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Multicultural Liberals and the Rushdie Affair: A Critique of Kymlicka, Taylor, and Walzer

Daniel I. O'Neill
The Review of Politics
Vol. 61, No. 2 (Spring, 1999), pp. 219-250
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1408356
Page Count: 32
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Multicultural Liberals and the Rushdie Affair: A Critique of Kymlicka, Taylor, and Walzer
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Abstract

This article critically analyzes the work of Will Kymlicka, Charles Taylor, and Michael Walzer, three of the most important contemporary political philosophers writing on issues of multiculturalism. It uses the Rushdie affair, and each theorist's interpretation of it, as the basis for an immanent critique of "multicultural liberalism," a theory defined by the dual commitment to cultural rights for minority groups and certain core liberal principles, defended in different ways by Kymlicka, Taylor, and Walzer. It is principally concerned with Kymlicka, whose work is one of the most influential attempts to respond to communitarian criticism that "atomistic" liberalism is inhospitable to community and culture. The article argues that Kymlicka's defense of "multicultural citizenship" is deeply problematic from the perspective of the Rushdie affair. It then considers Taylor and Walzer similarly, as representatives of the communitarian strain of multicultural liberal argument, and likewise finds their positions unconvincing. The article concludes with the suggestion that the Rushdie affair points to a potentially unresolvable tension at the heart of all three attempts to defend multicultural liberalism.

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