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Critically analyse multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is the belief that no culture is perfect or represents the best life and that cultures can benefit from a critical dialogue with other cultures. Multiculturalism supercedes the often believed to be outdated view of monoculturalism which was the norm in countries which operated under the nation-state paradigm. The assimilation model of multiculturalism is the one adopted by the USA to deal with the large numbers of immigrants that the country had to deal with since the early 19th century. These immigrants were understood to be permanent residents in the new country and the absorption of immigrants from all over the world was a feature of the frontiersman mentality of this emergent nation. The central idea was the metaphor of the 'melting pot', where race was to be considered irrelevant with the eventual blurring of obvious racial distinctions, such as language, national traditions etc, into a homogenous American citizenry with American values "united to each other by the strongest ties, never to be split into a number of unsocial, jealous and alien sovereignties" (John Jay, First American Supreme Court Chief Justice). This variety of assimilation has been criticised as being realisable only for Europeans, and being apparently inapplicable to English-speaking, US-born black people who have been second class citizens in America until well into the twentieth century.

Multiculturalism has been implemented in many other countries since the assimilation model was used in the US. There are many mechanisms by which multiculturalism might operate. Under the pluralist model, citizens are viewed as members of groups based on various different factors such as race, ethnicity, religion etc. It is these factors that constitute a persons identity and race-based identity is not a necessary determining factor; this is in stark contrast to separatist models wherein racial groups such as African- and Native-Americans have been segregated from cultural inclusion as in the melting-pot example above.

Further criticism of multiculturalism comes from Paul Cliteur (1999) who rejects all political correctness when speaking about the issue and openly condemns legal systems that are not the product of European Enlightenment thought, which he believes to be superior. He takes the absolutist position that other cultures are not merely different but worse than western cultures. He lists examples such as infanticide, torture and oppression of women as cultural imports that are not to be tolerated.

Multiculturalism is an attempt to reconcile the vast numbers of people who move not only across land but also across cultural divides. Indigenous populations often feel threatened when large numbers of immigrants arrive bringing with them strange religions, languages and ethical frameworks and it is often difficult to integrate these diverse values into society without leaving any particular group out in the cold. While this is a praiseworthy goal, and one which must ultimately succeed if society is to be peaceful, it can never be sustainable without one overarching ethical framework which does not become weakened by being too eager to accommodate the particular quirks of each sector of society. While moral relativism is at their base, multicultural societies will lack a firm idealogical basis from which all members may draw. It is this fact that makes the iterations of Multiculturalism so far implemented fundamentally unsatisfactory.

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