Understanding multiculturalism

Peters, Bernhard


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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2008/488/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: INIIS Uni Bremen
Schriftenreihe: InIIS-Arbeitspapier
Bandnummer: 14
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 1999
Publikationsdatum: 16.08.2008
Originalveröffentlichung: http://www.iniis.uni-bremen.de/pages/arbeitspapierBeschreibung.php?ID=19&SPRACHE=DE (1999)
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.41 (Staat und einzelne Gruppierungen), 71.52 (Kulturelle Prozesse)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Among the permanent features of modern Western culture are worries about its fate, diagnoses of its deficiencies or crises. One important strand of cultural criticism (which has many variants) refers to problematic, shallow forms of homogenization, to a lack of internal coherence, to a one-sided "rationalization", to a loss of meanings or moral resources, to a lack of depth and vitality. Since cultural resources are seen as essential for both personal identity and social cohesion, this "deficiency thesis" is related to concerns about crises of personal identity and about a demise of "community", or about threats to the vitality of the "life-world". In recent years, diagnoses of contemporary culture have often taken a slightly different perspective. Now we find an emphasis on multiplicity, difference, pluralism. Sometimes a "deep" pluralism of complex or "thick" group cultures is suggested. This pluralism is often both evaluated positively and seen as threatened by homogenizing tendencies. This version keeps some links with the aforementioned "deficiency thesis". Group cultures are seen as still existing or resurrected repositories of meaning and sources of identity. But they are in danger of being marginalized and undermined by the forces of modernity (or capitalism, or statism, or other culprits), and therefore in need of special legal and political protection. But cultural differences, or at least certain forms of difference and pluralism, are also seen as a problem - as a threat to social unity or political order, or at least as posing special problems of conflict resolution and integration. So it now seems that the problem is not primarily a loss or lack of culture and community, but a proliferation of cultures and communities, possibly of the wrong sort, or with some problematic features. Not lack of all conviction, but passionate intensity seems to be the trouble. This essay will try to answer some of these questions, especially at the conceptual level. I will also cast a sceptical eye on some empirical assumptions, which seem to stand behind some of the more dramatic diagnoses. However, I will mainly point to relevant empirical questions, rather than examine the empirical evidence in any detail. The discussion should also be relevant for current normative discussions about multiculturalism and group rights, even if I am not primarily concerned with normative arguments. Many contributions to the normative debate start with the question how multicultural policies or group rights could be justified, and then refer back to empirical assumptions about groups, group interests and conflicts. Here, I propose to examine more closely the possible interests of certain types of groups and the character of the conflicts in which they are involved. In some respects at least, this should help to clarify the normative questions.

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