Liberalism is often described as a theory about the proper relationship between the individual and the state. But liberalism also contains a broader account of the relationship between the individual and society. This book presents the liberal view about the nature and value of community and culture in an unusually explicit and systematic way, and links it to more familiar liberal views on individual rights and state neutrality. Critics charge that liberalism suffers from an underlying 'atomistic' or 'abstract' individualism. As a result liberals, in a misguided attempt to promote the dignity and autonomy of the individual, have undermined the very communities and associations which alone can nurture human flourishing and freedom. Professor Kymlicka considers these objections as they are formulated in recent communitarian writings, and as they appear in debates over the rights of minority cultures. In each case, he argues, the resources available within the liberal view of community and culture have been misunderstood and underestimated.
He analyses the rights of minority cultures, in particular the special status of Indian and Inuit in Canada, and concludes that liberalism, properly understood and applied, recognizes the fundamental importance of cultural membership, and endorses various measures undertaken to protect minority cultures.