‘politics of the common good’. However, a liberal society often restricts individual liberty to promote the common good However, liberals believe that there is an important constraint on the way the state restricts individual liberty – namely, it cannot take a stand on the essential merits of different lifestyles (or ‘conceptions of the good’). A liberal state does not deprive people of their rights or resources on the grounds that their lifestyle is worthless. Nor does it reward people with greater liberty or resources on the grounds that their lifestyle has more intrinsic value. Each person’s conception of the good is shown equal respect, if consistent with the principles of justice, ‘not in the sense that there is an agreed public measure of intrinsic value or satisfaction with respect to which all these conceptions come out equal, but in the sense that they are not evaluated at all from a [public] standpoint’. (Rawls, 1982, p. 172). This idea that the state does not rank the intrinsic merit of different conceptions of the good is often called the idea of ‘state neutrality’. Communitarians, on the other hand, conceive of the common good as a substantive conception of the good that defines the community’s ‘way of life’. This way of life forms the basis for a public ranking of conceptions of the good, and the weight given to an individual’s preferences depends on how much she conforms or contributes to this common good. A communitarian state is not, therefore, constrained by the requirement of ‘neutrality’. It encourages people to adopt conceptions of the good that conform to the community’s way of life, while discouraging conceptions of the good that conflict with it. Communitarians object both to the liberal conception of individual autonomy, and to the way liberals connect autonomy to state neutrality. THE EMBEDDED SELF According to Michael Sandel and Alasdair MacIntyre, the liberal picture of autonomous individuals picking and choosing their conceptions of the good is facile. They argue that Rawls exaggerates our capacity to stand back from and question our social roles, and ignores the fact that the self is ‘embedded’ in existing social practices. “Communitarians exaggerate our ‘embeddedness’ in particular roles. It may not be easy to question deeply held beliefs about the good, but the history of the women’s movement, for example, shows that people can question and reject even the most deeply entrenched sexual, economic and family roles”. THE SOCIAL THESIS Many communitarians accept the liberal commitment to individual autonomy, but criticize liberalism for neglecting the social conditions required for the exercise of autonomy. Charles Taylor claims that many liberal theories are based on ‘atomism’, the view that individuals are not in need of any communal context in order to develop and exercise their capacity for selfdetermination. Taylor argues instead for the ‘social thesis’, which says that autonomy can only be developed and exercised in a certain kind of social environment Liberals do not literally deny the social thesis. ‘The view that we might acquire autonomy outside of society is absurd’. However, Taylor believes that liberals ignore the full implications of the social thesis. The social thesis tells us that the capacity to assess one’s conception of the good can only be exercised in a particular sort of community. But, Taylor argues, this sort of autonomysupporting community can only be sustained by a politics of the common good, not by a liberal politics of state neutrality. Kymlicka considers three versions of this claim, focusing respectively on the need to sustain a diverse culture that provides people with meaningful options; the need for shared forums in which to evaluate these options; and the need to sustain political legitimacy. THE NEED FOR CULTURAL DIVERSITY The freedom to choose one’s way of life is only meaningful if we have options to choose from, and the social thesis tells us that these options come from our culture. Communitarians argue that liberal neutrality is incapable of ensuring the existence of a rich and diverse culture that provides such options. According to liberal theory, a state that intervenes in the cultural marketplace to encourage or discourage any particular way of life restricts people’s autonomy But what if the cultural marketplace, left on its own, eventually cultural pluralism, leading to a drab and uniform mass culture? Neutrality would then be selfdefeating. THE NEED FOR SHARED DELIBERATIONS Individuals require the sharing of experiences and the give and take of collective deliberation. Individual judgements about the good become a matter of subjective and arbitrary whim if they are cut off from collective deliberations. Communitarianism, on the other hand, adopts the view that ‘men living in a community of shared experiences and language is the only context in which the individual and society can discover and test their values through the essentially political activities of discussion, criticism, example, and emulation’ The state is the proper arena in which to formulate our visions of the good, because these visions require shared inquiry. They cannot be pursued, or even known, by solitary individuals. For Rawls, shared experiences concerning the good are at the heart of the various groups or ‘communities of interests’ that exist in a liberal society. Freedom of association is important precisely because it enables people to enter into this ‘free social union with others’ (1971, p. 543). Rawls simply denies that the state is an appropriate forum for those deliberations. Liberals and communitarians do not disagree about the need for communal practices and forums. Rather, they disagree about the need for state involvement in evaluating and protecting those practices. THE NEED FOR POLITICAL LEGITIMACY Whatever the proper role of the state, it can only fulfil its functions if public institutions are stable, and that in turn requires that they have legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens. Taylor believes that political institutions governed by the principle of neutrality are incapable of sustaining legitimacy, and hence incapable of sustaining the social context required for self-determination. The common good has been undermined partly because state neutrality means that people are free to choose their goals independently of this ‘common form of life’, and to trump the pursuit of this common good should it violate their rights. NATIONALISM AND MULTICULTURALISM Contemporary welfare states require a high degree of legitimacy and solidarity, yet neither liberals nor communitarians have provided an adequate explanation for these thoughts. They can be grounded neither in shared beliefs about universal principles of justice, as liberals propose, nor in shared conceptions of the good life, as communitarians propose. The former are too widely shared across state borders, and the latter are not shared within states While the historical importance of nationhood is increasingly recognized in the literature, there are also many doubts about whether it can continue to provide a viable basis for feelings of political community. In particular, it is being challenged by a range of ethnic and racial minorities who reject traditional ideologies of nationhood in favour of a more ‘multicultural’ conception of political community. Western states historically have attempted to diffuse a single, homogenous national identity based on some recognized account of the nation’s history and culture, with its pantheon of heroes and cultural images. These nation-building policies have typically ignored, or actively suppressed, the identities and practices of various minorities, whether they are long-standing historical minorities, such as the indigenous peoples of the Americas, or recent immigrants. Such groups faced the choice of assimilation or exclusion. Today, however, many minorities are resisting this choice, and demanding the right to participate without having to assimilate. They are seeking a model of political community that respects and accommodates ethnocultural diversity – in short, ‘multiculturalism’. One dimension of this concerns traditionalist ethnic and religious groups who do not recommend the value of individual autonomy, and who do not wish their members to learn about other ways of life. The challenge of multiculturalism to liberal nationalism goes far beyond this. For even where minority groups share the same liberal-democratic values as the majority, they may still object to the model of nationhood being promoted by the state. They may share the same political values, yet speak a different language, and demand the right to use it in public institutions (e.g., the French in Canada, or Catalans in Spain). Or they may feel that they form a distinct nation within the larger state, and so demand the right to exercise regional self-government on their historic national homeland (e.g., the Scots in Britain). Or they may feel that the recognized accounts of the nation’s history and culture exclude their own, heroes, holidays, music, literature and so on, and so demand a more inclusive national account. “Many of these multiculturalist claims are legitimate, and indeed are needed to ensure that nation building does not have unjust and exclusionary consequences”. In the absence of multiculturalism and minority rights, nation building inevitably leads to the systematic marginalizing and stigmatizing of minorities (Kymlicka, 2001). But critics worry that a passionate embrace of multiculturalism will undermine any sense of nationhood, and hence erode the feeling of ethical community that sustains democratic welfare states (e.g., Barry, 2001).