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Does multiculturalism undermine civic unity? Essay

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2019

Societies today are characterized by diversity of culture which bears symbolic systems that are ideational and impact on civic unity. Continental structuralists and cognitivists indicate that societies within a nation are composed of culturally diverse people with different lifestyles and ways of life. Such differences also touch on the general perception of life, spirituality and religious beliefs, societal norms and practices.

The aforementioned aspects that attempt to explain the concept of multiculturalism may impact positively or negatively on the unity of humanity or societies. It is against this background that this paper critically examines multiculturalism and its effects on civic unity.

Studies indicate that in every nation, there are numerous ways of life among different groups of people. In agreement, Eric (2008, p. 234) notes that human beings are social entities who have to mingle with one another. He explains that the law of nature dictates that people must live together in unity and harmony (Eric 2008, p. 234).

The presence of multicultural differences in the citizens of a nation should not be ignored. According to Heyhood (2007, p. 126), the fact that people have many and different cultures should be appreciated and embraced as a tool of cultivating harmony.

He argues that in the post modern era, multiculturalism is one of the factors which have contributed to civic unity. It is important to note that human beings have developed to a level whereby rationalism should be a strategy of creating unity.

Diversity in culture, ways of living and distinct lifestyles characterize human societies and have great influence on general civic unity. The fact that people have different practices makes them develop an inherent feeling of being different. This feeling compels individuals to develop a sense of being independent.

James (2007, p. 47) indicates that the unity of the human fraternity has a great dependence on a sense of togetherness and belonging. Due to the sense of separation from people who have a different way of doing things, people find themselves unable to unite with others. Some groups of people are unable to put up with the practices of others.

In addition, the modern society grants individuals the liberty to choose what they think is good for them. This is a factor that has led to emergence of a certain culture characterized by urban hype.

Studies have shown that the consequence of that freedom is the emergence of conservative groups living in rural parts of a nation, and which hesitate to cooperate with others especially from the urban settings (Rodney & Ross 2004, p. 97).

Moral standards, believes and ways of recreation of the urban lot are abhorred by the conservatives. In summary, the existence of several cultures has a way of limiting peoples’ integration and cohesion especially in the current post modern life.

Individuals who interact with new cultures develop anxiety and intrinsic stress. This occurs because they are trying to resist the force of uniting with new practices. The process of natural socialization is inhibited as the different parties learn to embrace the unfamiliar cultures.

This is finally achieved through the achievement of shared experiences and points of view. The attainment of unity depends on the time taken by the assimilation process.

It is important to embrace multiculturalism as a tool which helps people to live together in harmony. Rodney and Ross (2004, p. 122) note that existence of diverse cultures explains the nature of humanity. Human beings have to form groups with distinct characteristics as their way of life. In order to live in unity, it is important to view a nation as one group.

The latter is made up of people with different preferences. It is both exclusive and inclusive. It is true that people have the freedom to choose whom to support. However, failure to embrace sovereignty is a step towards the limitation of this human right.

On a different note, it is essential to agree with Heyhood’s (2007, p.87) claim that the state of a nation is within the imaginations, thoughts and actions of citizens. The present different cultural orientation should not continue impeding the desired perfections of our societies.

Moreover, the state of a nation is at times determined by the differences which are created at social level. Collision among individuals who are not ready to embrace diversity in culture is a factor that creates differences.

These are explained by the cries of senseless inequalities that are not significant in nation building. Therefore, human beings as social organisms must learn to do away with any unwanted inequalities. This may not be achieved by creating a single way of living (James 2007, p. 137). It is a function of the discovery of the essence of coexistence.

Modernity should be incorporated with a liberal and multicultural perception of living. Eric (2008, p. 198) in his book is keen to advocate for the birth of a nation with balance and social stratification. This can not be the case if citizens do not understand the importance of living together.

The various ways of living as evident in modern society should be a tool of transformation. The culture of segregation according to cultural identity undermines unity. It is recommended that citizens should be reminded of the civilized standards of living in spite of their differences. This helps in bringing unity and togetherness.

Rodney and Ross (2004, p.79) also denote the significance of multiculturalism by their inductive arguments. They note that the cultural mentality developed along cultural groupings is often harmful towards the efforts of civic unification (Rodney & Ross 2004, p.108).

Notably, the inability of persons with different ideologies to live cohesively is profound. In real life situations, it is clear that people find it comfortable being grouped together or associated with people whom they perceive to be successful.

Intercultural dialogues should therefore be promoted as people continue socializing within any given society. In today’s contemporary world, people tend to cluster according to the perspectives embraced by their ethnic or racial backgrounds. As a matter of fact, sharing is inhibited by these clusters.

Heyhood (2007, p. 123) notes that intercultural relations among indigenous and non indigenous Australians offer some sufficient opportunity of establishing unity. It should be noted that people and groups which have cultural segregation can be reunited.

The mixing of people during public events and in social public utilities needs to be cultivated. This will help in creating a distinguished understanding of living together.

It should also be noted that multiculturalism is a concept that denotes the existence of numerous cultural groups in a society (Raz 1994, p.67). Though most societies in the world have aspects of cultural heterogeneity, their cultures vary in certain degrees.

According to the cultural theory, this could be attributed to systems of social behavioral patterns, ways of life and ecological settings. Notably, most societies have numerous groups of people held together by distinct features such as beliefs, philosophies, ideas, language and lifestyle (Parekh 2006, p. 4).

It is critical to mention that these groups have their unique ways of interacting and relating. He latter may result into collective and mutual existence.

However, scholars differ on the impact multiculturalism on civic unity (Raz 1994, p.67). While some laud multiculturalism as an important aspect that sets communities as unique entities, there are those who feel that it greatly undermines civic unity.

Despite the fact that the latter may bear some truth, the assumption remains controversial since the concept of multiculturalism is deemed to play a significant role in influencing civic unity.

As noted earlier, many scholars and philosophers have been of the view that multiculturalism is a stumbling block and a major hindrance to social cohesion. Arguing from a political perspective, they observe that most politicians take advantage of cultural differences to fuel divisions and discriminate against weaker cultures with a bid to succeed against their opponents (Parekh 2006, p.6).

Research has revealed that to some extent, multiculturalism acts as a barrier in promoting a common identity within a country (Kymlicka 2010, p.257). This is due to the fact that most civilians are so much affiliated to their cultural beliefs to an extent that they cannot give room for assimilation or cultural integration. This factor presents multiculturalism as a major setback in fostering civic unity.

In addition, evidence derived from empirical research reveals that many countries employ aggressive assimilation tactics and integration policies with an aim of fostering a common identity among civilians. This happens in the absence of comprehensive knowledge that culture and cultural differences are diverse.

It is imperative to note that multiculturalism has numerous faces which make it cumbersome to adopt a particular cultural approach to foster civic unity. This could be due to the way societies understand demographic factors, difference in philosophical idea or government policies instituted for a particular diverse society (Raz 1994, p.68).

It is imperative to note that the conceptual understanding of multiculturalism is often contradicting and this is the possible reason why there exists a huge debate on the influences of civic unity.

Literature materials on multiculturalism indicate that demographic multiculturalism can be used to denote actual pluralism in a particular society. In this case, it refers to the distinct linguistic groups inhabiting a particular country. This form of multiculturalism occurs due to immigration.

It is evident that majority of the states across the world such as Australia, Kuwait, France, USA, Canada and Belgium are multicultural in nature (Raz 1994, p.69). It is imperative to note that sometimes it takes time before the minority groups can interact and get assimilated to one another. This is the reason why their level of synonymy within a demographic region differs with other regions.

Numerous states formulate and implement policies that are meant to reintegrate cultural groups in order to boost social cohesion. Nevertheless, huge diversity that results into differences in philosophies, lifestyle, religion, ethnicity and history make it hard for governments to foster civic unity (Parekh 2006, p. 9). Instead, such diversity encourages radicalization and social segregation.

Needless to say, it is definite that multiculturalism means more than the aspect of demographic pluralism. In this case, multiculturalism can exist in the form of political philosophy. This implies that there are philosophies that are set to accommodate, recognize or support cultural diversity.

Philosophical multiculturalism can be held by institutions, governments, leaders or civilians (Raz 1994, p.73). Moreover, political theorists can use such philosophies during public debates in order to encourage cultural diversity. However, research has revealed that if such philosophies are not geared to foster collective existence, they are likely to result into inescapable conflicts.

Critics of multiculturalism claim that this aspect encourages social and economic disparities. This is due to the fact that governments that opt to take the philosophy, language, religion and beliefs of the majority often exclude minorities from numerous mainstreams.

This is evident in countries where there is lack of proportional representation of each community in public institutions. In addition to this, research has revealed that extreme diversity often leads to loss of public debate. Consequently, this acts as a major hindrance to democratic unity (Kymlicka 2010, p.2630).

At this point, it is definite that multiculturalism undermines civil unity since it is very difficult to achieve cultural neutrality in all institutions. Nevertheless, this concept is important and thus it should not be eliminated at the expense of unity. From a philosophical point of view, it is definite that people have different origins, history and values (Parekh 2006, 12).

Therefore, the aspect of cultural diversity is inescapable. It is arguable that integrating society into a common culture deprives individuals of their free will to act and live life their own way of life (Joppke 2004, 237). It is imperative to note that when governments use aggressive policies to enhance integration and assimilation, it provokes the communities who feel insecure to lose their cultural identity (Raz 1994, p.75).

In this case, the communities raise conflicts and fail to cooperate towards a common goal of a wider and richer identity. Therefore, one cannot limit the views to the demerits of multiculturalism but should also consider that it has some benefits. Therefore, in as much as multiculturalism undermines civil unity, there is a way it can promote tolerance and social cohesion.

For instance, it has been observed in Australia that engagement and social relations that exist between social groups create respect, compassion, understanding and tolerance (Tiffen & Gittins 2004, p. 7). To a larger extent, this raises the desire for integration of mosaic groups, a factor that creates a high level of social cohesion (Parekh 2006, p.33).

Hence, multiculturalism should be used to enhance peaceful co-existence rather than separation of society (Parekh 2006, p.34). In line with this, multicultural thinkers argue that unity and social equality can be achieved through explicit recognition of cultural diversity by governments.

Moreover, governments should also valorize rather than discourage pluralism and also cater for the needs of all the cultural groups (Raz 1994, p.78).It is worth to note that the reason why most countries suffer from unending ethno-racial conflicts is due to failure to recognize and accommodate diversity.

In this case, most countries have realized the benefit of encouraging multiculturalism in their populations, Lovell et al (1998, p. 633) note that this has been encouraged through school curriculum, media, public laws and affirmative action.

It is also important to reiterate that the concept of multiculturalism and its influence on civil unity has been controversial for decades. Scholars and analysts have debated over it with some criticizing its ability to hinder civic unity while others embracing its effects on civil unity.

As indicated in the analysis, critics of multiculturalism argue that diverse difference among cultural groups undermine social cohesion. Additionally, they claim that multiculturalism promotes social radicalism and segregation making the communities to live parallel lives.

Nevertheless, multicultural thinkers contrast the arguments and emphasize that cultural diversity has some benefits. They argue that multiculturalism help to recognize accommodate and respect individual differences. Therefore, it is definite that cultural diversity is inescapable and hence governments should encourage social tolerance and respect for diversity in order to have civil unity.

Individuals should not underestimate the demerits of diversity that undermine unity. Instead, it is essential to understand that governments should take the initiative to influence the society to embrace diversity (Heywood 2007, p.15). By so doing, this will help numerous cultural groups to live harmoniously and work toward a common goal.

In conclusion, it is notable that multiculturalism has a dynamic relationship with the civic unity in society. This discussion has pointed out that the existence of multiculturalism significantly undermines civic unity. This happens in a complex interaction between the two and also depends on the attitude of citizens.

However, the issue can be regulated since unity in cultural diversity cannot be achieved through the mere tolerance of ideological, political, religious, social and physical differences. The government must ensure that citizens acquire adequate knowledge of the essence of these differences.


Eric, R 2008, Destination Australia: migration to Australia since 1901, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.

Heywood, A 2007, Politics, Macmillan, Basingstoke.

James, J 2007, From White Australia to Woomera: the story of Australian immigration, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Joppke, C 2004, “The retreat of multiculturalism in the liberal state: theory and policy”, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 237–257.

Kymlicka, W 2010, “Testing the liberal multiculturalists hypothesis: normative theories and social science evidence”, Canadian Journal of Political Science, vol. 43 no. 2, pp. 257-271.

Lovell, W. et al. 1998, “The Australian political system, 2, Melbourne, Addison Wesley Longman”, Australia, vol.10 no. 3, pp. 632-728.

Parekh, B 2006, Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory. Palgrave, New York.

Raz, J 1994, “Multiculturalism: a liberal perspective”, Dissent, vol. 41 no.1, pp. 67–79.

Rodney, T & Ross, G 2004, How Australia compares, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Tiffen, R & Gittins, R 2004, How Australia Compares, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

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