Weblog #3

The discussions on stereotypes and maintaining cultural identities has led into discussion about ‘melting pot’ versus ‘mosaic’. This lead me to explore multiculturalism.

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosphy has an excellent section on multiculturalism.

It provides justifications for multiculturalism and critiques. The justifications include:

  • Communitarian  –  individuals should be free to choose and pursue their own conceptions of the good life.
  • Liberal egalitarian – based on the liberal values of autonomy and equality
  • Postcolonial  –   based on premises about the value of tribal culture and membership, but also on what is owed to Native peoples for the historical injustices perpetrated against them.

The article outlines some of the critiques of multiculturalism but argues that the greatest challenge for multiculturalism is not from philosophical views but rather from political ones, and that the focus and debate currently is not on Indigenous people but rather immigants.

“There is little retreat from recognizing the rights of minority nations and indigenous peoples; the retreat is restricted to immigrant multiculturalism. Part of the backlash against immigrant multiculturalism is based on fear and anxiety about foreign “others” and nostalgia for an imagined past when everyone shared thick bonds of identity and solidarity.”

In Australia we lived through a period where the Prime Minister tried to cease the policy of multiculturalism. We have emerged from this period and reaffirmed multiculturalism in 2011.

In 2011, Bloemraad wrote The Debate Over Multiculturalism: Philosophy, Politics, and Policy.

In it she identified that multiculturalism has a number of meanings, as a:

  • demographic multiculturalism
  • political philosophy
  • public policy

She describes how Canadian researchers have identified a multiculturalism policy index (MCP Index) that measures the extent to which eight types of policies appear in 21 Western nations. Australia, Canada and Sweden have scores over 7 in 2010, whilst the US has a score of 3 and France and Germany both fall between 2-3. The graph of the scores is interesting reading.

Bloemraad’s discussion mirrors that of Heath 2012 who describes three multicultural issues/myths:

  1. multiculturalism has encouraged exclusion rather than inclusion, by siphoning minority communities away from the mainstream, and condemning them to live parallel lives.
  2. that by living parallel lives minorities preserve their ethnic behaviours and values that run counter to broader society.
  3. these separate communities provide fertile soil for radicalisation.

Bloemaard adds the impact of multiculturalism on the members of the majority group, suggests that some people are very alarmed about diversity, probably due to fear related to issues 2 & 3.

Bloemaard identifies that there are seven of nine studies tracking anti-immigrant attitudes over time, where  researchers have found stable or increasingly negative attitudes toward immigrants, especially in Western Europe, while only two studies reported more positive trends. This is interesting and seems to confirm the Western European research data.

In contradistinction Heath writes about the recent British report that clearly identified that the three main issues/myths identified above were indeed myths.

Heath A 2012. Has multiculturalism failed in the UK? Not really


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