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Abstract

I take it that one of the urgent questions for the university in the 1990s is: When does the insistence on ethnicity become productive, and when counterproductive?

The question, you may think, is an impossible one, because it would be answered differently, even divisively, depending on whether one belongs to a community still seeking to present its ethnic credentials or to an established group. Yet if a general agreement exists on what is productive, a conversation can take place. I think there is such an agreement and want to state it as follows. The insistence on ethnic factors intends to further autonomy in both the psychological sense and cultural sense of the word: the fullest development of each person/ family within the community, and of the community within a multicultural state. I assume, at the same time, that we are not in a "Balkan" situation, where ethnic groups are striving for political independence through secession.

Even though this definition of a common aim is not conceptually precise - it does not pause to ask who is a person, what is meant by a community, what is autonomy-if you respond to the definition something is gained. Instead of the word "autonomy," which I use here in the Kantian sense of an ideal situation, in which individuals feel that the laws of the state or the rules of society are their laws and rules, in their interest rather than somebody else's, you could use words from the Declaration of Independence, citing the right of every citizen to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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