Dialogue

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The Value of Cultural Belonging: Expanding Kymlicka's Theory

James W. Nickela1

a1 University of Colorado

In his recent book, Liberalism, Community and Culture, Will Kymlicka defends collective rights for some minority groups—and particularly for indigenous peoples in North America—by trying to show that (1) secure cultural belonging is of great value, and (2) rights to protection and autonomy for minorities, including some collective rights, are justified by the special disadvantages some minorities face in enjoying secure cultural membership. Kymlicka defends these claims from within a liberal perspective that draws heavily on Rawls and Dworkin and that denies that groups are independent sources of moral claims. In this paper I am mainly concerned with how to defend the first of these claims, which I shall call the “Value Thesis.” One reason for being interested in the justification of the Value Thesis is that some version of it is a key part of most arguments for minority and collective rights. Another reason is that the Value Thesis is important to communitarians who frequently base their claims about the importance of community on the value of belonging.