Social Philosophy Today 25:265-270 (2009)

Cindy Holder
University of Victoria
Multicultural Odysseys by Will Kymlicka is a textbook example of how to effectively integrate empirical research and philosophical analysis. In it Kymlicka offers a measured and scrupulously honest assessment of what he takes to be both the potential and the limits of liberal multiculturalism as a model for democratization, seeking not to defend his views on multiculturalism in so much as try to understand them. In particular, he seeks to understand how his views on multiculturalism can be correct in the context of Western democracies (as he does not doubt they are) and yet be limited in their potential for export. In approaching his project in this way, Kymlicka raises a number of questions about multiculturalism, about theorizing across borders, and about the nature of Western democracy that he does not directly address, but toward which the reader is inevitably spurred. In this commentary I focus on one especially important question: What does the analysis of this book imply about the future prospects for ideal theorizing? I argue that, without the author intending or necessarily foreseeing it, Multicultural Odysseys has made the world of political philosophy a much less hospitable place for ideal theorizing, at least as it has traditionally been understood. In the wake of Kymlicka’s treatment of the limits on liberal multiculturalism’s exportability it is difficult to imagine that ideal theorizing can occupy the same central place in normative analyses of multiculturalism, minority rights, liberalism, democracy, and global justice.
Keywords Conference Proceedings  Social and Political Philosophy  multiculturalism  Will Kymlicka  cultural identity  minority rights  liberal democracy
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ISBN(s) 1543-4044
DOI 10.5840/socphiltoday20092520
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