Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism means  the co-existence of diverse cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviours, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative styles.

The idea of multiculturalism in contemporary political discourse and in political philosophy is about how to understand and respond to the challenges associated with cultural and religious diversity. The term “multicultural” is often used as a descriptive term to characterize the fact of diversity in a society, but in what follows, the focus is on its prescriptive use in the context of Western liberal democratic societies. While the term has come to encompass a variety of prescriptive claims, it is fair to say that proponents of multiculturalism reject the ideal of the “melting pot” in which members of minority groups are expected to assimilate into the dominant culture in favor of an ideal in which members of minority groups can maintain their distinctive collective identities and practices. In the case of immigrants, proponents emphasize that multiculturalism is compatible with, not opposed to, the integration of immigrants into society; multiculturalism policies provide fairer terms of integration for immigrants.

Scholars and people who support multiculturalism give following justifications in favour of it:

  • One justification for multiculturalism arises out of the communitarian critique of liberalism. Liberals tend to be ethical individualists; they insist that individuals should be free to choose and pursue their own conceptions of the good life. They give primacy to individual rights and liberties over community life and collective goods. Some liberals are also individualists when it comes to social ontology. Methodological individualists believe that you can and should account for social actions and social goods in terms of the properties of the constituent individuals and individual goods. The target of the communitarian critique of liberalism is not so much liberal ethics as liberal social ontology. Communitarians reject the idea that the individual is prior to the community and that the value of social goods can be reduced to their contribution to individual well-being. They instead embrace ontological holism, which acknowledges collective goods as, in Charles Taylor’s words, “irreducibly social”and intrinsically valuable.
  • Another justification for multiculturalism comes from within liberalism but a liberalism that has been revised through critical engagement with the communitarian critique of liberalism. Will Kymlicka has developed the most influential liberal theory of multiculturalism by marrying the liberal values of autonomy and equality with an argument about the value of cultural membership.
  • Other theorists sympathetic to multiculturalism look beyond liberalism and republicanism, emphasizing instead the importance of grappling with historical injustice and listening to minority groups themselves. This is especially true of theorists writing from a postcolonial perspective. For example, in contemporary discussions of aboriginal sovereignty, rather than making claims based on premises about the value of Native cultures and their connection to individual members’ sense of self-worth as liberal multiculturalists have, the focus is on reckoning with history.

 

Critics of multiculturalism

Thirty years ago, many Europeans saw multiculturalism the embrace of an inclusive, diverse society as an answer to Europe’s social problems. Today, a growing number consider it to be a cause of them. That perception has led some mainstream politicians, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to publicly denounce multiculturalism and speak out against its dangers. It has fueled the success of far-right parties and populist politicians across Europe, from the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands to the National Front in France. And in the most extreme cases, it has inspired obscene acts of violence, such as new zealand mosque attack in march 2019.

According to multiculturalism’s critics, Europe has allowed excessive immigration without demanding enough integration—a mismatch that has eroded social cohesion, undermined national identities, and degraded public trust. Multiculturalism’s proponents, on the other hand, counter that the problem is not too much diversity but too much racism.

Some theorists have worried that multiculturalism can lead to a competition between cultural groups all vying for recognition and that this will further reinforce the dominance of the dominant culture. Further, the focus on cultural group identity may reduce the capacity for coalitionnal political movements that might develop across differences. Some Marxist and feminist theorists have expressed worry about the dilution of other important differences shared by members of a society that do not necessarily entail a shared culture, such as class and sex.

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