Multiculturalism, Liberalism and the Burden of Assimilation

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Political Science, Stockholm University

Abstract: Should a liberal state meet claims for accommodation of cultural difference with a liberal multicultural approach that grants cultural rights to minorities? The present thesis tries to answer this question by investigating if a liberal state may adopt a multicultural approach and still remain liberal. The purpose of the thesis, more specifically, is to study whether the accommodation of multiculturalism through cultural rights can be based on liberal values or not. The inquiry focuses on three influential liberal multicultural approaches which claim that cultural rights are congruent with equality, toleration and autonomy respectively. The coherence of these models is, however, questioned in the thesis. These models may neither be claimed to promote liberal values in a coherent and unambiguous way, nor be described as the adequate response to the type of burden of assimilation that members of minority cultures experience in liberal states. The main conclusion of the study is that liberal multiculturalism does not follow consistently from liberal premises and that the possibility of a normative conjunction between multiculturalism and liberalism therefore should be characterized as an open question in political theory. From liberal premises, a liberal neutralist model of integration based on anti-discrimination and equality of opportunity, in fact, still seems to be the most promising basis for a multicultural policy. It is argued in the thesis that this model can be developed if combined with a liberal scheme for deliberation on multicultural issues based on the principle of equality of opportunity.