chapter  5
27 Pages

From the Crick Report to the Parekh Report: Multiculturalism, Cultural Difference and Democracy

Multiculturalists are right to argue that liberalism is over-optimistic as a framework for universal rights based on equal treatment of all, which can deliver fairness and justice in plural societies. Even though liberals claim this as a goal, the ability of the nation-state to have signifi cant effects on equality, or to ameliorate the effects of markets consistent with an egalitarian programme of redistribution, is much more diffi cult under neoliberalism than under the welfare state era, dominated by the Bretton Woods accord of fi nancial capital and exchange controls and quotas. The debate between multiculturalism and liberalism is complex, however. Liberals have also maintained important points against multiculturalism. Liberals like Brian Barry (2001) have argued against the politics of difference (or recognition) that it fails, at times, to respect core liberal values, that it is a threat to liberal egalitarianism, because it opposes or fails to respect liberal rights, fragments society, and it defl ects attention away from class or socioeconomic inequalities, and “undermines a politics of redistribution” (p. 8). Multiculturalists, in turn, claim that liberal universalism, which determines that all people are treated by the same standard, penalizes many unfairly, and that to focus, as Rawls did almost exclusively, on redistribution, is only one of several goods that any society concerned with equality and justice, should seek to provide. Multiculturalists argue that basic rights and fundamental freedoms-of religion, expression, thought, association, participation-are necessary but not suffi cient ingredients for an inclusive polity. Liberalism, they say, is inegalitarian in its consequences. In applying the same standard to all it pays insuffi cient attention to cultural politics of difference that would include all in full citizenship. In such a model, citizenship is reduced to private choices and individual preferences. The liberal institutional order discriminates against groups who are not dominant. Multiculturalism, on the other hand, is about altering the weights in particular times and places. It doesn’t seek to abandon procedural fairness and representative government. Rather it focuses on the illiberal effects of liberalism and the need to offset the socialization effect of dominant liberal norms on particular groups and ways of life. The purpose of this chapter is to review the debate on multiculturalism and liberalism by initially looking at two reports on

citizenship produced in Britain in the 1990s: the Crick Report on citizenship education; and the Parekh Report on multi-ethnic Britain.