Equal Recognition: The Moral Foundations of Minority Rights.

AuthorUneke, Okori
PositionBook review

Patten, Alan. Equal Recognition: The Moral Foundations of Minority Rights. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014. vii +327 pages. Paperback, $45:00.

Alan Patten's Equal Recognition is intended to revive debate on the continuously difficult issue of multiculturalism. In his introduction, Patten examines the apparent conflict between liberalism and the accommodation of cultural diversity. On the one hand, majorities contrive to model the state to reflect their own values, traditions, norms, and identity in meaningful ways in public institutions. On the other hand, cultural minorities, in consonant with liberalism's concern surrounding the tyranny of the majority, as well as commitment to tolerating difference, demand recognition and accommodation for their own distinct cultures. These different claims are expressed in a variety of contexts, including language policy, school curriculum, and design of democratic institutions. The book's primarily concern is the treatment of cultural minorities in the designing of public institutions and major public policy decisions. Hence, the author's cultural rights thesis is that the state owes cultural minorities specific forms of recognition and accommodation.

The main arguments of the book are twofold: first, the liberal state has a responsibility of neutrality towards the rights its citizens assert. Second, the only way for the state to accomplish its neutrality is to expand and preserve specific minority cultural rights. In effect, Patten argues, a neutral state is one that broadens equal recognition to each culture. Nonetheless, Patten recognizes the inherent danger in granting all cultural rights claims of paralyzing the liberal state's ability to pursue and implement legitimate goals. To this end, some rule or guideline would be required to determine which cultures should enjoy full cultural rights and which should not.

Chapter two, "Rethinking Culture: The Social Lineage Account," narrates the various ways in which culture has been envisaged, and lays out an account relevant to the author's main argument. Patten embellishes his description in this chapter with cultural loss vignettes. This chapter explores the concepts of culture and cultural preservation. In doing so, the chapter responds to common challenges to normative multiculturalism: it considered whether the central argument proposed is reconcilable with reasons for valuing culture. Further, the social lineage account discussed...

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