Cultural pluralism is a phrase commonly used whenever small groups exist within a larger community, and each of the smaller groups maintains their distinctive identities, practices, and cultural values, which are acceptable in the larger culture as long as they are relevant or consistent with the ideals and laws of the bigger society. Cultural pluralism is different from multiculturalism in that the latter lacks a dominant culture. If for instance, the dominant culture is significantly weakened, the communities could easily transform from cultural pluralism into multiculturalism.
Cultural Pluralism Definition
Cultural pluralism is used in reference to small groups that exist inside a larger community, and they can uphold their distinctive values and cultural identities which do not conflict with the overall culture, and they show consistency with the overall laws and values of the larger community. The only difference between multiculturalism and cultural pluralism is that in multiculturalism, there is no dominant culture, and if the dominant culture is sufficiently weakened, then the society could change from pluralists into multiculturalists. If communities were functioning separately and competing with each other, then they are not considered as a culturally pluralistic society. In a pluralistic culture, different groups exist alongside each other and consider traits of each other as complements that helps in maintaining the larger culture. Cultural pluralism emphasizes high expectations of integration of members as opposed to the expectation of assimilation. Such a setup is possible if the cultural communities accept the larger society as standard culture and occasionally may require the protection of the law. In certain circumstances, acceptance of some culture may require the minority culture or the new group to remove certain aspects of their culture, which is deemed incompatible with the values or the laws of the dominant culture.
Multiculturalism in Politics
Multiculturalism focuses on ethnicities and cultures, especially those of the minorities that warrant exceptional recognition of their differences inside an overall political culture. The recognition can take different forms such as acknowledging the contribution to the cultural life of a political society as a whole and exact for protection from the law for particular autonomous rights or cultural groups of particular cultures. Political multiculturalism can be seen as a reaction to the cultural pluralism particularly in the modern democracy, and it is a way of trying to compensate certain cultural groups as a result of past exclusion, apprehension, and discrimination. Modern democracies are made up of different groups of diverse contributions, cultural practices, and viewpoints. In the past, several minority groups have faced denigration or exclusion of their identities or contributions. Therefore multiculturalism attempts for the inclusion of contributions and diverse views for members of the society while at the same time upholding respect for their dissimilarities and denying the demand to be assimilated into the main or prevalent culture.
Multiculturalism in Political Philosophy
Multiculturalism in political philosophy focuses on ideas and ways in which communities are or should be viewed in responding to religious and cultural differences and it is closely associated with identity politics; the politics of recognition and the politics of difference. Multiculturalism also involves political power and economic interest. In the recent past, multiculturalists ideologies have been extended in usage and now encompass groups such as LGBT, African-American minority, indigenous people, people living with disabilities, and other religions and ethnic minorities. Within the context of political philosophy, multiculturalism is often understood in abroad and wider scope of the description as well as its realistic use. Most debates about multiculturalism focus on whether or not multiculturalism is a suitable way to address the immigrant’s integration and diversity.
At times, the word multiculturalism is used particularly in reference to Western societies which in the past had been assumed to have achieved the de-facto single nation identity particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries. There are different countries which adopted multiculturalism as the official policy in the country especially as from the 1970s, and it varies from country to country and includes the argument that many of the great cities of the Western countries are made up of a mixture of different cultures. Some of the countries that have been identified to have adopted multiculturalism as the official policy include Canada and Australia, which adopted the policy in 1973 and has maintained it to the present day. Other countries such as Netherlands and Denmark had adopted multiculturalism as a policy, but have reversed their stand on multiculturalism. With the increasing rise in homegrown terrorism, leaders in different countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and France have opposed multiculturalism and have raised concerns about the effectiveness of multiculturalism policies for the integration of immigrants.
Significance of Cultural Pluralism in the US
Cultural pluralism is another alternative to the concept of “melting pot” viewpoint that argues that the immigrants need to be assimilated and finally make them abandon their own traditions, languages, and cultures, which is the opposite of multiculturalism. For instance in the United States, particularly in the early 20th century when the country witnessed the largest arrival of immigrants from different parts of the world, it resulted in an anti-immigrant backlash that took the form of prejudice, xenophobia, and nativism. The unfamiliar behaviors and appearances of the immigrants lead to discriminatory tendencies in employment, education, housing, government programs, and public accommodation. However, as a result of the success of the industrious and talented immigrants, they contributed significantly to enhance the progress of the American society.
Multiculturalism in the Modern World
Multiculturalism is part of national identity in Canada and has been used as a tool to unite the English speaking and the French-speaking Canadians and has been said to be the second greatest source of pride after freedom and democracy. In a country like South Korea which is largely a homogenous society, multiculturalism has been used as a symbol of modernization where the rights of the minority and equality are cherished as the country aspires to be seen at par with Western democracies like the US, Canada, and Europe. According to sociologists, countries which impressed multiculturalism have reported more positive outcomes in the form of better integration of minority immigrant groups. On the other hand, countries which have demanded assimilation of immigrants report poor ethnic minority integration and often experience backlash from its citizens.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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