Cindy Holder
University of Victoria
It seems undeniable that some cultures encourage individuals to act in ways that harm others, and/or to believe that there is nothing wrong when another acts in a way that harms them. And when this is the case it also seems undeniable that it would be better if the scope for such cultures to guide individuals' decision-making were minimized or even eliminated. From these observations a number of people have inferred that groups which exhibit bad cultures ought not to be permitted to hold or exercise group rights. Susan Okin's liberal feminist critique of multiculturalism is one of the most interesting and persuasive examples of this type of argument. In this paper I take a closer look at Okin's critique and ask whether it actually does give one reason to be skeptical about group rights. I conclude that it does not. For although the worries which animate Okin's critique are good ones to have, it is a mistake to think that they are about group rights. Moreover, insofar as Okin's concerns are well motivated they are not actually worries about morally problematic cultures but rather worries about groups' internal political and social structures. These worries should not be equated. Ultimately (I argue) it is not only misleading but counterproductive to focus on the viciousness of a group's culture as a potential reason for disqualifying it from holding or exercising rights.
Keywords cultural rights  multiculturalism  minority rights  Susan Okin  patriarchy
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