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Politics in the Vernacular

Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Citizenship

by Will Kymlicka

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history & theory
list price: $76.95
also available: Hardcover
published: 2000

This volume brings together eighteen of Will Kymlicka's recent essays on nationalism, multiculturalism and citizenship. These essays expand on the well-known theory of minority rights first developed in his Multicultural Citizenship. In these new essays, Kymlicka applies his theory to several pressing controversies regarding ethnic relations today, responds to some of his critics, and situates the debate over minority rights within the larger context of issues of nationalism, democratic citizenship and globalization.

The essays are divided into four sections. The first section summarizes 'the state of the debate' over minority rights, and explains how the debate has evolved over the past 15 years. The second section explores the requirements of ethnocultural justice in a liberal democracy. Kymlicka argues that the protection of individual human rights is insufficient to ensure justice between ethnocultural groups, and that minority rights must supplement human rights. In particular, Kymlicka explores why some form of power-sharing (such as federalism) is often required to ensure justice for national minorities; why indigenous peoples have distinctive rights relating to economic development and environmental protection; and why we need to define fairer terms of integration for immigrants. The third section focuses on nationalism. Kymlicka discusses some of the familiar misinterpretations and preconceptions which liberals have about nationalism, and defends the need to recognize that there are genuinely liberal forms of nationalism. He discusses the familiar (but misleading) contrast between 'cosmopolitanism' and 'nationalism', and discusses why liberals have gradually moved towards a position that combines elements of both. The final section explores how these increasing demands by ethnic and national groups for minority rights affect the practice of democratic citizenship. Kymlicka surveys recent theories of citizenship, and raises questions about how they are challenged by ethnocultural diversity. He emphasizes the importance of education as a site of conflict between demands for accommodating ethnocultural diversity and demands for promoting the common virtues and loyalties required by democratic citizenship. And, finally, he explores the extent to which 'globalization' requires us to think about citizenship in more global terms, or whether citizenship will remain tied to national institutions and political processes. Taken together, these essays make a major contribution to enriching our understanding of the theory and practice of ethnocultural relations in Western democracies.

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Contributor notes

Will Kymlicka is the author of four books published by Oxford University Press: "Liberalism, Community, and Culture" (1989), "Contemporary Political Philosophy" (1990), "Multicultural Citizenship" (1995), which was awarded the Macpherson Prize by the Canadian Political Science Association, and the Bunche Award by the American Political Science Association, and "Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada" (1998). He is also the editor of "Justice in Political Philosophy" (Elgar, 1992), "The Rights of Minority Cultures" (Oxford, 1995), and "Ethnicity and Group Rights (NYU, 1997)". He is currently Professor of Philosophy at Queens University.

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Editorial Reviews

Most of the essays in this collection were written for an academic audience, but Kymlicka's writing is consistently clear and accessible. Which is wonderful, because the questions of nationalism and citizenship and too pressing, and Kymlicka's arguments too important to remain in the academy. Andrew Potter, National Post

Politics in the Vernacular presents a collection of extremely interesting and well-written essays that offer insightful and thought-provoking analysis of a number of issues central to the ongoing discourse surrounding minority rights. Importantly, its arguments are equally accessible to specialists and non-specialists, and the book contains a substantial independent bibliography and a thorough, helpful index. Shaun Young, Canadian Public Administration

Kymlicka provides an excellent account of the problem that inspires the multiculturalism debates. Bernard Yack, European Journal of Political Theory

Kymlicka is a provocative and intellectually stimulating writer whose ideas have much to offer and have become part of a wider philosophical and political discourse on minority rights... It is an excellent analysis of a wide variety of issues of significant importance in the current discourses on democracy, nationalism, minority rights, ethnic conflict ... makes a significant contribution to the further development of both theory and practice in accommodating population diversity within liberal democracies. Stefan Wolff, Specialist Group, Ethnic Politics

'Kymlicka's mid-level theory successfully tackles the confusion and obfuscation in our everyday discourse on ethnocultural justice ... displays a sophisticated philosophical engagement with reality, which exemplifies the very best of mid-level and applied contemporary political philosophy ... essential reading for anyone interested in the minority rights debate.' Democratization

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