Making a Case for Multiculture: From the Politics of Piety to the Politics of the Secular

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The horror of 7/7 and the radicalisation of young British Muslims have prompted a slew of obituaries gleefully chronicling the demise of multiculturalism. This paper turns back the clock to revisit Bhikhu Parekh’s Rethinking Multiculturalism, the scholarly cousin of the Report by the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, both published in 2000. It argues that multiculturalism has never been as universally acceptable as recent critiques would lead us to believe, but also that philosophical multiculturalism (of which Parekh’s is totemic) is the unfortunate victim of a lazy conflation with political multiculturalism. While Parekh’s multiculturalism is worryingly sympathetic to the prevailing management of cultural diversity, it also illuminates the orthodox Left’s elective disengagement with questions of culture, ethnicity and religion. Recent events have brought home the message that neglecting the complexity of belonging only strengthens the impulse for sectarian collectivism. They awaken us to the fact that Britain’s emerging political actors will be multiculturalism’s children: citizens who refract their interests through the lens of their inherited cultures. The question is whether we constitute the fact of cultural diversity as a full stop, as Parekh does, or whether we creatively seize it to bring about a multiculture of social justice.


Keywords: Multiculturalism, Progressive Poliitics, Diversity, Culture, Radicalisation, Citizenship
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Pathik Pathak

Academic Assistant, CRUCIBLE
Centre for Education in Citizenship, Human Rights and Social Justice, Roehampton University

London, London, UK

Dr Pathik Pathak is a writer and researcher on the political sociology of governmentality, social trust, and citizenship. He is the author of many articles, including 'The Trouble With David Goodhart's Britain' (The Political Quarterly, 2007), and a book, The Future of Multicultural Britain (Edinburgh University Press, 2008). He was appointed to the CRUCIBLE centre for human rights education at the University of Roehampton last year, and is currently working on a book length study of progressive responses to the decline of social trust and subjective well-being.

Ref: D08P0271