Increasing contact between different races and cultures is creating new and difficult problems for democracy, as a glance at practically any newspaper, any day of the week, will show. Indeed, democracy is coming to be understood in terms of these problems. Majority rule is giving way to minority rights. But what exactly are minority rights? Are they basically the rights of dissenting individuals
who might otherwise be compelled to conform to the opinions that prevail among most people-or at least most respectable people-in their society? Liberals like Pierre Trudeau often say that only individuals can possess rights, since their purpose is to establish the primacy of the individual over the state, so that more is left to individual choice. Or are minority rights better understood as the rights of minority ethnic or national groups
, providing them with the protection they need to maintain distinctive features of their collective existence, such as their culture or identity? Some liberals (again like Pierre Trudeau) say that minority rights are properly protected only when governments go beyond merely shielding dissenters from popular vilification: to protect rights, they must also affirm diversity.
The two books reviewed here will help readers to sort through the confusing legacy of liberalism. The first, by a left-leaning Canadian philosopher, promises to resolve the tension between individual and group rights by deriving a broad array of "group-specific individual rights" from liberal ideas about the importance of individual autonomy. The second, by a neo-conservative American social analyst of Indian origin, offers harsh criticism of contemporary American liberalism and the whole civil rights movement. Its author, a self-proclaimed conservative free-thinker, dissents from the standard prescriptions for curing racism. His own prescription for a multiracial society is a mixture of benign neglect and tough love. As for multiculturalism, he seems to think that it cannot exist.
In Multicultural Citizenship Will Kymlicka restates and refines the theory of minority group rights he first put forward seven years ago in Liberalism, Community, and Culture. His goal is to provide practical principles for resolving the conflicts we observe between different ethnic and national groups, each seeking more recognition. Kymlicka's method is that of contemporary academic liberalism. The discussion starts from "our" everyday intuitions about justice. It advances towards a "reflective equilibrium" of conflicting commitments. (Kymlicka eschews any unsophisticated attempt to derive moral values from facts.) The idea is to clarify our intuitions by revealing their "internal logic", so as to provide practical guidance for dealing with "hard cases" where our intuitions conflict or where we have no clear intuitions at all.
In any exercise of this kind, much depends on the prior intuitions that are the grist for the analyst's mill. Kymlicka's books, while they focus on the problems of aboriginal peoples, are essentially detailed discussions of the ideas of writers like John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Michael Sandel, and Charles Taylor. If you share their intuitions, you will feel at home with Kymlicka.
The basic moral intuition we all share, he thinks, is that all persons deserve to be treated as equals. Subordination is not the natural lot of any man or woman. Governments must therefore show each citizen equal concern and respect, providing each with the resources and liberties each needs to live a life in accordance with his or her own beliefs and values, without being imprisoned or otherwise penalized for unorthodox religious, sexual, or other practices. If individuals are deprived of resources, including the esteem of others, because of their membership in particular cultural groups, this is precisely the kind of unchosen inequality the political authorities must try to rectify.
This basic idea of equality is clear enough, and clearly it underlies much of what we now mean by multiculturalism. In the past generation governments here and abroad have set themselves the task of evening out social inequalities by subsidizing minority cultural activities, developing more inclusive curricula for schools and colleges, employing advertising agencies to educate the public about the value of diversity, clamping down on hate speech, and above all by acting "affirmatively" to prevent discrimination in employment, through various schemes of employment equity.
The problem Kymlicka tackles is at heart how to square all this with liberal principles of limited government and equal individual rights. How are white males being shown equal concern and respect when governments compel employers to hire a certain number of, say, less qualified black females? What about schemes for "balancing" or "diversifying" university admissions? Do they show all individuals equal concern and respect? What about the interest governments have recently shown in people who cannot help thinking racist and sexist thoughts? They too are persons, after all, and perhaps they deserve equal concern and respect. Should the politicians and judges be adding to the clamour against them in the media, the universities, and the churches, or should the authorities be trying to offset the social penalties against their unorthodox practices and opinions?
Kymlicka's way out of the incoherence of equality as a sovereign principle is to focus on culture as a condition for true freedom. Individuals cannot develop their own beliefs about value and choose their own way of life, he says, unless they live within a culture that provides them with meaningful choices. In developing this idea, Kymlicka appeals to another common intuition, at least among academics. He does not say simply that all cultures are equal as frameworks of choice, for obviously they are not (some provide more and better choices than others), but he comes very close to saying that all individuals need to be somehow guaranteed access to the choices provided by their own traditional cultures, if they are to enjoy true freedom by living authentically.
It's a short step from Kymlicka's basic intuitions about equality and authenticity to the full-blown theory of minority group rights one finds in his most recent book. The theory consists essentially of three distinctions. First, he distinguishes nations from ethnic groups. Nations like the Crees and the Québécois were self-governing, territorially concentrated cultures before they were incorporated into a larger political structure dominated by a majority group speaking a different language. Ethnic groups, on the other hand, like the Ukrainians and the Jamaicans, migrated voluntarily to an established culture (or cultures), knowing that they would be living as minorities within it. Kymlicka then distinguishes three kinds of group rights that minorities may demand, "self-government rights (the delegation of powers to national minorities, often through some form of federalism); polyethnic rights (financial support and legal protection for certain practices associated with particular ethnic or religious groups); and special representation rights (guaranteed seats for ethnic or national groups within the central institutions of the larger state)." The main intuition at work in these distinctions is that nations deserve more rights than ethnic groups. Ethnic groups, having chosen their situation, deserve only the common rights of citizenship supplemented by positive efforts to root out prejudice and discrimination, affirmative action programs, heritage language programs, exemptions from laws and regulations that disadvantage them, and reforms of the electoral system to give their members a better chance of being elected-but not self-government. Finally Kymlicka distinguishes "internal restrictions" from "external protections", incorporating the intuition that it is more illiberal (and thus unacceptable) for a minority group to restrict the freedom of its own dissenting members than for the government, acting on behalf of minorities, to restrict the freedom of the conforming members of the majority group.
This is an exceedingly brief summary of a lengthy analysis, but it is faithful to the original in so far as it suggests its abstractness and incompleteness and reveals its underlying intuitions.
The fundamental problem of the analysis parallels the problem noted a moment ago with equality. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If individuals need unimpaired access to their own culture as a framework for meaningful choosing and authentic freedom, then why should majorities not be able to clamp "external protections" on those outsiders in their midst whose clashing practices and opinions threaten to destabilize the majority culture?
Kymlicka avoids confronting this awkward problem, and the closely related one of liberal majority tolerance for illiberal minorities, by avoiding any real discussion of specifics. For example, despite many references throughout the book to Canada and Quebec, he says almost nothing about our current constitutional problems. His brief references to Bill 101 make me suspect that he fears that a more detailed discussion would only undermine his key distinctions. The more he tried to apply his theory, perhaps, the less clear it would become whether the French in Quebec are a majority or a minority and whether there is any real difference in this case between internal restrictions and external protections.
Kymlicka's most interesting omissions, however, have to do with African-Americans. Blacks in the United States are neither a "nation" nor an "ethnic group" (since most did not migrate voluntarily), so they fall outside the scope of his theory. But they are hardly irrelevant in a discussion of "multicultural citizenship".
Five years ago Dinesh D'Souza published a book about the politics of race and sex on American university campuses, Illiberal Education, which attracted considerable attention because of its detailed descriptions of "political correctness". The general principles of PC may sound fine-openness, equality, tolerance, etc.-but the reality of preferential admissions, non-Eurocentric required readings, Afrocentrism, speech codes, sensitivity training, and so on, was simply goofy when it was not plainly menacing.
Now he has written an even bigger and more detailed book on an even hotter topic. In The End of Racism he attacks the whole race relations industry and the main idea on which it is based, namely, that the problems of blacks in the United States are fundamentally due to the continuing racism of whites. By closely examining this one important strand of multiculturalism he seeks to show the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the very liberalism Kymlicka is trying to raise to the level of abstract principles.
D'Souza covers the whole panorama of American race relations, from the ancient and mediaeval origins of slavery and the enlightenment roots of racism to contemporary debates about race and IQ. Trusting to his readers' unrefined moral intuitions, he does not get bogged down in any lengthy discussions of abstract principles. Theoretically, he does not go much beyond repeatedly denouncing the kind of cultural relativism promoted many years ago by Franz Boas and his students.
D'Souza's main contention is that racism is now being kept alive by what generally passes as the struggle against it. The old, truly racist theories about innate biological differences in ability have been under attack for years and have pretty much disappeared, but in the meantime civil rights has become a profession, and the professionals have an interest in what they fight, just as dentists have an interest in cavities and preachers have an interest in sin:
"Publicly inconsolable about the fact that racism continues, these activists seem privately terrified that it has abated. Formerly a beacon of moral argument and social responsibility, the civil rights leadership has lost much of its moral credibility, and has a fair representation of charlatans who exploit the sufferings of the underclass to collect research grants, minority scholarships, racial preferences, and other subsidies for themselves."
The central chapters of the book provide a harsh critique of the ideology of anti-racism that has gradually displaced the high moral appeal of Martin Luther King forty years ago. According to D'Souza, this ideology blends bogus social science (Margaret Mead and her happy Samoans are Exhibit A) with white liberal guilt, to serve the crude self-interest of middle-class blacks. Theories about racism provide the rationale for racial preferences (affirmative action, minority set-asides, etc.) that deliver jobs, contracts, scholarships, and grants. But racial distinctions keep racism alive, and some currently respectable theories even provide excuses for black attacks on whites or other minorities such as Koreans. Black criminals and derelicts now echo the rhetoric of the civil rights establishment and mainstream African-American intellectuals.
D'Souza, while conceding that anti-racism serves the immediate material and psychological interests of middle-class blacks, insists that it has terrible effects on practically everyone in the long run. It deepens the self-doubts among blacks, encourages them to blame others for their own shortcomings, fosters their hatred of whites, condemns some black children to the lunacy of an Afrocentric education, and generally underlies what D'Souza calls "the breakdown of civilization" in the drug-ravaged "inner cities" of the United States. Naturally enough, it also generates resentment among whites and Asians, not all of whom ever felt terribly guilty about the plight of blacks.
He is quick to recognize, however, that not all the ill will between the races is simply the result of race-based preferences in education and employment. Some of it also reflects what he calls "rational discrimination" based on "accurate perception of group traits". Blacks make up approximately 12% of the American population, but they make up about 40% of those arrested for aggravated assault, weapons possession or rape, 55% of those arrested for murder, and 60% of those arrested for robbery. Conviction rates, he says, match those for arrests. Add to this the "intimidating ethnic style" of many underclass black males and you have a good explanation for the "drive-by racism" of taxi drivers, black as well as white, and the tendency for security personnel in stores to tag along behind young black males-a far better explanation, at any rate, than any lingering influence of the racism of Hume, Kant, and Hegel on taxi drivers and security personnel. Similar explanations apply, D'Souza suggests, to discrimination in hiring and discrimination in mortgage lending. As for discrimination in the media, a recent study reported that only three in 100 TV murders were committed by blacks. "A bigot," D'Souza says in a chilling aside, "is simply a sociologist without credentials."
Racism will come to an end, he concludes, only when the government stops trying to fight it with methods that promote race consciousness. Instead he prescribes equal doses of benign neglect and tough love. The whole system of racial group rights-affirmative action and all its clones-should be dismantled. In addition, destructive social policies that underwrite irresponsibility should be reformed. There should be stiffer penalties for crime and bigger jails; new laws should be passed holding parents responsible for the crimes of their minor-age children; welfare benefits should be cut for mothers who continue to have children while on welfare; social security should be tied to work or training; fathers should be made to support their children; and the tax code should be revised to strengthen rather than to penalize two-parent families.
If all these things are done, D'Souza predicts, the result will be an "upward spiral in which social structures and cultural habits work together to generate greater productivity and social responsibility." Blacks will unlearn their self-destructive habits and begin to "act white," as all sensible people should. The rational bases for the "prejudices" of whites will disappear. Blacks will gradually take their merited places beside whites at all levels of the social hierarchy and in roughly proportional numbers, despite some natural own-group preferences among those who do the hiring. Intermarriages will increase, and before long America will be a café au lait society in which racism will be a distant memory. But it will remain a culturally Western society, he says, despite a million or more immigrants a year, mostly from the Third World. Realistically, they will understand, no society can simultaneously embrace multiple worldviews or religions, and every society needs a lingua franca. So they will be happy with token recognition of their sartorial styles and folk festivals. Culturally, they will be quickly assimilated by a society practically all of whose members will be firmly committed to liberal principles of equal individual rights.
Now this prognosis may strike some readers as shortsighted and simple-minded. But before dismissing D'Souza's cheery conclusion, let us turn back to Chapter 11 of his book, which deals with "The Content of Our Chromosomes: Race and the IQ Debate". It begins with an epigraph, "Nothing frightens the liberal mind more than the prospect of inherited differences in intelligence between the races." Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence of such differences, as D'Souza carefully explains. In fact, a strange thing has happened in the past thirty years. As public opinion has shifted toward the assumption of inherent equality between the races, expert opinion has shifted in the opposite direction. Among the experts there is now virtually a consensus about the existence of substantial IQ differences between Asians, whites, Hispanics, and blacks. Even so zealous an opponent of testing as Stephen Jay Gould conceded a few years ago that a 15-point black-white IQ differential was "an undisputed fact". The standard old objections about the cultural biases of the tests and the difficulty of sorting out the effects of heredity and environment seem to have lost their force. Critics of the relevant studies are now reduced to offering feeble arguments about the impossibility of distinguishing blacks from whites and Asians. All this burst on the public consciousness two years ago with the publication of The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. "Its argument," D'Souza says, "condemned but so far unrefuted, lies like a corpse on the tennis court. It is difficult to pretend to ignore it and keep playing."
Keep playing D'Souza does, however. Having summarized all the evidence favouring the hypothesis that liberals fear, he abruptly adopts their "cultural alternative". While "physical differences" between the races are hereditary, he says, it is a "reasonable hypothesis" that IQ differences can be explained by culture and environment.
A reasonable hypothesis, to be sure, but how far does this hypothesis get us? It does not do away with the observed differences nor does it offer much hope of any substantial reduction in the black-white gap in the near future. Whatever the relevant cultural and environmental causes, they do not seem to be easily manipulated. Attempts to influence them over the past generation seem to have had little effect.
The gaps, whatever their causes, undermine any attempt to achieve proportional representation of different groups in the social hierarchy. For example, the roughly 20:1 ratio of whites to blacks with high (above 120) IQs implies a "natural" black proportion of under 1% in elite positions. "Substantial innate differences raise the prospect of a multicultural society characterized not by a benign equality, but rather by a natural hierarchy of groups: whites or Asians concentrated at the top, Hispanics in the middle, and blacks at the bottom."
D'Souza paints such a startling picture of social pathology, moral decay, and festering resentment-due to the effects of welfare on individual responsibility and of affirmative action on everyone's sense of fairness-that in the end many readers will be ready to consider giving his new approach of "benign neglect" a hearing. Certainly the reader begins to understand the intuitions behind a recent remark by Patrick Buchanan he quotes, "Words like `racist' have lost their power to intimidate. No-one is cowed any more."
Kymlicka and D'Souza plainly represent opposite attitudes towards multiculturalism. According to Kymlicka, minorities deserve practically everything they ask for. The problems of multiculturalism come down to the resistance of the majority to the legitimate demands of minorities. Majorities, he says in effect, should feel guiltier, yield more, and forget about their own "individual rights". For D'Souza, by contrast, the majority has already been far too accommodating. White males should stiffen their spines and defend civilization against barbarism (or savagery). If doing so produces a racially stratified society-Asians on top, whites and Hispanics in the middle, blacks on the bottom-well, tant pis.
Neither of these books provides what they both seem to promise, principles for resolving the problems of multiculturalism in a way that keeps alive the hopes associated with it. Neither provides principles of accommodation that all persons of good will, regardless of race or ethnicity, can reasonably be expected to accept voluntarily, without any heavy-handed bullying.
Each book illuminates the other's shortcomings. Kymlicka tries to develop a theory of multiculturalism while ignoring the practice of it; D'Souza reports on one part of the practice without paying much attention to the underlying theory. Kymlicka tries to include all groups except African-Americans within his system of principles; D'Souza tries to exclude everyone else but them from his discussion. Kymlicka focuses our attention on our intuitions about culture; D'Souza highlights our intuitions about civilization and merit. The Canadian, Kymlicka, tries to honour the sophisticated contemporary intuition that all cultures are somehow equal-indeed, that simple primitive cultures may be better than corrupt modern technological cultures-but he has real trouble squaring these sophisticated "cultural" intuitions with his "liberal" intuitions about government by consent of the governed, on the basis of equal natural rights, and he ignores altogether the "democratic" intuition that rewards should bear a close relation to merit as commonly understood. The American, on the other hand, flatly rejects what he calls "cultural relativism", and he takes a few stabs at Rousseau, but he does not try to extend his liberal principles of neutrality beyond racial and "civilizational" differences to cover the problems associated with different languages, religions (other than Christian denominations), and nationalities. He writes about cultural relativism as though it were simply skepticism, nihilism, and permissiveness, when in fact it is also a new "politically correct" morality of tolerance and sensitivity.
The two books together show what an awkward situation we are now in. Multiculturalism exists as a social condition and as a patchwork of government policies in both Canada and the United States, but it has not yet become a coherent set of principles. We must either define such principles or resign ourselves to an unprincipled brokerage politics likely to produce only more conflict and resentment in the long run. The failure of these two books to provide the needed principles is a bad omen.