6.7.4.4  Multiculturalism

(The latest version of this page is at Pattern Descriptions.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition02/6744.htm)

Multiculturalism encourages each ethnic group to mind its own business and not quarrel with others.  Its proponents argue that people will inevitably want to express their ethnicity, because it forms a major component of their identity, and that it is their human right to do so.  In practice, multiculturalist policies have led to problems:

·      An undue emphasis upon differences between groups creates exclusionary reactions, as revealed by a study of attitudes in Holland for example.[1]  It weakens social cohesion.

·      If ethnic groups live in separate areas, particularly in large aggregations, they become increasingly isolated from the rest of society and mutual ignorance becomes a problem.  For example, although British pluralism has been broadly peaceful, some flashpoints in the north of England have been associated with physical segregation and “a series of parallel lives”.  As the Cantle Report on Social Cohesion observed:

“There is little wonder that the ignorance about each others’ communities can easily grow into fear; especially where this is exploited by extremist groups determined to undermine community harmony and foster divisions”.[2]

In summary, multiculturalism increases the likelihood of identity politics.

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[1] In their book When Ways of Life Collide, Sniderman and Hagendoorn write:

"Sharing a common identity builds support for inclusion; bringing differences of ethnic and religious identity to the fore evokes the very exclusionary reactions it is meant to avoid." (p. 135)

[2] The Cantle Report - Community Cohesion was published in January 2001 by the Home Office and was available in May 2014 at http://resources.cohesioninstitute.org.uk/Publications/Documents/Document/Default.aspx?recordId=96. The quoted sentence was chap. 2, para. 2.3.