Reading:
Effect Of The Multiculturalism In Europe Politics Essay
Share: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest
Politics
Jan 9th, 2020

Effect Of The Multiculturalism In Europe Politics Essay

The establishment of nation-state political systems has always recognized the need for coherence between different cultures and the definition of a nation as territorially united groups. However, cultural differences pose a major threat to the continued unity of many European nation-states. The political demand for acknowledgement of cultural plurality by groups of citizens, especially those who consider themselves to be minorities culturally or ethnically, has grown due to increased interest in multiculturalism in recent years. When analyzed at both scholarly and public levels, the growth of demand for governments to recognize multiculturalism stems from two origins.

The first one is based on liberal theories that perceive multiculturalism as a way of protecting individual and cultural rights through the recognition of cultural and ethnic plurality. Social and political agitators of pluralism seek to retain the definition of cultures as closed units and still hope to use the concept of cultural differences as to find solutions to inequalities both politically and socially. The second one is the origin of multiculturalism based on cultural relativism which is a liberal concept that proposes that nation-states have long ignored the fact that cultures are comprised of multiple relations that go beyond political boundaries and are intended to co-exist side by side. [1] 

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Effect Of The Multiculturalism In Europe Politics Essay
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

However with the current rise in terrorism, decreasing relevance in civic and national identity, and the likelihood of some cultural practices being against the principles of liberal states, multiculturalism has become redundant. Liberal governments of the west are gradually finding themselves unable to keep on recognizing and upholding multiculturalism especially in concepts that call for special treatment for minorities and still retain equality for all citizens. The question is why has accommodation of multiculturalism in Europe changed over the past 20 years? Addressing the dilemma of implementing equality in pluri-cultural societies of liberal nation states of Europe, this paper argues and elaborates how multiculturalism become redundant by the liberal democratic western states.

Definition of Multiculturalism

In political philosophy, multiculturalism is a concept that basically addresses the most appropriate way of responding to diversity in culture and religion within the society. Multiculturalism goes beyond the simple act of tolerating group differences and seeks for the treatment of minority groups as citizens on an equal level with the majority group by recognizing and positively accommodating cultural or traditional differences through the recognition of group-differentiated rights (Kymlicka, 1995). These group-differentiated rights are espoused by minority groups for example people who are exempted from certain rules or laws due to their cultural or religious beliefs or those seeking for language accommodations in public institutions like schools or voting procedures. [2] The group-differentiated rights are also sought by indigenous groups or minority nations for the sake of self determination. This is parallel to nationalism.

In its precise definition, multiculturalism is an umbrella term that involves moral and political recognition of disadvantaged and frequently discriminated groups like African Americans in the United States, women worldwide, and other groups like gays, and the disabled. However, multiculturalism theorists have always emphasized on immigrants of a country who make up ethnic or religious minorities because of their differences. Some examples of such groups include Muslims in most Western Europe countries and minority nations in some European countries like the Catalans, Romans and the Basque in Spain.

Young (1990) identifies three aspects associated with multiculturalism. These are identity, difference, and recognition politics aimed at bringing back value to formerly disrespected identities and altering patterns of representation and communication that had previously marginalized minority groups. [3] The concept has also a lot to do with economic interests besides political motives. It is a platform used to remedy political and economic injustices that people claim to have suffered because they belong to a minority status.

Blum (1992) differentiates antiracism and multiculturalism by stating that the former deals with “victimization and resistance” and the latter deals with “cultural life, cultural expression, achievements, and the like” (Blum, 1992, p. 14) [4] . Some of the accommodations sought by multiculturalists include exemptions from certain laws on religious grounds, special treatment in issues that the majority do unassisted, funding for language schools and associations, special quotas of representation in government bodies, recognition of their cultural codes and practices in the legal system, and some form of self government rights.

Inability of the Liberal Democratic Western States to Recognize Multiculturalism

Parvin (2009) gives a concise description of debate on multiculturalism and minority rights that begun in the 1990s and how this debate continues to raise important questions in matters concerning the role of the liberal states in citizenship and community. [5] From the 1970 to early 1990 was a period when many academics and public opinion drivers gave full support to multiculturalism as the way forward towards a more cohesive and tolerant Europe. It was a period when philosophical literature had gradually become ‘multiculturalist’ as most of the western European states adopted multiculturalism in an attempt to include minority marginalized groups into the mainstream liberal culture. Multiculturalism was also seen as the only way to protect minority groups from undue pressures of the dominant cultures. As is expected with such philosophical movements that later become political issues, multiculturalism became a liberal political theory and is gradually losing recognition in most European governments.

The causes of the waning recognition of multiculturalism by western European states range from crucial ambiguities associated with preferential treatment of minorities to extremist threats to security occasioned by terrorist activities perpetrated under the appearance of multiculturalism. The emergence of terrorist atrocities globally, increased anxieties over the decreased popularity of civic and national identities, and the potential for cultural recognition to pave way for practices that go against liberal principles have made many academics and policy makers to steer clear from everything associated with multiculturalism. It has now become apparent that most liberal European governments do not want to offer special treatment to cultural minorities. The emphasis has been shifted to promoting common bonds that unite rather than divide citizens of democratic states. This argument can best be understood through an analysis of philosophical literature about multiculturalism and the changes taking place in the political landscape in most European countries (Parvin, 2009) [6] .

The rise in cases of terrorism, decreasing relevance in civic and national identity, and the likelihood of some cultural practices being against the principles of liberal states, have made multiculturalism redundant. Liberal governments of the west are gradually finding themselves unable to keep on recognizing and upholding multiculturalism especially in concepts that call for special treatment for minorities and still retain equality for all citizens. [7] 

There was a time when multiculturalism made sense in liberal democracies the world over. There was a mutual agreement between those involved in matters of liberal traditions on how a united Europe, and the whole world by extension, was supposed to look like and how it would best be politically portrayed. It was imperative to acknowledge the fact that every individual possessed the right to live a meaningful and appreciated life, have the freedom of expression, and be free from constraints of belief and activities imposed by other members of the society from the majority groups. It was also important to mutually agree that no group could claim to be morally significant or commanding more respect than others. The state was expected to uphold and protect the constitutional and legal rights of every member of the society and to ensure that all were treated justly. There was a broad consensus among libertarians and even liberal egalitarians on the importance of respecting individual freedom and equality. The aim was to make the world as free as possible from governmental interventions and impositions.

The emergence of communism changed the way multiculturalism was perceived in liberal democratic states of the west. The impact of communism on multiculturalism can be traced to social theory theorists like Charles Taylor who came up with social thesis as a critique of liberal political theory. [8] Conservative thinkers on the other hand foresaw a break up of national unity and took steps to differentiate between the pursuit of self-respect through isolated individual cases and as minority groups bearing distinct identities. The conservative thinkers were of the opinion that the need for self respect should not be an individual pursuit but it should rather be a pursue for ties that bind the society together. Individualistic concerns were perceived as an “impoverished conception of freedom” (Parvin, 2009, p. 352) [9] .

The debate over group versus individual recognition has become a major concern for political theorists and liberal thinkers as well. The importance of groups is seen in the role they play in shaping people’s identity and political affiliation. There have also been deliberative democrats, including Amy Gutmann and Joshua Cohen who propose that group diversity be accepted through a continuous process of deliberating over the policies and institutions that address citizen rights. [10] 

Minorities in most of Europe are declaring their position, and what was sparked off by a need for recognition by the Jewish community has generally spread to other groups which are marginalized because of their lifestyle, race or gender. The themes of the threats posed by the intense debate on mutliculuralism are worrying the majority populations in Europe. The main aim of policy over most of the last centuries have been to assert the position of the majority and their dominion over the minority groups. This segregation is worrying at the least and the culture of victimization is the main reason why the struggle for equality and multiculturalism is so powerful.

The dying sentiment about multiculturalism in Europe is best exemplified by French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s expulsion of Romanian immigrants which was against the EU laws because Romania is an EU member. The action would have warranted the need to take action against Sarkozy but the EU simply turned a blind eye and did nothing. This implied that even the EU feels that the liberal states have reached a point where they can not afford to keep on giving special attention to minority groups in their countries.

Modern philosophers so far agree on the fact that multiculturalism and political correctness are important elements in a liberal democracy. Just like the American Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, equality, and pursuit of happiness, the European Court of Human Rights forbids elected governments from interfering with principles aimed at bringing about progress to the citizens. Sarkozy’s expulsion of Romanian immigrants, and the EU’s failure to take action, however shows the decreasing popularity of the European Court of Human Rights. This is mainly because of the dying appeal of advanced elite values that are unworkable. Most people would prefer to be their own judges of what is right and what is wrong. Politically correct liberal consensus is seen as naive and Marxist. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders who heads the Dutch Nationalist party is known for calling on the government to evict Muslims because, as he alleges, they are destroying the country just on the basis of naive decrees from the European Court of Human Rights. [11] 

Liberal democratic nation-states of the west can longer afford multiculturalism when they address the question about how far they can continue to accommodate immigrants who do not make any attempts to accept their host country’s principles. In most European countries the reluctance of immigrants to weave into the social fabric by adopting the progressive principles poses a threat of disintegrating the society. The situation is even made worse when these immigrants go ahead to agitate for recognition of their cultures at the expense of progress. However governments in European countries are obligated to accept and integrate immigrants who come with different cultural principles and religions. [12] 

When equality is promised to immigrants it leads to a situation where they create resistance whenever they are excluded from welfare policies. This is because the immigrants perceive democratic values as a guarantee for equal representation in decision making processes. The problem comes in when this equality is not well defined leading to a situation where the demands for equality surpass democratic principles.

The issue of multiculturalism is most clearly explained using Fraser’s analogy that the struggle for recognition and the spread of the resources as “two mutually interconnected but distinct and irreducible paradigms of justice” (Fraser 200, p.125) [13] . The two issues focus on two different things.

Governments in most liberal nation states of the west today perceive the adoption of multiculturalism as an obstacle to their concerted efforts of forming universal standards of co-existence and integration with different cultures. This makes multiculturalism difficult to maintain in view of the fact nation states are formed and expect to maintain a single dominant culture. The contradicting positions that result from this debate have been developing over the years to an extent that most liberal nation states in Europe are opting to adopt a stand based on moral evaluation of cultural groups rather than cultural equity within a society.

The question of cultural identity and recognition has become more complex as nation states start regarding and evaluating moral values of cultures they are supposed to accommodate. The only solution lies in addressing the issue without overemphasizing the importance of one culture over another and by concentrating on how different cultures can be integrated into the current social and public movements.

Acceptances of Multiculturalism

Most theorists agree on the fact that transnational migrations are gradually eroding the cultural composition of nation-states in the form of citizenship. Rights are being pursued on residency status rather than on citizenship making the distinction between citizen and alien statuses quite unclear. Primarily this is an issue with migrant, or in a politically correct name, guest workers in most liberal democratic countries of Western Europe. This is the first group that agitates for acceptance of multiculturalism. They were originally recruited during the labor shortages of the 1950s that stretched to the 1970s. Their descendants have continued to grow in population in Western Europe over the years even after the recruitment of guest laborers ceased. The termination of recruitment was occasioned by the 1973 oil crisis. [14] They have become permanent residents together with their spouses and children. Most of them have never sought for citizenship mainly because they have the same civil and social rights as the citizens of these countries and hence consider naturalization processes as a waste of time. They however lack political rights like full citizens.

Blum (1992) differentiates antiracism and multiculturalism by stating that the former deals with “victimization and resistance” and the latter deals with “cultural life, cultural expression, achievements, and the like” (Blum, 1992, p. 14) [15] . Some of the accommodations sought by multiculturalists include exemptions from certain laws on religious grounds, preferential treatment in issues that the majority do unassisted, funding for language schools and associations, special quotas of representation in government bodies, recognition of their cultural codes and practices in the legal system, and some form of self government rights.

The other group that supports multiculturalism is those who propose that the noncitizens deserve to be given those rights because they are entitled to universal rights of personhood as stipulated by the international human rights conventions. Proponents of multiculturalism further propose that these rights have a supremacy over national citizenship. “Rights increasingly assume universality, legal uniformity, and abstractness, and are defined at the global level. Identities, in contrast, still express particularity and are conceived of as territorially bounded. As an identity, national citizenship . . . still prevails. But in terms of its translation into rights and privileges, it is no longer a significant construction” (Soysal 1998, p. 208) [16] .

Challenge of multiculturalism of citizenship on liberal democratic nation-states

Multiculturalism poses a challenge to nation-states basically because of the fact that transnational migrations are gradually eroding the cultural composition of nation-states in the form of citizenship. Rights are being pursued on residency status rather than on citizenship making the distinction between citizen and alien statuses quite unclear.

Multiculturalism goes against the foundation of nation-states of the west since most of them were formed by a single dominant culture and expect to maintain this status in order to effectively compete with other states. The contradicting positions that result from this debate have been developing over the years to an extent that most liberal nation states in Europe are opting to adopt a stand based on moral evaluation of cultural groups rather than cultural equity within a society. [17] 

When immigrants take collective action they end up eroding and transcending the nation-state boundaries. This happens against the background of advances in technology, international communication and means of travel which make it possible for immigrants to stay in touch with their homelands. Soysal (1998) sums the effects of transnational migration by stating that: “In a world within which rights, and identities as rights, derive their legitimacy from discourses of universalistic personhood, the limits of nationness, or of national citizenship, for that matter, become inventively irrelevant” (p. 210-211) [18] .

.

EU and the acceptance of multiculturalism

The way forward in the acceptance of multiculturalism in Europe is in negotiating and transcending cultural differences politically. The current scenario is best described by Modood & Werbner (1997) who state that the “political theatre in which these cultural, ethnic, national and ideological differences must be negotiated is that of the so-called New Europe, a mass of land delimited by cultural and historical enmities and exclusions, frequently of the most barbaric kind” (p. 261) [19] . Such an analysis is made necessary because, as Modood (1995) state:

“Critics of multiculturalism have argued … that the “culture” of multiculturalism is not the vital, gradually changing, creative, mimetic, unreflective, unbounded and hybrid culture that anthropologists study. It is a far more reified and politicised imagined entity, the object of representation by elected and self-appointed group spokespersons who stress its inviolability as a sacred domain of collective sovereignty. This assumption is what makes the negotiation of difference so difficult: finding common cultural and political grounds requires the pooling not only of political but also of cultural sovereignty, embodied in public respect for the symbols and values of the “other”, the incoming “stranger” with the promotion of anti-racism a central goal” (p. 262) [20] .

The growth of multiculturalism in Western Europe has not gone unchallenged. Most governments have taken steps to check on the development multiculturalism lest it seriously challenges the prerogatives of the nation states. However there is still more to be done especially on the common EU policies on migration and ethnic relations. These EU policies should be well coordinated with those of member states to oversee the necessary restrictions. A good example is the 1995 Schengen Accord that brought about a well coordinated system of implementing stricter controls on illegal immigrations. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty created a common system that could be used to give European citizenship to immigrants from other countries. This treaty offers a control on freedom of movement and the rights of residence in EU member states. Goodwin-Gill (1985) describes these treaties by stating that:

“Their generality accommodates many shades of opinion, and what really counts is how the scheme of protection is worked out at the local level, particularly with regard to subsidiary rights and procedural guarantees. . . . Even under the European Convention on Human Rights the jurisprudence adopted . . . and the interpretation of ‘civil rights’ has sanctioned serious limitations upon non nationals’ entitlement to substantive and procedural due process. Deportation, termination of a residence permit, and the grant or refusal of entry, have all been found by the European Commission not to involve civil rights” (p. 566-68) [21] 

It is hard to determine how immigrants and minority dispute a liberated nation and state as it is required by an integrated nationality. [22] When comparing this aspect between German and Britain in the early 1990 we find that it is unenthusiastic in the sense that the immigrants and the other cultural minorities challenge as liberated nation. It is clear that the being identified by the nation and state one come from is very important. Being identified by the state and the nation a person comes from is relatively crucial to an individual particularly the immigrants and the cultural minority people.

A good example of the minority demands to be identified by their country of origin and location of origin is the Kosovo Albanians in German. Despite being the immigrants and staying in German for many years and acquired the citizenship of the country. Their demand to be identified as natives of their original country still stands. They feel as if they do not belong anywhere that is they cannot be identified as Germans at the same time they are immigrant in Germany. This confusion has attributed to the demands for an allocation of a state where they could identify themselves with. This according to the Albanians will give them a haven to be identified with. [23] 

These particular groups have backing up motives to their claims, for instance the Albanians claims to have an upper hand in the building of Germany. They claim to have a say in the country and therefore the need to be identified not only as immigrants but Kosovo nationality immigrants. By their reorganization, the immigrants will acquire a more legal way to contribute to the building of the inhabited country. [24] 

In German it has been seen that the immigrants have gone to the extent of interfering with the politics of the country. They amount to the biggest group of people who fail to vote in any election. This interference has brought to delays in passing of motions and the general integration of the country. This is one of the factors that has led to failure on growth of many European countries particularly German. Majority of the immigrants and minority cultures contribute little or nothing to the growth of the country yet claim to be recognized.

.

Conclusion

Multiculturalism when taken positively is a good concept as it leads to moral and political recognition of disadvantaged and frequently discriminated groups like African Americans in the United States, women worldwide, and other groups like gays, and the disabled. Europe should continue to accommodate issues of pluri-cultural equality. There will always be challenges in every imaginable form from increase in terrorism to decreased relevance of civic and national identity but the liberal governments of the west should find ways to cope with the demands of multiculturalism instead of closing their doors to other cultures.

Recommended stories