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Culture and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism
All major western countries today contain groups that differ intheir religious beliefs, customary practices or ideas about theright way in which to live. How should public policy respond tothis diversity? In this important new work, Brian Barry challengesthe currently orthodox answer and develops a powerful restatementof an egalitarian liberalism for the twenty-first century.
Until recently it was assumed without much question that culturaldiversity could best be accommodated by leaving cultural minoritiesfree to associate in pursuit of their distinctive ends within thelimits imposed by a common framework of laws. This solution isrejected by an influential school of political theorists, amongwhom some of the best known are William Galston, Will Kymlicka,Bhikhu Parekh, Charles Taylor and Iris Marion Young. According tothem, this 'difference-blind' conception of liberal equality failsto deliver either liberty or equal treatment. In its place, theypropose that the state should 'recognize' group identities, bygranting groups exemptions from certain laws, publicly 'affirming'their value, and by providing them with special privileges orsubsidies.
In Culture and Equality, Barry offers an incisive critique of thesearguments and suggests that theorists of multiculturism tend tomisdiagnose the problems of minority groups. Often, these are notrooted in culture, and multiculturalist policies may actually standin the way of universalistic measures that would be genuinelybeneficial.read more