Culture: Choice or Circumstance?

Constellations 5 (2):183-200 (1998)
Abstract
In this paper, I would like to discuss two recent attempts to incorporate groupdifferentiated rights and entitlements into a broadly liberal conception of distributive justice. The first is John Roemer’s “pragmatic theory of responsibility,” and the second is Will Kymlicka’s defense of minority rights in “multinational” states.1 Both arguments try to show that egalitarianism, far from requiring a “color-blind” system of institutions and laws that is insensitive to ethnic, linguistic or subcultural differences, may in fact mandate special types of rights, entitlements, or compensatory arrangements for members of minority groups. These proposals are attractive because they attempt to ground these special rights without reference to controversial philosophical doctrines, but merely through appeal to the widely accepted political norm of equality. Furthermore, if either of these arguments were to succeed, it would allow liberals to avoid many of the difficulties that have often led proponents of “the politics of difference” or the “politics of recognition” to adopt an oppositional stance toward more traditional forms of liberalism.2..
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