Why Brian Barry Should Be a Multiculturalist

Social Theory and Practice 35 (2):229-249 (2009)
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Abstract

In this paper I argue that Barry, given the commitments that underlie his own theory of justice as impartiality, should be far more receptive to claims for cultural accommodation. Recognizing certain cultural rights claims will help balance against the ways that policies adopted by democratic majorities fail to treat members of minority cultural groups impartially. While I frame the paper in terms of an immanent criticism of this well-known opponent to multiculturalism, my analysis places demands on a whole section of contractualist political theory. It has implications for any theory of justice that, like Barry’s justice as impartiality (or Rawls’ justice as fairness), is rooted in an account of what citizens could reasonably accept or reject. As such, it offers a contractualist approach to cultural difference that is better able to address the assertions of Iris Marion Young and others that political liberalism is another form of oppression.

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Joshua Preiss
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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