In many ways, multiculturalism is a single doctrine based on the ideas of identity politics and value pluralism – the idea that all cultures are of equal value and, ‘there is no metanarrative’, as Jean-Francois Lyotard puts it. All multiculturalists also favour diversity as a means of undoing the disadvantage faced by many groups in society. However, there is a lot that divides multiculturalists over the extent of implication of these ideas – such as whether deep diversity is necessary or shallow diversity will suffice. Modern forms of multiculturalism such as Cosmopolitan multiculturalism also struggle with the fixed identity ideas rooted in communitarianism, for they favour a fluid, ‘melange’-like hybrid theory of identity. Multiculturalists also disagree over the ends of multiculturalism – what a fully multicultural society would look like, plural monocultures or complete cultural hybridity?
One way that multiculturalism could be deemed a single doctrine is that all branches and theories from it have roots of some form in identity politics. Identity politics is key to understanding multiculturalist thinking; it also shares values with third wave feminism and the feminist idea of intersectionality. Identity politics refers to the idea of understanding individuals within their social/cultural/economic/ideological contexts, and suggests that it is impossible to fully separate individuals from this. All multiculturalists subscribe to this idea in some form, but the extent of which they do so can vary.
Multiculturalism as a doctrine subscribes to Isiah Berlin’s idea of ‘value pluralism’. Value pluralism refers to the belief that no one culture/belief system is objectively better than another, but rather that all human belief systems only show a small insight into what it means to be human. Isiah Berlin sums this idea up by suggesting, ‘there is no metanarrative’ – there is no one, universal truth. Multiculturalists all share this idea as the basis of their defense of diversity and identity expression, but the extent at which this is expressed varies – liberal multiculturalists argue for a divorce between citizenship and cultural identity, to support a system like French secularism, where culture is not expressed in the public sphere.
As a doctrine, multiculturalism is fundamentally in favour of diversity as a means of ensuring rights to disadvantaged groups. These rights, known as ‘minority rights’, have been categorised into three sections by Will Kymlicka. He calls them ‘polyethnic rights’, ‘representation rights’ and ‘self-government rights’. All multiculturalists favour diversity as a means of ensuring rights to all people to some extent – liberal multiculturalists favour equal, universal rights, and on the other end of the spectrum particularist multiculturalists favour full minority rights, including positive discrimination as an attempt to redress social disadvantage. Kymlicka’s rights form a basis for multiculturalists to form their ideas on – polyethnic rights address the crossover between the law of the dominant culture and the cultural practices of minority. Representation rights address the problem of social bodies being made up disproportionately of people from the dominant culture in a society. Self-government rights allow territorially concentrated communities to have their own legislature and executive bodies, through the process of devolution or even secession – as seen in Nunavut, Canada.
Image Credits: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2015/10/the-plague-of-multiculturalism.html