Ethnicity and Group Rights: Nomos XXXIX


Within Western political philosophy, the rights of groups have often been neglected or addressed in only the narrowest fashion. Focusing solely on whether rights are exercised by individuals or groups misses what lies at the heart of ethnocultural conflict, leaving central questions unanswered: Can the familiar system of common citizenship rights within liberal democracies sufficiently accomodate the legitimate interests of "ethnic" citizens? How does membership in an ethnic group differ from other groups, such ...
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Ethnicity and Group Rights: Nomos XXXIX

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Within Western political philosophy, the rights of groups have often been neglected or addressed in only the narrowest fashion. Focusing solely on whether rights are exercised by individuals or groups misses what lies at the heart of ethnocultural conflict, leaving central questions unanswered: Can the familiar system of common citizenship rights within liberal democracies sufficiently accomodate the legitimate interests of "ethnic" citizens? How does membership in an ethnic group differ from other groups, such as professional, lifestyle, or advocacy groups? How important is ethnicity to personal identity and self-respect, and does accomodating these interests require more than standard citizenship rights? Perhaps most important, what forms of ethnocultural accomodations are consistent with democratic equality, individual freedom, and political stability? Invoking numerous case studies and addressing the issue of ethnicity from a range of perspectives, Ethnicity and Group Rights seeks to answer these questions.
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Editorial Reviews

John C. King
The goal of this thirty ninth volume to NOMOS is to explore new normative, moral, and institutional questions about the political and legal rights of people: rights based on ethnocultural group membership rather than on the familiar individual and collective claims for rights based on citizenship and found in such beacons of liberal thought as the American Bill of Rights. As the editors point out, while there is a long-standing literature devoted to the latter, the former has largely been neglected in Western scholarship until recently. This new focus, they claim, is emerging because serious questions have been raised about the adequacy of liberal political philosophy and institutions in providing solutions to many conflicts in the world today. The central problem studied here is how to approach the underlying causes of ethno-nationalistic inspired conflicts, such as those in the former East European communist states and elsewhere, and the often divisive and bitter disputes in the liberal Western states over multiculturalism, immigration, and a host of other concerns pertaining to the politics of ethnicity. Working from the presumption that important shifts in thinking about political and legal group rights are needed now, the seventeen essays presented in this volume (grouped into six thematic categories) cover an impressive array of questions, issues, and case studies. Essays by Kukathas, Walzer, Addis, and Walker debate questions about the extent to which ethnic group identity and culturally-bound practices—practices which are sometimes obviously inconsistent with democratic freedoms and institutions—should or should not be tolerated and accommodated into liberal democratic political life. The complex philosophical and legal dilemmas that emerge from these discussions clearly illustrate the seemingly impossible task of reconciling core values in liberalism with legitimate interests that many people might have by virtue of their ethnocultural group membership. Pogge and Anaya each debate the equally complex question of to what extent, if any, can a legal standard be devised that distinguishes ethnic group membership from lifestyle or professional or gender-based group membership. Such overlapping group memberships characterize most people's lives. As Pogge and Anaya show, sorting these identities out is not easy. Essays by Nickel, Réaume, and Stolzenburg take up the questions of what factors tend to expedite or to obstruct ethnic and minority groups in acquiring legal autonomy and using their rights effectively to promote and protect their particular interests. And Young assesses the prospects for adequate political representation of marginalized groups in the context of overlapping group memberships and in light of the probability that a given ethnocultural minority group will most likely lack a unified set of opinions and interests. She concludes that a new conceptualization of the meaning and function of political representation is needed. Stark poses the question that if new forms of representation are to be created, who decides precisely which particular ethnic, racial, or lifestye group identity is to be represented from among the complex mosaic of overlapping group memberships? More precisely, who decides who can speak authoritatively for the group if indeed a group can be identified? Authors of the final set of essays evaluate various strategies for resolving ethnic group conflict around the world. Horowitz provides a careful analysis of the feasibility of the irredentist and secessionist solutions to ethnic conflict. Citing evidence from many cases, he argues that these solutions rarely reduce conflict, despite the expectations of political elites. His findings are consistent with the work of many others who have looked into the politics of partition. Kaspin examines causes of ethnic divisions and conflict in Malawi's post-colonial history. She argues that former President-For-Life Banda's strategy for nation building (which privileged the Chewa tribe and their territory over all others) ultimately backfired and led instead to an intensification of ethnic conflict and division which spilled over in the 1994 presidential election. Ironically, this first opportunity for open political participation might have set conditions for the beginning of a true national identity. Essays by Jung and Seekings, Kane, and Cohen examine the course of multiculturalism in a variety of contexts. Jung and Seekings in a study of post-apartheid South Africa, argue that whites in Ruyterwacht, a suburb of Capetown, are more open to racial integration than in the past, but there are some important caveats: 1) the new favorable attitude is toward Coloureds in particular, and 2) the attitude is essentially a replacement of open bigotry with what the authors refer to as a modern form of racism defined as a mixture of egalitarianism and prejudice. Kane suggests that Australia's relative success with multiculturalism has more to do with a popular rejection of its racist colonial legacy and with the image it wants to project to potential trading partners in Asia than from any explicit national governmental policies. Cohen examines the politics of inclusion in the US and argues that the strategy that eventually propelled minority white immigrant groups into mainstream American culture had to do with a long-term demonstration of worthiness. This strategy, however, comes with the price of dilution to ethnocultural identity. She assesses the implications for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered minority communities. This broad sweep of content and the density of the arguments and case studies presented make plain the fact that there is a lot to think about concerning the politics of ethnicity and group rights and new ways to think about them. The book is organized in a way conducive to exploring multiple sides of a given issue of interest (for example, the meaning of toleration in a context of growing ethnoculturalism). Cases pro and con are made with force, subtlety, and clarity. Hence, political philosophers will find the book valuable and political lawyers in particular will find it useful as a guide to developing strategies in their legal cases. Policymakers might also find it useful for the same reasons, but probably to a lesser extent. Meeting these needs makes the book a timely and important contribution to these audiences. But what might be the book's utility for empirical scholars? This is an important question particularly in light of the central thesis that a research focus on group rights better explains ethnocentric conflict in most contexts than does a focus on individual rights. An evaluation of the question shows that the book contributes considerably less to an empirical audience than to the others. For example, with the single exception of Levy's tentative typology of cultural rights, no other essay among the seventeen presented were dedicated specifically to sorting through the dense normative arguments with the goals of at least starting the process of solving the complex empirical issues involved (e.g., typology, concepts, measurement strategies) and identifying testable hypotheses. Yet it is common knowledge that these are the necessary next steps if the implications of the normative theories are to be tested adequately and evaluated thoroughly. The case studies presented in the latter third of the book help to illustrate the point. While interesting and convincing, conceptualizations of ethnic group identity vary considerably across all of them, showing, in effect, a lack of consensus on central concepts, on levels of analysis, and on common analytical approaches. In short, the editors missed an opportunity to truly identify new directions for further research into ethnic conflict: they failed to include any discussions on the empirical issues behind the normative essays. Thus, the question remains whether the groups'- rights approach as outlined in the book provides a better framework for analyzing ethnic conflict than, say, Ted Gurr and associates' empirical work on minorities at risk, which was, surprisingly, ignored. Despite these disappointing shortcomings, there is much to be appreciated in this book. The normative essays are powerful, interesting, informative, and timely. They reveal many complexities that must be considered in the study of ethnicity and group rights. Solving the empirical issues is obviously the most important next step.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814797723
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 643
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 8.21 (h) x 1.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University, where he also serves as Henry R. Luce Director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies. He is the editor or author of numerous books, most recently Political Contingency (NYU Press) and Rethinking Political Institutions (NYU Press).

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 Classifying Cultural Rights 22
3 Cultural Toleration 69
4 Response to Kukathas 105
5 On Human Diversity and the Limits of Toleration 112
6 The Idea of Nonliberal Constitutionalism 154
7 Group Rights and Ethnicity 187
8 On Justifying Special Ethnic Group Rights: Comments on Pogge 222
9 Group Agency and Group Rights 235
10 Common-Law Constructions of Group Autonomy: A Case Study 257
11 A Tale of Two Villages (Or, Legal Realism Comes to Town) 290
12 Deferring Group Representation 349
13 What Is a Balanced Committee? Democratic Theory, Public Law, and the Question of Fair Representation on Quasi-Legislative Bodies 377
14 Self-Determination: Politics, Philosophy, and Law 421
15 Tribes, Regions, and Nationalism in Democratic Malawi 464
16 "That Time Was Apartheid, Now It's the New South Africa": Discourses of Race in Ruyterwacht, 1995 504
17 From Ethnic Exclusion to Ethnic Diversity: The Australian Path to Multiculturalism 540
18 Straight Gay Politics: The Limits of an Ethnic Model of Inclusion 572
Index 617
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