What Is Multiculturalism –
Multiculturalism is a broader perspective to understand human life. As a perspective to understand human life, it gives importance to the cultural identity of humans.
There are many identities individuals are located in, but multiculturalism talks about the cultural identity of individuals.
Multiculturalism is concerned with the plurality of culture with a distinct identity.
Liberal democracy is the context of the rise of Multiculturalism. Every ideology, whether it is liberalism, realism or communism, is related to a particular culture. Liberalism as an ideology endorses a particular culture. It promotes the culture of equality and liberty, which is known as liberal culture.
This liberal culture talks about liberty, rights, and equality at the level of the individual.
But it ignores groups, communities, belongingness to group identity, etc. It also ignores the selflessness of individuals. Because it endorses such a culture that is based on the self-interested, egoistic individual. But in this process, it ignores human solidarity, identity within a group, rights related to communities, psychological belongingness, etc.
Liberalism argues that in order to promote equality in society it is impossible to give preference to group rights or identity. Therefore, it tries to create a National culture.
But the problem is within Liberal democracy there exist plural cultures with distinctiveness. Among these cultures, there is one majority culture and many minority cultures. The majority culture is the culture of the dominant group of the society which tries to dominate and assimilate the minority cultures.
So, Multiculturalism started as a movement to oppose and resist the dominance of the majority and demanded certain special group rights to preserve the cultural distinctiveness of minorities.
Multiculturalism talks about the existence of many cultures with distinctiveness. Recognition of distinct identity is the main feature of multiculturalism.
Why is liberal democracy very skeptical about group rights or differences?
- Liberalism argues that if group identities are recognized by putting them into different castes, races, and communities, then this will create inequality in society.
- There is no common platform for creating equality if individuals are put in relation to their group or collective identity.
- Recognition of group identity will Create lots of division in society. It may also pose a threat to the nation-state itself. Because there can be some groups which not only demand group identities within the state but also want to go out of the nation-state. It will also encourage other groups to challenge the nation-state.
- Societies are hierarchical. There are a different hierarchy in the society and group-based identity is also a part of that hierarchy. So, there can never be co-existence of groups with an equal amount of freedom and equality. Therefore, liberal democracy argues that in order to bring equality or to make a common principle of equality, it is impossible to give preference to group identity. It is important to give preference to individual identity so that equality is maintained.
However, the above-mentioned arguments of liberalism have been questioned by Multiculturalism.
Liberalism only talks about individual rights and identity. But there is no meaning of individual rights or identity if a group of the cultural identity of an individual is not recognized and protected.
No individual can exist without a group identity. An individual can exist only in relation to group identity. In the absence of group identity, individual identity will be meaningless because an individual is located within a group. So only giving individual rights will not be sufficient, if group rights are not recognized.
Liberal democracy failed to recognize group rights and collective identities of individuals. It tries to create a national culture (which is homogenous) and end up creating a majority culture in which minorities are deprived of their rights. Therefore Multiculturalism began as a critique of liberal democracy.