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The Need for Augmented Collective Rights in Justice-Based Cosmopolitanism

The Need for Augmented Collective Rights in Justice-Based Cosmopolitanism

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Katherine McWilliams. Originally submitted for International Political Theory at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Anthony Lang in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Katherine McWilliams. Originally submitted for International Political Theory at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Anthony Lang in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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12/29/2013

 
1Question: Does justice-based cosmopolitanism encroach upon the rights of minority cultures?AbstractThe following essay argues that political and justice-based cosmopolitanism deprivesminority cultures of their rights by placing the individual as the main unit of concern. This is because people who belong to minority cultures derive their sense of identity not only in isolation but also through interacting with their cultural group and from holding group rights that cannot be bestowed on individuals. Ultimately this work is meant to show why individual rights for someminority ethnic groups are not sufficient without assigning collective rights which infringes uponthe principles of cosmopolitanism. However, this is not to say that much of what cosmopolitanismaims to achieve is not correct or worthy, but rather that it needs to be augmented and tempered withadditional collective unit considerations. The first issue addressed in the paper is the definition of  political and justice-based cosmopolitanism. Justice-based rights are concerned with human rightsand the fair and equal treatment people. Likewise political cosmopolitan rights are outlined as rightsto participate in the political fabric of a community, such as voting in democratic elections. The paper then outlines the term “minority cultures” as ethnic minorities. This is because while other groups such as religious and linguistic are important, ethnic groups are uniquely concrete and aremore widely encompassing of traditions, religion, language and other cultural aspects. Furthermorewhile someone may convert religion or learn a new language, ethnicity is a fixed part of ones'identity. The argument is then proposed that there should be concern for ethnic minorities over majorities because “benign indifference” is not in fact possible. National holidays, days of rest,language etc. are automatically biased towards majority cultures. This is important because minoritycultures need protection to avoid becoming diluted or extinct. They provide valuable diversity of thought to society at large, and a point of personal reference to anchor the beliefs and values for thegroup's individual members. Forcing minorities to assume other identities is also harmful to these people which comes into conflict with the protection of individual rights. Furthermore, it is arguedthat part of protecting the culture of ethnic minorities is realizing that their identities do not exist isisolation, but rather are formed through participatory experiences and actions. For example, theright to preservation of ethnic lands cannot be held by individuals but is owned by collectivegroups. Thus the argument concludes that cosmopolitan rights must be contextualized and givenspecial augmentations where needed. In order to avoid encroaching on rights in the current system,the U.N. lays out minimalist guidelines that rely on state interpretation and implementation.Discretion is left in the hands of national governments who tend to be biased towards the majority.Thus, minority cultures are in danger of being diluted or wiped out causing harm to the groups'individuals as well as diminishing or removing the benefits of these groups to society at large.Key words: minorities, rights, cosmopolitan, ethnic group, collective.The Need for Augmented Collective Rights in Justice-Based CosmopolitanismIn a world that is increasingly defined by globalization and interconnectedness, academics, philosophers and politicians have dedicated more and more attention to universal human rights. Thedesirability and feasibility of cosmopolitan justice has come under greater scrutiny in response notonly to our mounting awareness of peoples half way around the world, but also to our growing
 
2impact on them.
1
For many, it is difficult to argue with a conception of justice where the individualis the primary unit of concern and a conception that argues one's place of origin should not alter one's right to accessing the basic necessities needed to survive.
2
However, this notion of justicelacks sufficient concern for those whose good is constituted by more than their own individualisticneeds. Civil and political justice-based cosmopolitanism deprives minority cultures of their rights by placing the individual as the main unit of concern. While individual rights are important, thisconception of justice lacks attention to the collective rights that are also important to the wellbeingof individuals but cannot be bestowed on one person in isolation. The following shall outline whatis meant by the terms civil and political justice-based cosmopolitanism as well as minority groups.It shall then be explained why concern for minorities in particular is important when awardingcollective rights, what kind of rights should be considered as well as why these rights are necessaryin order to provide rights to individuals. Finally the problem of why cosmopolitanism cannotadequately provide rights to these people without also awarding them collective rights will beexamined. There are many worthy arguments for and against the rights of minority peoples as wellas for cosmopolitanism that will cannot be addressed here. However, this should provide the reader with a perspective on why one's cultural context is important for formulating rights, especially inthe case of cultural minorities.It is important to begin by defining what is meant by “civil and political justice-basedcosmopolitanism”. This form of cosmopolitanism is concerned with individuals' access to a varietyof goods.
3
Civil justice tends to focus around human rights and political justice often addresses theindividual's political rights – and has considerable concern for one's access to democraticinstitutions and ability to participate in the political process.
4
It should be noted that these are not1 Ivison, Duncan. "Human Rights."
 Ethics and World Politics
. By Duncan Bell. Oxford: Oxford UP,2010. 239-55. Print. Pg 2442 Shue, Henry. "The Burdens of Justice."
The Journal of Philosophy
1st ser. 80.10 (1983): 600-08.
 JSTOR
. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2026156>. Pg 6013 Caney, Simon. "Cosmopolitanism."
 Ethics and World Politics
. By Duncan Bell. Oxford: OxfordUP, 2010. 146-63. Print. Pg 1494 Caney, Simon. Pg 151
 
3the only concerns of political and civil justice and that economic justice has been excluded, but for the purpose of this paper these are the main areas of interest. The most important and fundamentalelements of all these conceptions is that the individual is the ultimate unit of concern and that theyare concerned with the scope more than the content of these rights (meaning globally applying to allas individuals).
5
 It is necessary here to outline the people who are to be considered “minority cultures”.While ethnic, linguistic and religious groups can all be considered collective cultures in varyingdegrees, the primary concern here is with ethnic groups that constitute a strong societal culturewithin their group.
6
This culture shall be defined as:a culture which provides its members with meaningful ways of life across the fullrange of human activities, including social, educational, religious, recreational, andeconomic life, encompassing both public and private spheres. These cultures tend to be territorially concentrated, and based on a shared language.
7
For example, the North American indian tribes are groups fitting this description. As noted before,other groups could fall into the vain of having a “strong societal culture” such as religious groups,however, the focus is on ethnic groups because they are uniquely concrete.
8
A jewish person mayconvert to islam, however a native American person cannot convert to being asian or white. Thuswhile being part of a religious group may influence many areas of one's life, the focus shall be onethnic cultures given that this point of identity is immovable (though this is not to suggest a jewishindividual would be so willing to convert to islam just because it is feasible). The following shalltouch upon why majority cultures are excluded here before refocusing on why preserving the rightsof minority cultures as collective units and as well as individuals is of importance.5 Caney, Simon. Pg 1526 Hartney, Michael. "Some Confusions Concerning Collective Rights."
The Rights of MinorityCultures
. By Will Kymlicka. Oxford: Oxford Univ., 2007. 202-27. Print. Pg 204-2057 Kymlicka, Will.
 Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights
. Oxford:Clarendon, 1996.
Oxford Scholarship

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