Citizenship as Identity, Citizenship as Shared Fate, and the Functions of Multiculatural Education

In Kevin McDonough & Walter Feinberg (eds.), Citizenship and Education in Liberal-Democratic Societies: Teaching for Cosmopolitan Values and Collective Identities. Oxford University Press (2003)

Abstract

This is the second of the four essays in Part II of the book on liberalism and traditionalist education; all four are by authors who would like to find ways for the liberal state to honour the self-definitions of traditional cultures and to find ways of avoiding a confrontation with differences. Melissa Williams examines citizenship as identity in relation to the project of nation-building, the shifting boundaries of citizenship in relation to globalization, citizenship as shared fate, and the role of multicultural education within the view of citizenship-as-shared-fate. She argues the other side of the same coin to that presented by Shelley Burtt in the previous chapter: according to Williams, the liberal state often demands too much in the way of loyalty from traditional groups, and when it does, it runs a strong risk of becoming oppressive and illiberal. Moreover, she holds that there is no need for a single shared identity among citizens of the liberal state. Her conception of people tied together by a shared fate is to this extent compatible with Burtt’s attempt to make liberalism’s commitment to autonomy more hospitable to groups of individuals encumbered by unchosen attachments, but her notion of citizenship as shared fate also goes further than that, and possibly stands in some tension with, Burtt’s view, since it allows and even encourages people to develop primary affiliation to all kind of groups – traditional as well as global.

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Melissa Williams
Gwynedd Mercy College

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