Inclusive Citizenship: Providing a Voice for All
Many members of our society are denied full citizenship on the grounds that they lack the cognitive and linguistic competence for rational political deliberation. We divide society into two groups: active and competent “citizens,” and passive, incompetent “wards.” Dr. Will Kymlicka is questioning whether this division is necessary or desirable.
As Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy, Kymlicka is exploring the possibility of developing new models of inclusive citizenship that provide a voice for all members of society so they can participate fully. These include those currently defined as wards, such as young children or people with cognitive disability and dementia. More radically, Kymlicka and his research team are also exploring the idea that domesticated animals should also have a say in shaping society.
All of these groups are members of our society, engaging in social life, complying with social norms, and sharing in the burdens of social cooperation. They also have strong preferences about what these norms should be, even if they are unable to express those preferences. This suggests that we need to find new ways to enable them to “have a say” in shaping the terms of our shared social life.
Ultimately, the goal of Kymlicka’s research is to come up with new models of association and participation that acknowledge and reflect the full diversity of experience and capacities among all of society’s members.