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Liberalism and the limits of multicultural justice : Isaiah Berlin and the foundations of cultural pluralism Ackah, Audrey


This paper evaluates liberal theories of multiculturalism from a pluralist approach in order to illustrate the manner in which liberal multiculturalism limits justice in plural societies. I utilize Isaiah Berlin's pluralism and Iris Marion Young's politics of difference as a pluralist perspective through which to assess multicultural justice in Will Kymlicka's theory of multicultural citizenship. I argue that the distributive paradigm and the priority accorded to liberalism in Kymlicka's theory of multiculturalism impede justice in diverse communities. Chapter one outlines the pluralist approach that is used in this thesis. Isaiah Berlin's pluralism, the primary component of the approach, acknowledges the conflicts within plural societies while identifying the dangers associated with monism. Iris Marion Young's politics of difference provides a practical pluralist methodology that supplements Berlin's pluralism. Chapter two describes Will Kymlicka's theory of liberal multiculturalism. Kymlicka argues that multiculturalism furthers the liberal objectives of liberty and equality of opportunity. Chapter three examines the limits that Kymlicka's distributive approach to justice imposes upon multicultural justice. I argue that prioritizing the distributive paradigm above alternative approaches ignores injustices that this paradigm is not equipped to address. In addition, I argue that the manner in which Kymlicka distributes rights among ethnocultural minorities is based upon inadequate foundations and diminishes justice. Chapter four addresses the limits to multicultural justice that result from the privileged position of liberalism in liberal theories of multiculturalism. Universal human rights, the relationship between liberalism and pluralism and the use of liberalism as a standard of justice undermine multicultural justice in Kymlicka's theory. In conclusion, liberalism provides a substantial barrier to the realization of justice in multicultural societies. These limits must be acknowledged and addressed in a theory that attempts to reconcile liberalism with multiculturalism. Isaiah Berlin's model of pluralism provides a superior model of diversity than the prevailing liberal multicultural model advanced by Will Kymlicka.

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