Culture As A Way Of Life Cultural Studies Essay


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Culture and citizenship have often been regarded as concepts of different research and social movement areas, and their relationship has been viewed as an oxymoron or with scepticism (Miller, 2007; Craith 2004). During the last decades modern societies are becoming increasingly diverse: globalisation, new forms of multinational states, immigration flows, and the Internet revolution. Cultural studies are experiencing a new and constantly changing embodiment of citizenship, as it transforms through these active and highly dynamic developments (Miller, 2007, 27-29; Karim, 2005, 148-149)

The notion of cultural citizenship is gaining a leading position in political theory and research and the need for a policy approach in cultural studies is becoming more evident than ever (Miller and Lewis 2002, 18-19). Policies are needed to answer the critical question of how to sustain the diversity of people with different languages, traditions while enhancing the cohesion and unity among them (Alber and Gilbert 2009, 45). Questions about the new forms and status of citizenship are becoming the centre of cultural discourse and policies, aiming to revise cultural impressions and activities that are seen as exclusory (Ciprut, 2008; Stevenson, 2001, 4).

Citizenship exists by providing a set of rights to facilitate the participation in different social, political, cultural, and economic aspects in the society (Karim 2005, 148). Cultural citizenship moves beyond these traditional limits of an economic and political understanding of citizenship; it aims to foster the understanding and recognition of cultural difference within a society based on education, custom, religion, politics of tolerance, and special cultural rights (Miller and Lewis, Critical Cultural Policy studies, A reader 2002, 2).

This increasing cultural pluralisation within contemporary societies is not always viewed as positive. The term "clash of civilizations", illustrates the fear about culture conflicts which may arise within multicultural societies. Cultural citizenship views cultural diversity not as a source of conflict, but as a "fertilizer" that cultivates and ameliorates society (Delanty 2002, 61). Its scope is to reconcile these cultural "conflicts" by policies based on intercultural dialogue and respect of cultural diversity. It is a concept that avoids homogenization by respecting cultural difference and immigrant culture (Miller, 2007).

Cultural citizenship advocates the right to be different while participating equally in a society's life. As Rosado argues, cultural citizenship is not a" theoretical oxymoron" but a "deliberate oxymoron", because cultural citizenship enables the empowerment and articulation of demands from marginalised and subordinate cultural groups. Such claims range from legal, political, and economic rights to universal rights of human dignity and respect (Rosaldo 1994, 57).

Moreover, cultural policy has a direct connection with cultural citizenship. It is about culture as it addresses the essential human element of identity. In the rich soil of culture is where the values of identity, diversity, and belonging are realised. Here lies the "governmentalist" representation of culture in managing and reworking citizens, communities, and people¬¬¬ relations (Mercer 2002, 5, 25). After all, as Miller felicitously points out: "Citizenship has always been cultural" (Miller, 2007, 51-52).

This essay aims to present and evaluate the theories of two political philosophers Will Kymlicka and Bhikbu Parekh. Their influential works "Multicultural citizenship" and "Rethinking Muticulturalism: Cultural diversity and Political theory" represent two great attempts to place the culture debate on citizenship in the political theory context. Kymlicka addresses citizenship from a liberal point of view. Core principles throughout his citizenship theory are limits of tolerance, bridging differences, minority rights, migration and dispossession (Delanty 2002, 61), (Miller 2007, 178). His theory introduces policies to promote minority groups equal access and recognition from society under the umbrella of essential human rights (Bromell 2008, 105).

Cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue are fundamental elements in Parekh's analysis. His theory approach is more communitarian, emphasizing the role of culture within different communities and the implications of cultural interactions between them (Merry 2005). He regards multiculturalism and cultural diversity as inescapable in modern societies. Parekh's approach connects theory with policies that can successfully manage relations among different cultural groups. (2006, Parekh)


A liberal political approach and implementation of cultural policy creates a friendly environment that special minority rights can be provisioned (Multicultural citizenship review, J. Nickel, p. 480).

Central to the development Kymlicka's theory on multicultural citizenship is the "freedom and equality of the individual" in harmony with liberal values (Kymlicka 1995, 33). Kymlicka defines two broad categories of cultural diversity. First, cultural diversity emerging from the incorporation of previously self-governing, territorially concentrated cultures in a larger state, which are national minorities that claim autonomy and want to distinguish themselves from the mainstream culture. Secondly, there is cultural diversity from voluntary immigration ("ethnic groups"). These ethnic groups tend to integrate in the larger society and consequently become full members. Their principal interest is to accommodate their cultural differences in the mainstream institutions.

Kymlicka establishes the boundary between voluntary and involuntary assimilation, according to which immigrants voluntary enter a new society, in contrast to indigenous people and minorities that were involuntarily incorporated (conquest or colonization) (Kymlicka 1995, 11), as Miller describes "the dispossessed and enslaved that deserve many" (Miller 2007).

Likewise many philosophical liberals, Kymlicka insists on a single language policy as precondition for active citizenship (Miller 2007, 52). A policy, that enables all individuals to access as equals the mainstream society (Kymlicka 1995, 5). As he emphasizes further in his recent work" Language rights and Political Theory", strong language policies promote equal participation within the society (Kymlicka and Patten 2003, 12,16). In this work Kymlicka conceptualises his position on "language rights", coextending his ideas about immigration and minority rights. Endangered minority languages should be preserved with special policies, whereas all citizens and immigrants must endorse the dominant language. Embracing Kloss, he argues that" immigrants deserve tolerance but not promotion rights" while national group minorities should receive both (Kloss 1971).

The roots of Kymlicka's position for a common language policy are at the heart of liberalism's foundation, the French Revolution. French Revolution introduced the notion of citizenship accompanied by linguistic unification. Canada a former French colony follows this tradition. It is mandatory to speak one of the two official languages English or French, to gain full citizenship. It is seen as a cultural competency that enables individuals to participate equally in the society, similarly with Kymlicka's consultancy (Craith 2004, 290).

Contrary to some liberal claims that national membership can only be based on political democratic and right principles he prerequisites the integration into the immigrant's new culture. Learning the local language and history is a truly cultural conception of citizenship and distinguishes civic from ethnic nations (Kymlicka 1995, 22-24). Another side of this position, worth mentioning here, refers to some former Soviet Union states that adopted a common language policy. Instead of a national unification, they face conflicts arising from the different ethnic groups that demand their linguistic and cultural accommodation (Miller 2007, 68). The local language requirement for citizenship in Estonia and Latvia, resulted in deprivation of essential rights for Russian speaking groups (Craith 2004, 292-293)

Further on his analysis he distinguishes three forms of "Group Differentiated Rights". Kymlicka states that some forms of group difference, can only be protected via specific rights that act as mechanisms to shield these differences (Bromell 2008, 126). Self-government rights, a form of political autonomy for national minorities/ indigenous peoples, are expressed through granting political power to a political unit that is controlled by the national minority. They are "inherent" and therefore permanent rights (Kymlicka 1995, 30). They may be expressed in terms of federalism, types of administrative decentralization and disunion (Bromell 2008, 126)

Poly-ethnic rights seek to foster integration in the society and not self-government claims. These measures help the various ethnic or religious groups to express their cultural heritage as long as it does not impede their participation in the economic and political institutions of the larger society. A typical example is the Sunday closing for Jews and Muslims (Kymlicka 1995, 31). They constitute permanent rights and their nature is different from policies that favour rights for citizenship (Bromell 2008, 126). Special representation rights have a temporary nature. Their scope is to facilitate the access of disadvantaged groups in the political scene. As these obstacles disappear, these rights will become unnecessary (Kymlicka 1995, 31).

Liberals have widely criticised group differentiated rights' nature as ambiguous and controversial (Loobuyck 2005, 114-116). Kymlicka places individual freedom, democracy and social justice above any group rights or special cultural tradition to resolve this contradiction (Nickel 1996, 481). He establishes this argument further by distinguishing between internal and external restrictions. External restrictions shield minority groups from mainstream power and therefore "promote fairness between groups", while internal restrictions "limit the right of group members to question and revise traditional authorities and practices" (Kymlicka 1995, 34-35).

An underlying flaw on this approach is that providing special rights to a minority group can lead to augmentation of its power to impose internal oppression on its members (Nickel 1996, 482). Another conflict rises between the autonomous individual and the protection of collective traditional values (Schuster 2006).

Similarly, group differentiated rights in favour of immigrants and minorities may threaten the common national identity and cohesion. Kymlicka acknowledges this fact and argues that such rights allow minorities and immigrants to participate as equals and integrate in the mainstream society. This argument is too abstract, as group differentiated rights alone cannot lead to integration and equality. Integration relies on several other factors such as the size of the group and its attitude towards schism (Nickel 1996, 482). What Kymlicka probably stresses is that ethical principles emanated by customs and cultural heritage (Sittlichkeit) are more important than abstract universal principles (Moralitat) (O. O'Neill 1988).

Against other liberal ideas, like Rawls' proposal that autonomy is restricted in the public sphere, for Kymlicka the individual autonomy is central and non-negotiable. Liberals' should not impose their individual or collective views to other individuals or cultural groups, but should advocate liberal values "through education, persuasion and financial incentives". Only liberal institutions that result from political reform can prove durable. He reinforces his argument with the example of Africa's former colonized countries (Kymlicka 1995, 166-168).

Culture for Kymlicka is understood in terms of "cultural structure" where individuals can equally make their choices (D. I. O'Neill 1999, 224). Embracing Dworkin: "it is implausible to think that someone can lead a better life against the grain of his profound ethical convictions than at peace with them (Dworkin 1989, 486). Individuals must be free to make their decisions in life as well as to revise and evolve their ideas (Triadafilopoulos 1997). A central value within liberalism and Kymlicka's political philosophy.


Parekh's "Rethinking Multiculturalism" follows Kymlicka's central liberal values: "A liberal society is committed to the values of equality and fairness" is Parekh's axiom (Equality in a multicultural society). He acknowledges the tension and controversy between individual freedom, equality and group cultural rights within a multicultural society. For Parekh there is no" right" or "wrong" cultural practice, but "reasonable" and "unreasonable" (Parekh 1998, 398-340). Conflicts that inevitably arise within culturally diverse societies, should be solved based on evaluation in a" cultural sensitive way" and not in an abstract way. Intercultural dialogue is Parekh's essential value that is eminent throughout his analysis.

Here it is useful to point out how Parekh defines "culture". He perceives culture as a …..(Parekh, Equality in a multicultural society 1998, 142-143). Embracing Foucault he sees culture as a self-regulating system. (Parekh 2000, 156). An on-going process, that involves appreciation of cultural heritage but also revision and evolution through interaction with other cultures. (Parekh 2000, 152-153).

Parekh follows central liberal values, but he argues that his theory is not liberal nor communitarian, but about multiculturalism (Merry 2005, 496). Multiculturalism is not limited in the rights of minorities. It focuses on managing the relationships between different communities within a society (Parekh 2000, 7-14). He criticizes liberal rationalism that grants minorities special rights, without suggesting policies for their integration or assisting their intercultural dialogue with other ethnic groups (Parekh, Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory 2000, 13-15). Liberals assume that minority groups will ultimately integrate in the larger society. Multiculturalism expects that minorities' special rights should remail above the nation and the individual (Miller 2007, 72-73)

Reviewing Rawls, Raz and Kymlicka, he purposes to reinforce his critique against liberalism (Parekh 2000, 111-112). Parekh assumes that liberal theories fail to accommodate cultural pluralism as they don't recognise the intrinsic value of cultural diversity and intercultural interaction. Here in this recognition of the intrinsic value of cultural diversity, is where Parekh moves beyond Kymlicka (Merry 2005, 496; Bromell, 106) (Merry 2005, 496). This attempt to place multiculturalism inside and outside the liberal theory is particularly innovative (Kolodziejczyk 2001).

Parekh approaches multiculturalism from various fields: philosophy, political theory, cultural studies, and anthropology. It is indicative that repeatedly in his analysis he endorses Raymond Williams' interpretation, that culture is found in all facets of human life (Parekh 2000, 144). For Parekh major theories (liberal, communitarian, nationalist) promote homogeneity and therefore fail to address the need for a multicultural theory, that will welcome and address important issues of cultural diversity (Parekh 2000, 182-185).

Moreover, he emphasizes that discrimination for cultural practices should contribute to social cohesion and equal participation in social life. Toleration of all cultural differences in the name of a culturally blind state is not desirable (Parekh 2000, 410-412). In a similar liberal mode to Kymlicka, he points out that special minority rights attributed to vulnerable minorities are to be justified, as they facilitate their equal participation. It is a differential treatment that strengthens inclusion and therefore it is not a privileged patronage (Parekh 1998).

In Chapter 7 of Rethinking Multiculturalism, Parekh presents his political principles for a multicultural society. He describes a framework of policies that respect cultural diversity while promoting unity among citizens. It is the essence for his approach on cultural citizenship and cultural policy. (Parekh 2000, 196-198). The analysis begins with the evaluation of different ways of political integration: assimilationist, proceduralist, civic assimilationist, millet model. The assimilationist and millet model are rejected, as the one fails to respect cultural diversity and the other the importance of unity. The other two models accept diversity but fail to see the importance of inter-cultural dialogue in resolving problems and promoting cohesion (Parekh 2000, 195-206).

Parekh's framework of "navigational devices" is an attempt to accommodate both diversity and unity. They are constitutionally established basic rights to favour social cohesion and policies to promote equal participation of disadvantaged members and groups in the society. This "collective rights" are in parallel to Kymlicka's special representation rights, but extended to religious and "equalising rights". All these, as Parekh highlights, should be accompanied by multicultural education and a pluralistic vision of common culture. (Parekh 2000, 206-237, Bromell, 163-164)

In the conclusion Parekh's synopsis of his multicultural society is the essence of his political theory. It is a society based on inter-cultural dialogue, moves within and beyond liberalism and is committed to foster the feeling of belonging in its citizens (Parekh 2000, 340-341).

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