The Adjudication of Ethnic Claims
Multiculturalism is, among other things, a normative framework for addressing claims made by ethnic political actors in liberal democratic states. It offers principles for deciding which of these claims are acceptable, which unacceptable, and which imperative on grounds of justice. The practical application of such principles to particular cases is what is called here adjudication, whether or not it has a judicial character. The argument of the paper is that a tendency to frame adjudication solely in normative terms, with reference to idealised eth-nic claims and idealised political processes, has led many contributors to multicultural literature, including some of the most influential, to misstate the problems, and therefore to offer solutions of dubious re-le-vance. The reason for the normative focus is, understandably enough, to avoid conflating justice with a balance of interests in pluralist bargaining. What is lost by such an approach, however, is the thickness of the political so-ci-o-logy of ethnic claims, which goes hand in hand with the institutional thickness of their adjudication. A crucial aspect of this is the sociologically inadequate conception of culture characteristic of normative multiculturalism, as a result of which it is often difficult to apply empirically to the very con-texts multicultural theorists are mainly concerned with. The at-tempt to find substantive principles for the adjudication of ethnic claims that might be independent from prac-tical politics, in-clu-ding empirical power relations, is ultimately unsuccessful.
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