What's special about culture? Identity, autonomy and public reason

2014-08-11T13:46:20Z (GMT) by Phil Parvin
This article challenges the widespread and influential claim - made by many liberals and non-liberals - that cultural membership is a prerequisite of individual autonomy. It argues that liberals like Joseph Raz and Will Kymlicka, who ground autonomy in culture, underestimate the complex and internally diverse nature of the self, and the extent to which individual agents will often be shaped by many different attachments and memberships at once. In 'selectively elevating' one of these memberships (culture) as the most important to one's autonomy or identity, culturalist liberals present a skewed and simplistic account of individual autonomy and, hence, of liberalism. Instead, autonomy should be seen as arising not out of any particular membership or attachment, but out of the interaction between those different memberships which shape the individual's understanding of themselves and the world in which they live. This alternative account holds important implications for liberal theory, particularly the tensions between 'political' and 'comprehensive' liberals about the scope of liberal principles and the nature of public reasoning about justice.