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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Burchell makes sense on multiculturalism « Previous | |Next »
February 20, 2011

Multiculturalism was originally an affirmative term indicating the diversity of the "melting pot". Today, however, it has come to be associated with ethnic ghettoes. Rather than celebrating difference and creating respect for pluralism, multiculturalism as a political process--as distinct from diversity as lived experience---has brought new conflicts.

In his Muddled memory of multiculturalism in The Australian David Burchell, for once, makes sense. He writes:

The game of partisans at both extremes is a familiar and symmetrical one: it is to present us with Hobson's choice. We can choose, in short, to have either social integration or cultural diversity, so long as we understand that there is no possible middle ground in between them.Yet if multiculturalism in the Australian context means anything at all it is the recognition of the fact that integration and diversity are not pure opposites, drifting like ideal forms in some philosopher's inner space, but that each has to subsist in some kind of semi-stable partnership with the other in order for both to prosper.

The middle ground is one of integration and diversity--a difference-in-unity or a balance between respect for diversity and a sense of shared national belonging.

What has happened is a trashing of multiculturalism in spite of multiculturalism encouraging the members of different immigrant groups to interact, to share their cultural heritage, and to participate in common educational, economic, political and legal institutions.

What has been rejected is sameness and otherness or identity-in-difference--ie., identity in and through difference. This highlights that the perceived social problem is the management of diversity: delivering its benefits, which are many, while containing the conflicts and costs that it can incur. It is unity in diversity.

The conservative case has been that the doctrine of state multiculturalism encourages different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream; it fails to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong; and it tolerates these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to Australian values.

The conservatives in the Liberal Party deny the possibility of national identity-in-multicultural difference.Thus Senator Cory Bernardi has said, "I for one don't want to eat meat butchered in the name of an ideology that is mired in sixth century brutality and is anathema to my own values," by which he means Islam. Bernardi is using the fear of political Islam to stir up Islamophobia. This strategy has allowed many on the Right to blame immigrants and immigration for the social problems in Australian cities.

Will the ALP come to the defence of multiculturalism---unity in diversity? They abandoned a multicultural Australia in the 2010 election campaign due to fear around the issues of immigration in western Sydney. In doing so they started abandoned their attachment and commitment to classical liberal notions of liberty and freedom.

In The genius of Australian multiculturalism speech to the Sydney Institute Chris Bowen, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, defends multiculturalism in the context of the attacks on multiculturalism by Angela Merkel in Germany and David Cameron in Britain. Bowen says:

There are, I think three elements which make up the genius of Australian multiculturalism.Firstly, our multiculturalism is underpinned by respect for traditional Australian values...These include the Constitution and the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as a national language, equality of the sexes and tolerance.'...

....the second element of the genius of Australian multiculturalism. Ours is a citizenship-based multiculturalism. To enjoy the full benefits of Australian society, it is necessary to take a pledge of commitment as a citizen....people who share respect for our democratic beliefs, laws and rights are welcome to join us as full partners with equal rights.

The third element of the genius of Australian multiculturalism is its political bipartisanship, particularly at its creation....So multiculturalism cannot be claimed as the exclusive child of either of Australia's two main political parties.

Bowen's understanding of multiculturalism in Australia is in terms of Australian exceptionalism---- the Australian model of multiculturalism is different, even though Bowen goes on to say that truly robust liberal society is a multicultural society.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:53 PM | | Comments (8)


Conservatives hark back to a whiter, more British Australia that denies the immigration that happened after 1945.

Multiculturalism as a political project has been blamed by conservatives for promoting segregation and not integration, legitimising moral relativism and inculcating a culture of victimhood that creates expectations of entitlement and special treatment.

The problem with this claim is that the key texts on multiculturalism and you advocate the opposite of a philosophy of separateness. these advocate integration that recognises group identities and heritage.

has the Liberal party under Abbott turned away from its commitment to a multicultural Australia?

The Liberal Party is certainly playing around with xenophobia - a fear of foreigners, people who are different, who aren't one of us.

That fear is coupled to resentment and the tactics of the Liberal Party is to one of exploiting the resentment of Muslims.

In this case solving false dichotomies by the use of a false dichotomy doesn't work for me either.
They have scraped the all time bottom of the barrel this time.

Malcolm Turnbull gave a very strong defence of multiculturalism on Lateline He said:

the Coalition is absolutely committed to a multicultural Australia, to a non-discriminatory immigration program. We believe that one of Australia's greatest strengths is its cultural diversity. We are the most successful immigrant country in the world. In my own electorate, in Wentworth, nearly a third of the people in my electorate were not born in Australia. We have achieved an extraordinary degree of harmonious integration of people from every possible culture in the world. It's a great achievement. We're proud of it. We are committed to a multicultural Australia - that is a reality. That's part of our life.

He adds that the Liberal policy on multiculturalism is the same now as it always has been, or has been for many years.

In Germany, the formal denial of citizenship to immigrants led to the policy of multiculturalism. In Britain, the promotion of multicultural policies led to the de facto treatment of individuals from minority communities not as citizens but simply as member of particular ethnic groups. The consequence in both cases, as in virtually every western European nation, has been the creation of fragmented societies, the alienation of many minority groups and the scapegoating of immigrants.

Multiculturalism has long been the bĂȘte noire of the Right.They have consistently claimed that multiculturalism rips the very concept of society to shreds, and that a foundation of common values is necessary for society to function.

Solidarity and diversity cannot co-exist, and so we must therefore abandon diversity.