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Political Science Conservatism & Liberalism

Multicultural Citizenship

A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights

by (author) Will Kymlicka

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Sep 1996
Conservatism & Liberalism
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 1996
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The increasingly multicultural fabric of modern societies has given rise to many new issues and conflicts, as ethnic and national minorities demand recognition and support for their cultural identity. This book presents a new conception of the rights and status of minority cultures.

It argues that certain sorts of 'collective rights' for minority cultures are consistent with liberal democratic principles, and that standard liberal objections to recognizing such rights on grounds of individual freedom, social justice, and national unity, can be answered. However, Professor Kymlicka emphasises that no single formula can be applied to all groups and that the needs and aspirations of immigrants are very different from those of indigenous peoples and national minorities. The book discusses issues such as language rights, group representation, religious education, federalism, and secession - issues which are central to understanding multicultural politics, but which have been surprisingly neglected in contemporary liberal theory.

About the author

Will Kymlicka is the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University. He is the author of seven books published by Oxford University Press, most recently Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights (2011), co-authored with Sue Donaldson. His previous books include Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (1995) and Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity (2007). In 2013, he delivered the HLA Hart Memorial Lecture at the University of Oxford on Animals and the Frontiers of Citizenship.


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Editorial Reviews

'An important addition to liberal theory and necessary for students and scholars at all levels.' Choice

'Kymlicka's achievement is in putting culture, nationality and minorities at the centre of liberal theory. He is a philosopher who always has one eye on policy, and his book can be recommended as an exemplar in "philosophy and public affairs".' Tariq Modood, Political Quarterly

'The overall argument of his book, and its attentive consideration of almost every issue vital to a complex notion of multiculturalism make invaluable reading for anyone weary of simplistic declamations.' Mitchell Cohen, Times Literary Supplement

'This excellent book sketches a theory of minority rights and argues that such rights can find a comfortable home within liberal political philosophy.' James Nickel, Journal of Philosophy

'Will Kymlicka is among the most important and interesting liberal political theorists writing today ... [he] produces an elegant and extremely interesting liberal account of the character, applicability and conditions suitable for the deployment of the notion of the rights of minority cultures considered as group rights. The book is subtitled a liberal theory of minority rights and it is not too exaggerated to say that Kymlicka provides not only the first fully worked out theory of liberal minority rights but one of the most successful and satisfying accounts of liberal political theory in recent years.' N. Rengger, International Affairs

'This is a very important book, one that is indispensable for the present discussion of multiculturalism ... this is an immensely rich, informative, and above all clarifying work, written by a first-class philosophical mind, animated by a humane outlook. It ought to be compulsory reading for all those who want to carry on the debate in this area.' Charles Taylor, American Political Science Review

'It's not surprising ... that Canadian political theorists like Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor have been prominent in thinking about problems of culture, identity and collective rights. Kymlicka's Multicultural Citizenship is a powerful intervention in that argument.' Stephen Howe, New Statesman and Society

'This timely and well-argued book offers a liberal defense, based on individual autonomy and social equality, of certain group-specific rights to self-government, to support for cultural differences, and to political representation. Clear, unpolemical, and open-minded, it nicely marries normative political theory and institutional analysis ... In all, this is a fine book, and the one to which students of multiculturalism must first be sent.' Leslie Green, Journal of Politics

'There is an engaging honesty in his attempts to discuss the possibilities of developing a politics that allows for cultural pluralism and diversity and the contradictions of a commitment to common citizenship.' Times Higher Education Supplement

'It is full of many stimulating insights, throws valuable light on many complex issues, and grapples with agonizing dilemmas. Above all, it appreciates the cultural embeddedness of the individual and creates theoretical space for cultural rights, thereby making liberalism hospitable to the moral imperatives of cultural pluralism.' Bhikhu Parekh, Policy Studies

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