Are cultural rights human rights? : a cosmopolitan conception of cultural rights
The liberal conception of the state is marked by an insistence upon the equal civil and political rights of each inhabitant. Recently, though, a number of writers have argued that this emphasis on uniform rights ignores the fact that the populations of most states are culturally diverse, and that their inhabitants have significant interests qua members of particular cultures. They argue that liberals should recognize special, group-based cultural rights as a necessary part of a theory of justice in multicultural societies. In this thesis I examine the idea of special cultural rights. In the first part (Chapters 1 to 4), I begin by setting out some of the different conceptions of culture and multiculturalism that are involved in the debate over cultural rights. I then discuss three claims made by supporters of special cultural rights: (1) that having culture is an essential part of individual autonomy; (2) that people have morally significant interests qua members of particular cultures; and (3) that these interests are inadequately protected by existing liberal conceptions of human rights. Although I conclude that (1) is correct, I argue that both (2) and (3) are mistaken. Among other things, I suggest that the version of culture relied upon by supporters of special cultural rights is an implausible one and I outline what I take to be a more plausible, cosmopolitan conception of culture. In the second part (Chapters 5 to 9), I begin by looking at specific instances of cultural rights-claims, and analyzing the concept of cultural rights qua rights. I consider the practical and conceptual difficulties with special cultural rights at great length. But the core of my thesis is that our interest in culture lies in its contribution of worthwhile goals and options, and that this interest lies in culture generally rather than in particular cultures. Hence, adopting a special or group-based distribution of any right to culture would seem to be inconsistent with liberal egalitarian principles. If there are such things as cultural rights, I argue, they are general rather than special rights. I conclude by offering a very preliminary account of what a cosmopolitan conception of cultural rights might involve in the case of the right to free association and language rights.