Multiculturalism is usually defined as “one of the most controversial ideas in contemporary public affairs” (Crowder 1). On the one hand, it may be treated as a vehicle with the help of which it was possible to replace old ethnic and racial disparities and introduce new conditions under which democracy could be promoted. On the other hand, multiculturalism as a policy was supported by elite leaders and males in some countries. In other words, not much attention was paid to popular demand, and ordinary people had to face new difficulties and challenges without an ability to gain benefits (Crowder 4). Regarding such attitudes and concerns around multiculturalism, it is necessary to investigate the emergence of this term and its impact on human lives where the questions of ethnic and cultural differences cannot be closed or neglected.
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Multiculturalists are the researchers and policymakers, who approve and support the idea of multiple cultures in society. It is hard to introduce a certain date of multiculturalism policies’ emergence. However, liberal democracies in such countries as Canada, Australia, the United States, and several European countries promoted the creation of multiculturalism policies in the 1970s, so that this decade could be defined as the period of multiculturalism emergence (Crowder 2). People believed that the rise of multiculturalism could be explained by the necessity to deal with migration from developing countries after the Second World War and to cope with the attitudes that changed in host countries (Crowder 2).
The changes include the necessity to learn a new language and speak several languages at the same time, the inability to solve financial problems and get the income level required, and the necessity to study new traditions and social norms appropriate in a new society. Migration made people lose many things at the same time. It was necessary to change the language and regular social structures. Stress was evident and influenced human health and the possibility to develop relations. Host countries were not ready to welcome all people because of the present racial and social inequalities. Minority groups, including immigrants and indigenous people, had to assimilate into the already existed majority cultures and neglect their roots and preferences (Okin 9). It was necessary to deal with inequalities and strict rules for people who had to leave their homes and join new societies.
Multiculturalism has its supporters and opponents (Crowder 2). Support for minority cultures in their intentions to maintain their distinct cultures is not the only reason for considering multiculturalism as a good concept. The investigations help to comprehend that multiculturalism is the possibility to represent ethnic minorities in public media, provide the governmental foundation for bilingual education, promote affirmative action for minorities, and introduce dual citizenship (Crowder 3). People get a chance to demonstrate their preferences and never be ashamed of their cultures. The exchange of cultural experiences, the possibilities to improve personal attitudes, and cultural enhancement are the positive aspects that make people believe in the power of multiculturalism and its importance in modern society.
Multiculturalism is also characterized by certain negative effects and controversies based on the conflicts with liberalism. Liberalism is the concept that underlines the importance of personal autonomy (Crowder 16). In the middle of the 1970s, people came to the conclusion that pluralism was more appropriate for people due to their values, toleration, and positive evaluation. Multiculturalism includes the necessity to understand the challenges people face due to their cultural diversities. Liberalism is the philosophy that is based on the ideas of individual liberty that help people make their own decisions about their lives (Crowder 39). It tells people how to understand equality and live well. Multiculturalism is an attempt to reunite people and make them feel comfortable under any condition. It presupposes the idea that people may be differentiated regarding their traditions and roots. So, the attitude to equality ideas is what differentiates liberalism and multiculturalism and promotes the conflict.
Crowder talks about egalitarian liberalism as the possibility to defend public welfare and relies on the ideas developed by Kymlicka in his project about the worth of multiculturalism and the theory of minority rights. Minorities have the right to their cultures’ recognition and the possibility to be introduced as a distinct group with their own goals and priorities. Feminist concerns (Okin 14) and economic issues (Crowder 20) were raised before the challenges multiculturalists had to face with. The economic efficiency of multiculturalism has to be mentioned, as well. Multiculturalism is caused by migration and the intentions of new people to join and become equal parts of society. These factors also promote changes in the spheres of human resources and improve the workforce. Host countries could use new offerings and new people to change their routine activities. The economic benefits include boosting development and the possibility to stimulate the field of employment. Tax revenues could be increased and promote significant contributions to the field of public welfare. Finally, according to feminist critiques, multiculturalism is not perfect due to its patriarchal directions and cultural recognition.
Kymlicka proves that liberals are free to accept the demand for group-differentiated rights by means of their ethnic and national differences (34). However, liberalism was introduced far before the term “multiculturalism.” Kymlicka’s contribution is the creation of the categories that could be applicable to different kinds of groups and rights that perform different functions. His ideas help to understand the freedoms of people to choose groups and reclaim their senses of cultural identity. The differentiation of groups is based on ethnic and national minorities. There are two types of groups, polyethnic or immigrant groups, and the existing national minorities. Both groups are organized in regards to the rights and the functions they have to perform.
For example, there are special group representation rights according to which political organizations decrease the level of ignorance demonstrated to minorities (Kymlicka 37). There are also self-government rights introduced by small political units to help minorities solve their problems, including education, language, family, and resource development (Kymlicka 38). Finally, there are polytechnic rights that protect religious and cultural practices that may not be understood in a new society. On the basis of such group differentiation, Kymlicka explains that there are national groups of people, who try to ask for self-determination and autonomy at the federal level. There are also the representatives of ethnic groups, who want to get the protection of their culture and language so that the integration of new ideas never influences their past. Finally, the representatives of both groups may ask for special representation to protect their status and rights.
The differentiation of groups developed by Kymlicka is a response to the conflicts that exist between liberalism and multiculturalism. Liberals support the values of autonomy and promote the creation of special rights to all minorities, where collective and individual rights are discussed. There are external rights introduced as the rights of minorities who have to preserve their cultures, traditions, and the ways of life to live in regards to the dominant culture and internal rights introduced as people’s individual autonomies that required membership in a culture. In regards to the liberal criticism of multiculturalism, Kymlicka’s ideas to introduce group-based rights seem to be a powerful idea where no necessity to accept on particular culture is observed. Kymlicka offers the solution to reduce the vulnerability of minority groups and decrease the necessity of economic and political decisions that should be made as soon as a person joins a new society.
Kymlicka’s approach is persuasive and informative. It is not enough to understand that cultural and ethnic diversity has to change the lives of all people. It is also necessary to believe that equality may require many things and obligations at the same time. There is a universal ideal of equality that creates an opposition to the equality defined by Kymlicka in his group-differentiated theory. Not much attention is paid to situations when people have to reconsider their ethnic ideals due to existing physical disabilities or problems. Cultural and religious preferences should not create limits and assist people in making their own decisions.
In general, people cannot neglect their cultural differences and try to underline their diversities in any possible forms. Still, at the same time, people are bothered by the necessity to prove their rights and protect their freedoms each time they have to change their location or visit a new place. Therefore, the ideas of multiculturalism seem to be effective and helpful to many people. It is wrong to believe that multiculturalism is the only opportunity people have at the moment. There are certain liberal, feminist, and economic critiques that have to be mentioned. The investigations by Kymlicka, Crowder, and Okin help to understand the nature of the objections to multiculturalism and consider the cultural need of minorities as the crucial element of their everyday lives when they have to survive, prove their ideas, and establish the goals that cannot be forgotten.
Crowder, George. Theories of Multiculturalism: An Introduction. Polity, 2013.
Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Clarendon Press, 1995.
Okin, Susan Moller. Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? 1995. Web.