Multicultralism againI have never been one to fight the notion of multiculturalism or blame it, as I have so often seen done, for many of the current ills relating to Islamist extremism. In fact, I always thought the arguments were inane.
But the excellent blog true.dough has pointed me to a very nice article by Amartya Sen, showing me that much of this was because of people meaning somewhat different things by it (not a major surprise). The article is well worth reading.
My meaning has always been what I think is the classical liberal meaning, that each individual is free to make his/her choices among the many available in a rich cultural environment. And that we should allow all those environments to exist, to the degree they did not try to remove the others by force or through exploitating the state.
Choosing a different passage from true.dough (her choice focusses on a core example) , the centre of the issue is:
The importance of cultural freedom, central to the dignity of all people, must be distinguished from the celebration and championing of every form of cultural inheritance, irrespective of whether the people involved would choose those particular practices given the opportunity of critical scrutiny, and given an adequate knowledge of other options and of the choices that actually exist in the society in which they live. The demands of cultural freedom include, among other priorities, the task of resisting the automatic endorsement of past traditions, when people - not excluding young people - see reason for changing their ways of living.
It is not the business of the state to interfere with anyone's choice of 'cultural' practice. If I want to become a Muslim, no power of the state should stand in my way. If a Muslim wants to leave the faith, and become a Zoroastrian, or an atheist, this is not the business of the state.
I suspect Sen is right that this is not exactly what everyone means by 'multiculturalism' today. Pity.