Monday, February 19, 2007

THE USES AND ABUSES OF MULTICULTURALISM Amartya Sen

One of the central issues concerns how human beings are
seen. Should they be categorized in terms of inherited traditions, particularly
the inherited religion, of the community in which they happen to have been born,
taking that unchosen identity to have automatic priority over other affiliations
involving politics, profession, class, gender, language, literature, social
involvements, and many other connections? Or should they be understood as
persons with many affiliations and associations, whose relative priorities they
must themselves choose (taking the responsibility that comes with reasoned
choice)? Also, should we assess the fairness of multiculturalism primarily by
the extent to which people from different cultural backgrounds are "left alone,"
or by the extent to which their ability to make reasoned choices is positively
supported by the social opportunities of education and participation in civil
society? There is no way of escaping these rather foundational questions if
multiculturalism is to be fairly assessed.

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