Symbolic Politics in Multicultural Democracies

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Clayton Chin discusses "Recognition as Acknowledgement: Symbolic Politics in Multicultural Democracies"

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Recognition as Acknowledgement: Symbolic Politics in Multicultural Democracies

Political symbolism is both integral to the social unity of democratic states and a source of deep controversy. Many of these debates concern the problem of symbolic inclusion: the extent to which democratic states should actively transform political identity to be more inclusive of their constituent groups. This article argues that the two dominant philosophical approaches to defending multiculturalism, liberal cultural rights theory and recognition theory, conceptualize recognition in ways that neglect the symbolic inclusion of immigrant groups. This is because members of minorities may formally enjoy individual rights and state accommodations of their cultures and yet still be symbolically marginalized. To address this, we develop a specifically multicultural concept of recognition as a form of acknowledgment. Such acknowledgement addresses the political belonging and democratic standing of immigrant communities, and takes general (e.g. valuing diversity) and specific (addressing particular communities) forms. The analysis suggests new lines of cross-national research.

This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel on Wednesday, February 23. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream. (For other events in the series, and to subscribe, visit

Clayton Chin

Social and Political Sciences

University of Melbourne

Commentator: Joe Carens

Political Science

University of Toronto

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The Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto is an interdisciplinary centre aimed at advancing research and teaching in the field of ethics, broadly defined. The Centre seeks to bring together the theoretical and practical knowledge of diverse scholars, students, public servants and social leaders in order to increase understanding of the ethical dimensions of individual, social, and political life.

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