All major Western countries contain groups that differ from the mainstream and from each other in religious beliefs, customary practices, or cultural ideas. How should public policy respond to this diversity? Brian Barry challenges the currently orthodox answer and develops a powerful restatement of an egalitarian liberalism for the twenty-first century.
The goal of Culture and Equality is to free liberals of their disabling scruples and in particular those deriving from…currently prevalent ideas that are variously labeled ‘multiculturalism’ or the politics of ‘difference’ or ‘recognition’ or ‘identity’… This is applied political philosophy at its most magisterial.
Barry’s central claim is that defenders of multiculturalism substitute confused assertion for systematic argument, and that when they think they are liberals or egalitarians they are deluding themselves and—more often than not—playing into the hands of their more sophisticated adversaries. Culture and Equality is without doubt the critique that defenders of multiculturalism will have to answer. It is accessibly written and often brutally funny. It is vintage Barry.
The outstanding feature of this book is that it subjects a very wide range of multicultural policies to critical scrutiny from an egalitarian liberal perspective. Indeed, Barry goes further than anyone else in showing just how tough-minded egalitarian liberals should be when it comes to critically examining claims for special rights and exemptions for cultural minorities. Throughout, Barry insists on the primacy of equal rights for all individuals, and a normative standard of fairness that can be shared by all.
- 418 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Press
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