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Multiculturalism Exam Questions
How and why have multiculturalists supported minority rights?
Minority rights: belong to groups rather than individuals
`Special rights' may advantage certain groups over others
Include right to be respected, `polyethnic' rights, representation rights (positive discrimination) or
Justification stems from role upholding cultural identity (diversity and pluralism)
Cultural distinctiveness seen by multiculturalists as basis for civic unity
Applies in case of right to respect and recognition and in legal exemptions
Liberal/individual rights tend to homogenise society by eroding cultural distinctiveness
Representation rights and `positive' discrimination also upheld by desire to compensate
marginalised groups for past injustices and present disadvantages
Use minority rights to advance cause of social justice
To what extent is there tension between multiculturalism and liberalism?
Liberal multiculturalists synthesise, pluralist multiculturalists critical
o Cornerstone commitment to toleration, freedom of choice, e.g. cultural/religious traditions
o Liberalism is `neutral' in relation to person decisions (difference-blind)
o Attempt to reconcile cultural diversity with civic unity public/private
o Liberal democracy sole legitimate political system, guarantee personal freedom +
Multiculturalism exposed divisions within liberalism
o Liberal pluralists: beyond toleration, embrace `deep' diversity (post-liberalism)
o Universalist liberals: multiculturalism subordinates rights and needs of individual to those
of social group, allowing personal autonomy to succumb to `despotism of custom'
Viewed as forms of bogus multiculturalism by pluralist
o Liberal endorsement of cultural diversity `absolutises' liberalism, fails to show proper
respect for non-liberal values and tradition
o Liberals only tolerant of beliefs that are themselves liberal/tolerant, only endorse `diversity
within a liberal framework'
o Reluctant for cultural groups to have `public' recognition and refuse to accept non-liberal
political processes may be equally legitimate as liberal democracy
On what grounds do multiculturalists defend diversity?
This question was answered well by a large proportion of candidates. Some highly impressive responses were
developed on the basis of the different justifications for diversity offered by, for example, liberal multiculturalists,
pluralist multiculturalists and cosmopolitan multiculturalists. These often showed a sophisticated understanding
of the range of multicultural thinking on the issue of cultural diversity. Less impressive responses, however, tended
either to focus on just one multiculturalists defence for diversity or provided a descriptive rather than an analytical
account of multiculturalists thinking. A small number of very weak responses were nevertheless developed, it
seemed, on the basis of popular newspaper accounts of multiculturalism, usually of a negative character. These
responses were reminiscent of some early, weak responses to feminist questions, which drew from a stereotypical
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The hope is these crude and un-theoretical accounts of multiculturalism
will die out quickly.
Remember that this question is not 'for and against'. You are being asked to give a range of grounds, from more
than one multiculturalist position.…read more
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Why have some multiculturalists criticised liberalism?
The relationship between liberalism and multiculturalism appears to be well understood. Strong responses
recognised that, from the perspective of pluralist multiculturalism, liberalism can only accept cultural diversity if it
operates within a liberal framework, especially as toleration is restricted to those who are also prepared to
practise toleration.…read more
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Less successful responses, however, tended to be descriptive rather than
analytical, and often provided generalised accounts of the rival multiculturalist traditions rather than examining
their differencing approaches to diversity and the politics of difference.…read more