The risk of social conflicts”

The risk of social conflicts”

Is there something fundamentally unhelpful about multiculturalism? Does multiculturalism contribute to the risks of social conflicts?

There are some shortcomings of the notion of minority integration through cultural recognition, particularly with respect to immigrants. Also a retreat from multiculturalism policies in three states that had been prominently committed to be them: Australia, the Netherlands, and Britain. This practical retreat of multiculturalism is due to a variety of factors, their importance differing across cases: the chronic lack of public support for multiculturalism policies; inherent deficits and failures of multiculturalism policies, especially in socio-economic respect; and a new assertiveness of the liberal state to impose liberal principles.

The lack of public support for official multiculturalism policies, shortcomings and failures, especially with respect to the socio-economic marginalization and self-segregation of migrants; more generally, liberal nation-states are marked by a thorough de-ethnicization, in which the various national labels are only different names for the same thing, the liberal creed of liberty and equality. Prominent expressions of this de-ethnicization are nondiscriminatory immigration policies, liberalized citizenship rules, and a general distancing from the old idea of ‘assimilation’. With the exception of language, the only explicit impositions on newcomers are liberal impositions, most notably a procedural commitment to liberal-democratic principles. Witness what the German (left-Green) government had declared with respect to Muslim migrants. The assimilation of migrants is not seriously considered by anyone. The Muslims living there don’t have to abandon their cultural and religious identity. However, they are requested to adapt to the structures of a democratic legal state, (and) to accept the Basic Law unconditionally, especially the separation of state and religion.  So if public support is not gained wisely, these shortcomings in policies and practices could lead to some sorts of conflicts and tensions.

Whether or not a society is “stable” depends on all sorts of factors. And the number of societies that are truly “mono-ethnic” is fairly limited. But societies do need a set of core values and norms, which are normally a reflection of the common dominant culture within that society. Well integrated ethnically diverse societies would be desirable indeed, but reality shows that some groups simply refuse to do so. Hence the reason why this diversity so far has really not proven to be successful and to some extent not even sustainable, especially when local values is not respected. If ideas and perception among public exists which suggest that, “Robots are another thing that doesn’t help your cause; we don’t need foreigners to staff our factories anymore? The rise of the new economy and the rise of robots will eliminate the need for cheap brown labor. The internet will unite like-minded people, creating racial segregation”. Then for sure it can create tensions and conflicts. The states needs to adopt policies and should be able to implement them so that a peaceful environment with respect to diversity is ensured.

Last but not the least; related objection to privatization is that the state cannot differentiate itself from ethnicity and nationality in the same way that it has once differentiated itself from religion. Try as it might, the state has to have a public language, holidays, and certain particularisms that inevitably bear the mark of a majority group. For these impositions, he claims, there has to be some form of remedy – exemptions or even pro-active measures that affirm the equal status of the groups that do not see themselves in terms of these particularisms. To this one must respond that the hard cultural conflicts, at least with respect to migrants and their offspring, tend to be religious conflicts

The center-piece of the emergent liberal critique of multiculturalism is Brian Barry’s furious treatise Culture and Equality (2001). Underneath the polemic and the diatribe, this is a compelling defense of the old ‘strategy of privatization’ for resolving cultural conflict, which once had given birth to liberalism itself. Privatization, argues Barry, creates identical ‘choice sets’ or rules of the game to people, within which they can follow their particular inclinations as they see fit.

The article by Christian Joppke analyses multiculturalism in a modern liberal state, its consequences regarding the immigrants and the ways these issues are handled in different countries. The author observes that three major problems exist. First, a set of chosen “rules of game” already exists in the society, for liberal states have learned to accommodate cultural conflicts long before multiculturalism had arrived. As the system works and multiculturalism practices are exceptions, not rules (Brian Barry’s), why anything should be changed. Secondly, multiculturalism implies equality for all cultures, what is hardly possible. Thirdly, multiculturalism policies are unilateral, for they force the majority to accept the minority while the minority is not expected to change. Additionally, it seems that failure of multiculturalism policies is a result of the chronic lack of public support for those, inherent deficits and failures of multiculturalism policies, especially in socio-economic respect, and a new assertiveness of the liberal state to impose liberal principles. Joppke concludes that the countries which were traditionally multicultural (Australia, the Netherlands, Canada) have moved from a policy of difference-blindness to a policy of integrating the minorities in the “major” culture.

Giovanni Sartori mentioned, “pluralism requires voluntary group memberships (…) and recognition between conflict parties. These conditions are systematically denied by multicultural politics, as it evokes and mobilizes around involuntary and mutually exclusive statuses, and tends to render ‘recognition’ a one-sided act by the majority society only”. Therefore it seems that conflicts may arise as people may feel being forced to accept certain norms without being explained why exactly they should do it




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