Politics of Multiculturalism Recommendations?

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Politics of Multiculturalism Recommendations?

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Sep 26, 2010, 11:32pm

I'm new, and would appreciate any recommended reading on the politics of multiculturalism. Parekh's Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory (which I just finished) in the end left me unconvinced, though I did find much of value I thought he depended way too much on being able to talk out the details later. It may be that I found his writing style really irritating so adopted a defiant skepticism, but still...

Anyway, I've read Sen, Rawls, Habermas, and Nussbaum, still don't feel like I've wrapped my little brain around the issue very well and would appreciate any suggestions for further anyone might offer.

Edited: Sep 27, 2010, 1:31am

Will Kymlicka's Multicultural Citizenship is one of the key works within this literature, and his later work has built on but also modified his argument there. See his author page here. I think his latest ones are Multicultural Odysseys and Politics in the Vernacular.

Other suggestions depend a little on what topics interest you about/within multiculturalism and what theoretical/philosophical approaches you prefer. Here are a few general suggestions:
Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition with an essay by Charles Taylor and responses from other authors (ed. Amy Gutmann)
Is Multiculturalism Bad for Womauthoen by Susan Moller Okin (1999?)
Culture and Equality: an egalitarian critique of multiculturalism by Brian Barry (2001)
The Claims of Culture by Seyla Benhabib (2002)
Multiculturalism without Culture by Anne Phillips (2007)
I could add a few more, but those would be a good start.

There's also a recent-ish anthology called Multiculturalism and Political Theory that looks good and has chapters from several of the main scholars in this area. That would probably be a good way to get a sense of the current literature and debates.

Sep 27, 2010, 1:27am

PS - You might also want to have a look at the tag page here for multiculturalism. That page includes both fiction and non-fiction with that tag, but many of the non-fiction books there would be relevant.

Sep 27, 2010, 1:38pm

Thanks a million! Just what I needed. I snatched Kymlicka's Contemporary Political Philosophy from my daughter when she finished a university course a few years ago and was very impressed with his clarity and balance--and in a textbook to boot. So I go there next.

My interest has become pretty general after beginning as an issue of practical municipal governance. The story is longer than would likely interest anyone, but the result was me reflecting on how to engage a sizable but politically-invisible population without damage to the accepted (among the engaged) terms of public discourse and without privileging that invisible population.

Now my interest has taken on a life of its own and become a sort of hobby, like playing the harmonica but quieter, and with a potential payoff (of sorts) if my head-scratching results in anything I can take action on.

Thanks for taking the time.

Sep 27, 2010, 9:37pm

You're welcome!

Jun 9, 2011, 9:11am

This thread seems to be dormant, so perhaps there is no one still around to answer these questions, but I will still ask them anyway.

Reading this thread and others it has occurred to me that I simply don't have a clue what multiculturalism teaches or advocates. Perhaps I don't have a clue because I live in the United States, albeit I hear frequently that the United States is a very bad example of a multicultural society.

So help me out. Which of the following, if any, is a true statement about multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is simply the old "tolerance" of John Locke and others, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on empathy to "other" cultures.

Multiculturalism in fact advocates the dissolution of distinctive cultures, particularly "majority" cultures.

Multiculturalism is simply Europeans expressing the desire that their continual conflicts with one another will be given a rest.

Multiculturalism really isn't a "political philosophy" at all, because it teaches nothing about an ideal set of political institutions and advances no arguments about why such institutions are ideal.

If none of the above are true, what statements about multiculturalism are true and properly characterize this view?

Jun 9, 2011, 4:18pm

My thinking on multiculturalism is meager, but not non-existent. Here is a statement that I think is true and that troubles me about the matter:

Multiculturalism is incomplete.


Jun 10, 2011, 1:54pm

>6 lawecon: If none of the above are true, what statements about multiculturalism are true and properly characterize this view?

My single qualification for responding is that I'm still around, but I'll give it a shot. "Multiculturalism" isn't a single view, but a large grouping of views, more-or-less gathered around the understanding that (nowadays) nation-states all contain within their borders populations of people belonging to different cultures, and that it's better to make provisions in the governing institutions of the state to accommodate cultural differences than it is not to.

So, "multiculturalism" would find its antithesis in "integrationism" (I may have made that word up), wherein the institutions of the state require that all the people within the borders be integrated into the dominant culture, at least for the purposes of governance.

I think your four questions probably represent four advocacy positions so couldn't be said to be true of "multiculturalism" as a broad political theory.

Jun 10, 2011, 10:17pm

Now I'm more confused than I was before. Your characterization of multiculturalism makes it sound like some hybrid between Popper's "open society" and some of the values typically reflected in doctrines such as "a separation of Church and State." In other words, it sounds like some variant of classical liberalism or what is today known as "libertarianism." However, those positions are nothing new, indeed, they are 200-300 years old and multiculturalism is held by its defenders and attackers to be something new. Further, it seems to be somehow aligned with collectivist ideas, whereas the above named ideologies are just the opposite.

And I have no idea what you mean that my previous points are "advocacy positions." They are, rather, characteristics of multiculturalism that I've seen elsewhere. They are thus either true or false or true of some sorts of multiculturalism but false of others.

Jun 11, 2011, 10:20am

9> I apologize--I didn't understand you just wanted to start an argument. Maybe you could read one of the books recommended if you are "more confused than you were before."

Edited: Apr 21, 2012, 5:46pm


Got it. Any inquiry seeking definiteness is "wanting to start an argument." Very interesting.

Aug 16, 2011, 11:54pm

For anyone from this discussion who may still be around and interested in discussing multiculturalism you might want to visit this more recent discussion. http://www.librarything.com/topic/121771 Hopefully, that will give you some perspective on the way that the term "multiculturalism" is used in settings other than those with which you are most familiar.

Apr 21, 2012, 5:15pm

I don't know if this is correct, but I understand multiculturalism as different cultures living alongside each other, sharing traditions and culinary practices. No culture, religion or political ideology can stay rigidly believing in the same things and doing what it's always done forever - not unless it wants to die.

Anyway, I have book recommendations. Fictional, but you may find interesting as studies of multiculturalism, racism and identity.
Brick Lane
White Teeth