Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cultural freedom and cultural inheritance

Amartya Sen is bang on the money, again [subscribers-only]:

“The importance of cultural freedom, central to the dignity of all people, must be distinguished from the celebration and championing of every form of cultural inheritance, irrespective of whether the people involved would choose those particular practices given the opportunity of critical scrutiny, and given an adequate knowledge of other options and of the choices that actually exist in the society in which they live. The demands of cultural freedom include, among other priorities, the task of resisting the automatic endorsement of past traditions, when people – not excluding young people – see reason for changing their ways of living.

“Being born in a particular community is not in itself an exercise of cultural liberty, since that is not an act of choice. In contrast, the decision to stay firmly within the traditional mode would be an exercise of freedom, if indeed the choice was made after considering other alternatives. In the same way, a decision to move away – by a little or a lot – from the past behaviour pattern, made after reflection and reasoning, would also qualify as the exercise of multicultural freedom.”

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