Culture and equality : an egalitarian critique of multiculturalism / Brian Barry.

by Barry, Brian, 1936-2009Looking glass.

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Polity Press, 2001.Description: xi, 399 pages ; 23 cm.ISBN: 9780745622279; 0745622283; 9780745622286; 0745622275.Other title: Culture & equality.Subject(s): Culture & societyLooking glass | EqualityLooking glass | Social policyLooking glass | MulticulturalismLooking glassNote: Bibliography: pages 329-371. - Includes index.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

All major western countries at the beginning of the 21st century contain groups that differ in their religious beliefs, customary practices or ideas about the right way in which to live. How should public policy respond to this diversity? In this work, Brian Barry challenges the orthodox answer and develops a restatement of an egalitarian liberalism for the century. It was assumed without much question that cultural diversity could best be accommodated by leaving cultural minorities free to associate in pursuit of their distinctive ends within the limits imposed by a common framework of laws. The solution is rejected by an influential school of political theorists, among whom some of the best known are William Galston, Will Kymlicka, Bhikhu Parekh, Charles Taylor and Iris Marion Young. According to them, this difference-blind conception of liberal equality fails to deliver either liberty or equal treatment. In its place, they propose that the state should recognize group identities, by granting groups exemptions from certain laws, publicly 'affirming' their value, and by providing them with special privileges or subsidies.

Bibliography: pages 329-371. - Includes index.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Preface

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Concerned that rampant multiculturalism is actually dividing people instead of uniting them, Barry (philosophy and political science, Columbia Univ.) has written a comprehensive critique of multicultural policies throughout the world. The author argues that multiculturalism (a.k.a. the politics of difference or recognition) undermines the politics of redistribution, actually harming the groups it seeks to help and stands in the way of the kinds of universal policies that would benefit most members of minority groups and the society at large. He examines a wide range of multicultural legal controversies, from the practice of gypsies not to educate their children vs. the child's right to an education to the freedom of turbaned motorcycle-riding Sikhs not to wear helmets vs. public-safety laws. The author examines treating people differently in response to their different cultural beliefs, paying special attention to religion and education. His antidote is equal rights for all individuals and a normative standard of fairness that can be shared by all. Although his stance is controversial, the author makes his case through a fairly objective analysis of the legal victories of a variety of special interest groups, and his approach is rational and methodical throughout. In addition, he often proposes an alternative solution to the problem issue at hand. For academic libraries. Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., N.J. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Barry, a noted political philosopher, resourcefully undertakes to fill a contemporary intellectual void, disdaining multiculturalism as a rationale for "foolishness, and sometimes bestiality." He argues for a universal liberal egalitarianism that boldly meets criticism and marches onward toward the Enlightenment ideal of an international regime of human rights and social protections for persons. Explicitly directed at ideas, his treatise also reaches policy and practice in Canadian, English, and US examples. Multiculturalism undermines advocacy for redistribution, which Barry understands to be a rational and safer means to protect liberty, equality, and human flourishing. He fleshes out the argument in successive sections. Appeal to equal treatment cannot properly support differential policies, such as reservation of school or occupational places for persons defined by their culture. Liberal egalitarianism, far from being corrosive of minority cultural group integrity, can in fact be reformulated to buttress it. Multicultural practices can be compatible with, but do not trump, moral universalism, yet they yield outcomes that harm both democratic institutions and the group members they are intended to assist. In sum, this is a powerful account. Faculty and specialists. R. N. Seidel emeritus, SUNY Empire State College

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Brian Barry is Arnold A. Saltzman Professor, Department of Political Science and Department of Philosophy, Columbia University and Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics.