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The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 19, 1999

Richard B. Miller
Pages 261-283

On Identity, Rights, and Multicultural Justice

This essay critically examines justificatory arguments on behalf of justice for nonmainstream groups, focusing on two demands. The first is for mainstream groups to provide recognition by "fusing horizons" with the oral traditions of nonmainstream groups. Fusing horizons requires members of mainstream cultures to be transformed by the study of the other and thus to avoid ethnocentric evaluations of others. This demand involves the problematic idea that mainstream cultural norms and traditions are a priori morally deficient to evaluate alternative cultural norms. The second demand is to provide group-differentiated rights on terms that aim to protect disadvantaged minority cultures because they provide a horizon for autonomous choice, not because their customs make a presumptive claim for others' recognition. This demand may produce legal rights, but not recognition in a psychologically robust sense insofar as it secures rights on terms that are foreign to the comprehensive goods according to which minority cultures understand and esteem themselves. The aim of this paper is to distinguish between these two demands, explain each as resulting from different specifications of equality, and suggest how the need to balance recognition and rights might occur in political practical reasoning.