Anticipatory minority rights for majorities turning into minorities

Concerns about national, cultural and demographic preservation have become increasingly salient in the age of migrations and globalisation. Liav Orgad fittingly points to recent political reactions to the influx of refugees in Europe and to broader trends towards relinking citizenship and migration policies with concerns about national identity and cultural integration. He is right to complain about the reluctance among political theorists to engage systematically with these developments. I fully agree with Orgad that ignoring these issues is both “theoretically wrong” and “politically unwise”. However, I disagree that majorities have special majority rights that can be defended on the same normative basis as minority rights. I argue that if a current majority group is worried about its rights, it should genuinely support minority rights in anticipation of its future minority status.

Orgad should be commended for his clever attempt to defend a liberal version of majority rights. He carefully defines a palatable notion of “idea-based majorities” and aims to justify majority rights in virtue of the need to ensure the “acceptance” of just constitutional principles that are “essential for citizenship in a given state”. However, as Joppke points out, this narrow defence of majority rights collapses into a mere justification of universal individual rights quarantined by liberal constitutions. This is obviously not what advocates of closed borders and selective immigration on ethnic or religious grounds have in mind when claiming to defend their nations. Orgad’s strong commitment to liberal constitutional principles leaves little room for culturally exclusive immigration and citizenship policies. Attempts to promote such exclusive policies either run afoul of liberal constitutional principles (e.g ...

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