Radical Multiculturalism versus Liberal Pluralism

Ethical Perspectives 11 (4):238-249 (2004)

Radical multiculturalism claims that cultural groups, not the individual, should be the yardstick for considerations of justice, because the group offers the individual the indispensable good of being rooted in a community and since membership in a culture is not voluntary, abolition of culture would lead to uprooting of individuals. Thus, by taking this good away on grounds of justice, liberalism perpetrates another injustice. Against this, liberalism upholds the principle of normative methodological individualism, arguing that groups cannot be defined without recourse to the individual. Furthermore, the concept of cultural group is notoriously vague and not suitable to replace normative methodological individualism. Moreover, radical multiculturalism risks falling prey to self-defeating normative relativism. Since there is also a danger for the liberal to fall prey to culture-centrism, both parties agree on internal universalism. They also agree on the difference between membership in an association and membership in a cultural community. However, the liberal concludes that the state must not add its might to cultural dependency, but enable the individual to grow out of it. Furthermore, liberalism maintains that normative methodological individualism is sufficient for even group-related needs provided the group conforms to basic principles of justice. To this, radical multiculturalism objects that even if all cultural groups abide by the principles of justice of the larger society, liberalism still produces injustices for those whose language is not among the official languages of the polity. Since any democratic polity needs a medium of debate and deliberation that is universally understood, liberalism has to grant this point. Liberalism can only diminish its impact through intermediate levels of government and subsidiarity
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DOI 10.2143/EP.11.4.519089
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