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Multiculturalism As a Dangerous Ideology: Analytical Essay

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The notion for multiculturalism has been shifting for and against the legal and political alteration of ethnic minorities around the world. Since its first proposal during the late 1980s, there was public pressure for increased recognition and adjustment of ethnic diversity through legislation and policies. Multiculturalists viewed earlier ideas of nations as corrupt and began to introduce acceptance and better understandings of one another. However, since the end of the 20th century, there has started to see a major retreat from multiculturalism from liberals and conservatives alike, and have started to see a reassertion of a collective sense of identity and values. The withdrawal from multiculturalism has been linked to fears such as diversity has gone to far and is now threatening their way of life (Kymlicka, 2010). In this essay, I will discuss two sides of multiculturalism. Firstly, whether multiculturalism as an ideology has lead to greater social cohesion and understanding or secondly if it has led to the deterioration of social cohesion.

During the 1980s, arguments that multiculturalism would be the key to greater social cohesion have risen. It was thought that in achieving this, it would not only strengthen social solidity, but in achieving it, it would thus lead to better understanding, acceptance and equality among ethnic minorities and the rest of the population. Multiculturalism celebrates ethno-cultural diversity and encourages citizens to embrace the array of customs, traditions, music and cuisine that exist beyond their own (Kymlicka, 2010). In Australia, multiculturalism have mostly been considered to be valuable for society. This is evident in a 2013 survey that asked its participants to indicate levels of agreement with statements regarding multiculturalism in Australia. Questions such as “Does multiculturalism benefit or not benefit the economic development of Australia?” and “Does multiculturalism encourage or does not encourage immigrants to become part of Australian society?” were used in the survey (Healey 2016). In response to these questions, participants’ positive association of multiculturalism was with its impact to economic development, with 75% of responders agreeing as well as multiculturalism encouraging immigrants to become a part of society with a close 71% (Healey 2016). Multiculturalism can help to accomplish conflict management, as well as give encouragements for minorities to develop loyalty and trust towards states in decision-making and policies (Kymlicka, 2010). As a result of multiculturalism, indigenous aboriginals in Australia have now received recognition of land rights and title, legislation that allows claiming land rights as well as acknowledgment of cultural rights, like language. Whilst claiming rights to traditional territories has given back cultural and significant identity to the native aborigines which has had a profound political and economic importance as land is the material basis for economic prospects and political self-government (Kymlicka, 2010). Multiculturalism has lead to better bonds within society with everyone being able to enjoy aspects of different cultures. Thus, The achievement of multiculturalism in Australia is a good example of how it has lead to stronger social cohesion.

Another progressive thing that has developed from multiculturalism has been the new forms of diverse nationality for ethnic groups including constitutional, legislative or parliamentary validation of multiculturalism at central, regional and urban levels. It has also lead to the accommodation of multiculturalism as a compulsory school curriculum (Kymlicka, 2010). Each of these forms of multiculturalism has been the consequence of earlier struggles for the recognition of ethnic diversity as a goal for more impartial and equitable societies (Kymlicka, 2010). It is assumed that when integration is at play, it requires people to give up cultural heritage and values and to adopt their new shared identity of the country in which they reside in, in order to not be excluded from society. This paradox assumes that when people are recognized for their differences and are celebrated for them, it leads them to have feelings of acceptance and therefore identify more with the society in which they live in (). If multiculturalism mainly implies a politics of recognition, the minority groups being recognized in that manner will have more reason to put faith in the social system than justice groups in societies, hence, recognition of difference does not lead to segregation (). Furthermore, claims from immigrants for cultural recognition should be interpreted as signals that they want to negotiate fairer terms of their integration into the majority culture. Members of minority groups want to express themselves in public and associate with other members of the group and want to see members of their groups occupying prominent places in society such as politicians (). Thus this reinforces the claim that multiculturalism is not a threat to social cohesion but benefices.

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Whilst it is true that multiculturalism has benefitted western nations such as Australia to become more inclusive and anti-discriminatory, there is an argument to be made that multiculturalism has actually led to the deterioration of social cohesion. The retreat of multiculturalism has reflected that it had not solved issues that affected the intended recipients which would be the minorities themselves. This was because it failed to address the underlying sources of their social, economic and political exclusion from society that has unintentionally led them to their social isolation (Kymlicka, 2010). This means that even if say all members of society tended to enjoy a good halal snack pack, it would do nothing to address real issues that have been facing such as Islamophobia, xenophobia, societal segregation and discrimination. These issues cannot be solved simply by appreciating cultural differences. The focus on accepting cultural differences that are unique to each group can be unlawful and potentially dangerous (Kymlicka, 2010). Customs or traditions that pose great risk to western democracies such as under-aged or forced marriages may be traditionally practiced but are not legally tolerated (Kymlicka, 2010). However, people do tend to avoid issues such as these arising and which is why they tend to stick to other inoffensive practices such as cuisine and music. This, however, runs the risk of the ‘Disneyfying’ of cultural differences, ignoring the real problems that lie beneath the cultural and ethical distinctions. Because of this, even liberals who have been the biggest voices for movements for multiculturalism, have reversed their approach with their main focus becoming ideas of integration, common values and social cohesion. This reflects how multiculturalism may lead to a deterioration of social cohesion because it serves as an overshadow on real issues that face minorities in society today.

One example of the deterioration of social cohesion has been through the Cronulla riots in December of 2005. It was a collection of predominantly white males who rallied and took to the shores of one of Sydney’s most famous beaches, Cronulla beach. Their aim was to ‘reclaim’ what was theirs from Muslims, wogs and Lebanese Australians. The angry crowd chased, harassed and attacked a number of ethnic-looking individuals of middle eastern looking descent. This riot had been sparked by the previous week’s altercation of the attack between a couple of Lebanese men and two lifesavers, in which the lifesavers ended up getting severely assaulted. Lifesavers are iconic statuses within Australian society, and the attack on them served as a clarification for the members of the riot claiming that it was yet another example of Muslim disregard and respect for Australian values. The Cronulla riots were a reflection of a crisis in Australia’s capacity to govern and incorporate Muslim immigrants in Australia (Hage 2011). The individuals who participated saw themselves as capable of taking the law into their own hands to accomplish what they felt the government should have performed but failed to do so, which was to preserve the Aussie way of life. (Hage 2011). The Cronulla riots is an extreme example of the deterioration of social cohesion in Australian society. The views of the rioters were that multiculturalism had taken over Australia and that the immigrants were not respectful of the collective Australian values. This reinforces the statement from above of how multiculturalism has been a dangerous ideology that has threatened social cohesion.

Another argument against ethnic diversity was Brian Barry, a critique of multiculturalism. he states that it undermines social cohesion, the necessary social condition for socio-economic distribution. He states “A politics of multiculturalism undermines a politics of redistribution” (). This means that the more public recognition, accommodation, support and higher status given to minorities, the less attention it pays to social unity, which means that the more it would create the perception of us and them. () This criticism is called the ‘Progressive Dilemma’. The argument of progressive dilemma disputes that “the more different we become from one another, the more diverse our ways of life and our religious and ethnic backgrounds, and the less we share a moral consensus or a sense of fellow feeling, the less happy we will be in the long run to support a generous welfare state”. It is therefore more likely that our differences will keep us apart to the point where we cannot interact with each other. A study conducted, that seeks to answer the progressive dilemma, it revealed that in situations with a lot of diversity, one can often observe an increase in social expenditure ().

In conclusion, I agree with the statement above that multiculturalism has the potential to create social cohesion within society. The issue from liberals and conservatives alike appears to agree that policies for multiculturalism promote ethnic separatism and lessen social cohesion (Levrau and Loobuyck). The example of Cronulla riots has been a central example of how multiculturalism has led Australians to riot in anger against those of Muslim/Lebanese descent as a means to claim what once was theirs as well as the Australian identity. Furthermore, the argument made by Brian Barry is that the more attention, accommodation, and higher status given to minorities, the more it compels separatism to occur within a society. And finally, the notion that multiculturalism fails to address the real issues faced by minorities such as xenophobia, Islamophobia or societal segregation. It is important however that whilst multiculturalism could lead to a deterioration of social cohesion, it is notable that it does also have many beneficiaries as well. As explained above, it has made a difference in political policies and legislation such as the land rights for native aboriginal Australians as well as giving a sense of trust and loyalty towards states in decision-making and policies.

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Multiculturalism As a Dangerous Ideology: Analytical Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/multiculturalism-as-a-dangerous-ideology-analytical-essay/
“Multiculturalism As a Dangerous Ideology: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/multiculturalism-as-a-dangerous-ideology-analytical-essay/
Multiculturalism As a Dangerous Ideology: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/multiculturalism-as-a-dangerous-ideology-analytical-essay/> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
Multiculturalism As a Dangerous Ideology: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/multiculturalism-as-a-dangerous-ideology-analytical-essay/
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