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Are There Any Cultural Majority Rights?

Dr. Baubock
Monday, February 22, 2021, 6:00 pm

Multiculturalism has been turned upside down. Stated in the 1990s as a theory and policy of cultural minority rights, its language of cultural victimhood, oppression and alienation has been hijacked by politicians speaking on behalf of national majorities. Some scholars have argued that liberal arguments for cultural group rights must apply to majorities as well as to minorities. I will object that the notion of cultural majority rights is incoherent on empirical and conceptual grounds, and indefensible on normative grounds. My empirical objection is that the construction of national majorities has been changing over time and these are today too deeply divided to be considered as distinct groups that could be the bearers of collective rights. Conceptually, national majorities must not be equated with democratic majorities. In liberal democracies, decisions to establish or protect specific aspects of a public culture are not taken on behalf of national majorities but on behalf of all citizens, and majorities supporting such decisions are formed by ever-changing political coalitions. Normatively, I will suggest an alternative approach that relies on the core values of freedom, equality, and self-government. These values serve to justify cultural freedom rights for everybody, cultural rights for minorities, and powers and duties to establish a pluralistic public culture that includes all citizens. I claim that this covers all cultural rights that can be defended on grounds of liberal and democratic principles. There is no space left for special rights of cultural majorities.


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