Topic 7: Building multicultural society


Pre-reading activity:

1. Discuss the notion of multicultural society; point to potential struggles of governments and nations; outline a pool of countries considered to be multicultural.

Adrian Favell

(University of California, Los Angeles)

Multicultural nation-building: ‘integration’ as public philosophy and research paradigm in Western Europe

Notwithstanding the sharply anti-immigrant politics still present in most countries in western Europe, progressive minded policy thinking on the subject has, in recent years, emerged across all of the continent. As many comparative studies have documented, the shape and content of this policy making show many ‘local’ national variations, often linked to the distinct political cultures, political systems or geographical features of the various European nation-states concerned (see Brubaker 1992; Favell 1998; Joppke 1999; King and Black 1997; Kastoryano 1997; Mahnig 1998; Guiraudon 2000; Koopmans and Statham 2000). Despite variations, however, it is striking that much of this new policy thinking has developed in different countries under the all-purpose rubric of ‘integration’: a vague yet technical sounding term that encompasses a range of positions from more assimilatory policies through to more openly multicultural ones. In my contribution to the debate, I seek to explore why the idea of ‘integration’ continues to be the focus of so much discussion, and how this apparently arbitrary term in fact imposes quite distinct nation-state-centred contours and constraints on the kind of policy solutions and policy research that is done in its name.

It might seem puzzling, or even reactionary, that this somewhat old-fashioned term - that has its roots in the biologistic functionalist sociology of the Durkheimian tradition - is still the leading ordinary language term used to encapsulate and project the developing relations between host western societies and their growing immigrant-origin populations (see Rex 1991). Famously, it was the word to which then home office minister Roy Jenkins turned in sixties Britain to map out a third way between ethnic conflict or breakdown and coercive assimilation (see Favell 1998, 104). A similar middle road coalesced around the term in France in the late 1980s, as a series of high level public commissions formulated a national philosophy of integration, reconciling ideals of republican equality with the growing fact of cultural diversity (Haut Conseil à l’Intégration 1993). Despite the frequent criticism heard from more radical anti-racist critics, mainstream policy academics in Britain continue to use the term. A 30 year audit of the British race relations framework was conducted under this name, even though typically the term goes remarkably undefined in these reflections (Anwar et al 2000). Elsewhere, the concept has never been more popular. International organisations such as the Council of Europe, influential European NGOs and prominent transatlantic thinktanks have all invested heavily in studying comparative frameworks of integration in recent years (Bauböck 1994; Migration Policy Group 1996). Countries such as the Netherlands and Sweden have returned to more integrationist thinking in policy - again using this exact term - after several years flirting with more radical pluralist modes of thought (Fermin 1999; Soininen 1999). The term is prominent and dominant amongst more progressive minded protagonists in Belgium, Germany and Austria (Blommaert and Verschueren 1998; Esser 1999; Waldrauch 2001). Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Sweden, meanwhile, have all produced high level commissioned reports on the integration of immigrants in recent years. And, of course, these usages run parallel with the enormous intellectual effort charting the development of the European Union also in terms of integration, an entity itself now getting increasingly interested in the integration side of immigration and asylum policies.

It is worth reflecting, then, on why academics or policy makers tend to still use the term ‘integration’ to speak of such a complex process of social change, and the collective goal regarding the destiny of new immigrants or ethnic minorities. For all the technical differences between these states and their political contexts, the term itself does impose commonalities. We can, of course, think of a long list of measures designed to deal with the longer term consequences of migration and settlement. These can be distinguished from immigration policies per se, such as policies on border control, rights of entry and abode, or of asylum. ‘Integration’ conceptualises what happens after; conceiving practical steps in a longer process which invariably includes the projection of both social change and of continuity between the past and some idealised social endpoint. Measures concerned with integration include (the list is by no means exhaustive, but indicative): basic legal and social protection; formal naturalisation and citizenship (or residency-based) rights; anti-discrimination laws; equal opportunities positive action; the creation of corporatist and associational structures for immigrant or ethnic organisations; the redistribution of targeted socio-economic funds for minorities in deprived areas; policy on public housing; policy on law and order; multicultural education policy; policies and laws on tolerating cultural practices; cultural funding for ethnic associations or religious organisations; language and cultural courses in host society’s culture, and so on (for similar checklists of policies, see Kymlicka 1995, 37-38; Soysal 1994, 79-82; Vertovec, 1997, 61-62).

What is interesting is when and why such measures are packaged together and interlinked within the broader concept of ‘integration’. The very difficult-to-define process of social change pictured here is for sure spoken of using a plethora of other terms: assimilation, absorption, acculturation, accommodation, incorporation, inclusion, participation, cohesion-building, enfranchisement, toleration, anti-discrimination, and so on. Yet other terms on this list are either vaguer (absorption, accommodation, toleration); too technically precise, and hence absorbed within integration (such as incorporation, which specifies a legal process, or anti-discrimination, which only describes one type of practical measure); or are concepts which can be used descriptively without necessarily invoking the active intervention of some political agency (assimilation, or acculturation). In recent years, less loaded terms such as inclusion and participation have had some popularity, but neither can match the technical ‘social engineering’ quality of the term integration; nor do they invoke a broader vision of an ideal end-goal for society as a whole. Visionary academics and pragmatic policy makers all need a descriptive and normative umbrella term, that can give coherence and polish to a patchy list of policy measures aiming at something which, on paper, looks extremely difficult and improbable: the (counterfactual) construction of a successful, well-functioning multi-cultural or multi-racial society. The identification of this conceptual space in progressive-minded practical thinking about the consequences of immigration has - however euphemistic - always been a key part of the term’s success.

A closer look at the political process by which integration has emerged in various countries as a middle ground, suggests a further common mechanism. In most cases, the options of policy makers are caught between the political rejection of immigrants by nationalist or anti-immigrant parties, and the more radical visions of anti-racist or post-national thinking that reject all mainstream political efforts to manage the situation. Given the anti-immigrant feeling that can, under certain circumstances, be mobilised in general public opinion, mainstream politicians need to find some kind of calming discourse that will play down the disruptive or threatening effects that immigration has when it becomes a hot, salient political issue. Some idea of integration, then, has invariably provided a more moderate ground by which to promote the pragmatic multicultural, and pro-minority thinking policies needed to deal with the social consequences of immigration, while reconciling the novelty of this with a restorative, patriotic discourse on how successful immigrant integration can sustain and enrich the nation, offering continuities to national liberal democratic traditions of the past.

With local variations linked to distinct self-conceptions of political culture, integration as a kind of ‘multicultural nation-building’ has thus come to anchor the mainstream liberal discourse on post-immigration politics across all of western Europe. Britain and France, proudly confident of their relative and long-standing success in managing the challenge of immigration and cultural diversity in the post-war epoch, have lead the way in this patriotic version of multiculturalism, establishing with their post-colonial politics a kind of ‘multiculturalism-in-one-nation’ in each country, sharply distinct in their self-perception from others around it. Other countries, more hesitantly, are now following this same path, despite the fact that such nation-building thinking may now appear anachronistic in an era of Europeanisation and globalisation. Yet policy makers pay a heavy price if they challenge the supremacy of the restorative nation-building frame in their discussions of multiculturalism or ethnic diversity. The recent Parekh report in Britain (Commission on Multi-Ethnic Britain 2000), which set out to provide a defining frame for new thinking on race relations and immigration at the turn of the millennium, was hamstrung between a mostly patriotic focus on the successes of ‘Great’ British multiculturalism, defended by some of the Commission, and a more radical anti-racist flavour, injected by the critical theorist Stuart Hall. The whiff of a more radical marxist internationalism in a few sections of the report - notably those arguing that the term Britain had white racial connotations - was enough to bring the entire political mainstream, both liberal and conservative, down on the report, and destroy its many more moderate proposals. To the powers that be, something very significant is clearly at stake in the rhetoric taken by nation-state-centred actors, trying to reconcile their own hazy future in a global world, with the fact that the national context is still the main location for the accommodation and social change brought on by immigration and multiculturalism in formerly homogenous western nation-states. To take another paradoxical example, that underlines this reality. Many white Belgians nowadays are used to the fact they no longer think of themselves as Belgian but rather as Flemish or Walloon (or even Bruxellois); yet in any progressive-minded discussions of the destiny of new immigrants n the country, it is automatically assumed that they what they should and do aspire to become is in fact belge, although no-one else, apparently, now needs to be fully integrated into the Belgian ‘nation’ in this way. As in Britain and France, immigrants themselves know that the quickest way to achieve acceptance is to openly embrace a new national identity, rooted in a fictional idea of Belgium as a unified multi-cultural nation, that belies its other deep cultural and ethnic schisms. Similarly, ethnic minority members in Britain or France will go to great lengths to empower themselves by asserting their ‘Britishness’ or ‘Frenchness’, while also claiming to have brought new cultures and ethnic affiliations to these old western nations.

Integration thus points us back towards the old fashioned nation-building paradigm used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to create unified territorial nations out of the patchwork of distinct regions, ethnies, classes, social divisions, etc that have always characterised Europe. Integration is a term which roots immigration thinking in the old idea that the nation-state is still the principle unit of social organisation in Europe. Its sociological affectations, on the other hand, point us towards another defining characteristic of this mode of thought. That is, that integration is linked not only to the idea of the nation-state, but the nation-state specifically as a distinct ‘society’, a unified, organic, bounded entity which alone can encompass and hold together the diversity and divisions of people sharing this same territory. In an era of globalisation and increasing cross-national mobility one might argue that the idea of the world being divided up into such ‘nation-state-societies’ is a fiction whose time is overdue (Urry 2000). Yet fiction or not, the sociological assumption about the need for a coherent entity into which immigrants are integrated, has become a necessary part of all constructive policy formulation on the subject. It is here that that sociology has had one of its most lasting impacts on modern thought. For sociology’s basic object of enquiry is ‘society’. Sociology, in its classic incarnation, thus sets up the study of society as that of the study of an ideal-type bounded, shared, functional whole (a set of institutions, social structures, a territorially defined population, etc), which may then provide the framework for empirical studies on inequality, urban problems, alienation, social conflict and so on, which measure the disfunctions of ‘real’ societies in relation to the ideal-type. This in turn - especially in applied sociology’s American heyday during the 1950s and 60s - then generates conclusions as ‘social policy’, that is, as ideas that will restore the ideal by addressing the problems of the present. Sociology thus can provide policy makers with both the empirical evidence and normative impetus needed to justify state or governmental intervention into ‘social’ problems.

What this intellectual process does specifically is furnish agency to the state, and hence empower political actors to intervene in social phenomena that may in fact be beyond any political agency’s control. It claims these phenomena for the nation-state-society, which thus imposes a framework and boundary on the workings of culture or the market, ‘penetrating’ and ‘caging’ them within the realm of governmental state power (Mann 1993). The furious efforts of the European Commission to generate social policy research, in the name of the European Union, in order to justify the creeping intervention of the EU into new and ever expanding areas of competence across Europe, follows exactly this ‘state-building’ logic. Here, of course, the issue is to seize some sense of governance over global financial and economic processes that no individual nation-state in Europe is able to control. A similar logic dictates all the talk about the integration of immigrants, and the manifold policy options it invokes. In an age of declining nation-state powers, the consequences of immigration provided new raw material for nation-state-centred actors to re-assert their relevance and their jurisdiction over processes that are forever slipping beyond their control.

The discourse of integration thus works functionally to enable state-actors to re-imagine governance over complex societal processes, offering a counter-factual ideal picture which sits well with longer-standing national discourses about cultural unity and historical destiny. Academics in many countries have played a key part as actors in defining this social policy ideal, and indeed the detailed content of policies of integration in the various national debates. Beyond this, it is also important to recognise that the themes and methods of pure research are no less constrained by the nation-state building paradigm that dominates thought in this field, helping in turn to sustain the nation-state with its intellectual formulations. Work that has focused on ‘models’ or ‘modes’ of incorporation or in terms of formal and participatory ideas of citizenship, inevitably reproduces a state-centred perspective in its understanding of the relevant institutions shaping integration processes (i.e., Castles 1995). Similarly, work that tries to evaluate integration in terms of the legal rights or provisions that exist in various countries (often rating the social democratic North European countries better than others with more laissez-faire policies), overstates the relevance of state-structured intervention and often overlooks the many informal, market and culture-centred processes that may in fact be taking place at street level in countries (Waldrauch and Hofinger 1997). Until lately not enough work has been done on the urban, city-level context of integration, in a field dominated by national level comparisons and policy discussions. The voices and experiences, too, of migrants has often been absent from much comparative research. And, although, large scale survey work is now beginning to emerge at a cross-national level, meaningful comparison is hampered by the fact that technologies of data gathering and conventions of framing samples remain dictated by the fact that nearly all data is derived from national census sources, and classified in terms that sharply reflect national ways of conceiving and talking about ‘ethnic minorities’, ‘immigrants’ or ‘foreigners’ etc vis-à-vis the ‘indigenous’ or original population (compare Modood et al 1997, Tribalat et al 1996, Diehl et al 1999, Lesthaege 2000).

The nation-state-centred nature of much research has made it easier for national policy makers to co-opt and use academic research as part of their self-justifying process of building agency and governance over immigration questions. It is difficult, meanwhile, for academics to forego the nation-state-society framework, not least because nearly all funding for empirical research flows from these policy imperatives. Intellectually, moreover, it is exceedingly difficult to operationalise ideas about ‘integration’ that do not fall into the nation-state-society paradigm. One can in theory recognise the multi-levelled, overlapping, cross-national nature of immigration phenomena, but it is difficult to speak of these things politically without sounding destructive and being dysfunctional towards the social institutions that hold our fictional societies together. ‘Integrated’ nation-states are perhaps still the most effective way to forestall the confusion threatened by the idea that the new elements of the societies we live in, and the dramatic social change that is going on, may not necessarily link up or fall under the control of any one governmental authority, able to shape this confusion with targeted and bounded policies of citizenship, incorporation, assimilation and so on. As Hans Mahnig stresses, behind the discourse, policies of integration are often shambolic and ad hoc attempts to grasp what is going on. And as Michaèl Bommes always emphasises in his work, we Europeans cling to the fundamental national structure of the welfare state, precisely to forestall the chaos suggested by the fact social phenomena increasingly do not fit neatly into the tidy box of the classic nation-state-society.

Immigration in the post-war period has thus introduced substantial dissonance into the old idea of the nation-state-society as the founding unit of Western European society and politics. The reaction of anti-immigrant parties and politicians - which is always framed in defence of welfare state, ideas of national unity, identity, etc - is one primitive response to this. The more realistic, pragmatic acceptance of immigration by mainstream policy makers has itself come with the realisation that a new cohesive ‘national’ discourse would be needed to patch up these worries, to deny the decline of the nation-state that immigration appears to bring on. The vast intellectual effort that is being made across Europe to formulate realistic ideas about integration as multicultural nation-building, and foresee more progressive modes of management of immigration and ethnic relations, signals the importance of this ongoing rescue attempt. The idea of European (EU) integration plays a similar role vis-à-vis the struggling European nation-state. As long as we can conceive some bounded, unified entity into which immigrants might integrate, then there is life yet in the nation-state-society in Europe, however uncomfortable or unlikely this narrative looks when we look at the details of what is actually happening behind it.

Post-reading activities:

1. Explain underlined terms and expressions. Point to specific instances in the text discourse (locate words, sentence structures, or idiomatic expressions) that contribute to the clarity (or lack of it) of the author’s language.

2. Share your perception on how Europe copes with the issue of building a multicultural state.

3. Examine the essay written by V.Nikonov and discuss the notion of a multicultural state in the Russian context.

4. Comment on the following: Once Th.Roosevelt said that America was not a boarding school. There was no space for any other language but English. Express your attitude to the belief that “a native language is not a privilege but a linguistic right.” How would you accommodate a multitude of languages in a multicultural society?

5. Discuss the following. Multicultural society implies accommodation of various religions. View a short video episode about the role of Islam in the US and offer your critical opinion. In addition, think how the same issues are treated in Russia.

Text for rendering

Идея нашей нации

Вячеслав Никонов, президент фонда "Политика"

В отечественном сознании, да и во многих государственно-правовых документах понятие нации имеет отчетливую этническую окраску - один язык, одна религия, одна психология и т.д. Даже действующая Конституция начинается со слов: "Мы, многонациональный народ Российской Федерации". То есть народ, состоящий из многих наций, а не являющий собой - как в других государствах - одну нацию, состоящую из людей разной этнической принадлежности. Корни наших представлений о национальном восходят к австромарксизму XIX века, перекочевавшему в теоретическое наследие Ленина-Сталина с их представлением о нации как этической общности, определением России как тюрьмы народов и теоретической установкой на право наций на самоопределение вплоть до отделения. Увы, и в нынешней России большевистский этнонационализм все еще весьма силен.

Но к современным теориям национальной политики и к мировым реалиям подобная трактовка не имеет никакого отношения. Обратимся к определению, которое предлагает директор Института этнологии и антропологии РАН академик Валерий Тишков: "Понятие "нация"... по сути подразумевает народ в смысле государственного территориального сообщества. Связь понятий нация и государство отражена в сложной категории "нация-государство" (nation-state). Это есть общепризнанное обозначение всех суверенных государств мира, входящих в Организацию Объединенных Наций и считающих себя государствами-нациями". При этом полиэтничный состав населения вовсе не служит препятствием для формирования гражданской нации и создания нации-государства.

Считается общепризнанным, что в начале ХХ века Великобритания, Франция, Германия, Испания уже были нациями-государствами, хотя все они при этом оставались глобальными империями, имели крайне неоднородное в этноконфессиональном плане население и внутренние колонии. Не следует забывать Северную Ирландию и Шотландию в составе Великобритании, Бретань и Корсику в составе Франции, лоскутную империю, созданную Бисмарком, Кастилию, Каталонию, Страну Басков в Испании. Многоэтничность и поликонфессиональность - абсолютная норма для современных национальных государств. По многообразию этнических, религиозных, расовых групп многие из них далеко оставляют позади Россию с ее 135 народами. Вот как, по данным ООН, выглядит количество этнических групп в некоторых странах современного мира: Китай - 205 (официально - 56), Камерун - 279, Индия - 407, Нигерия - 470, Индонезия - 712, Папуа - Новая Гвинея - 817. Все они являются безусловными нациями-государствами. Их граждане, говорящие на различных языках, считают себя в первую очередь китайцами, камерунцами, индийцами и т.д. Почему же с нашей страной не так?

Следует заметить, что основания говорить о российской нации были уже столетие назад. Даже Российская империя не была этнической, в чем ее как раз чаще всего и обвиняли. Как справедливо подчеркивает чикагский профессор Рональд Суни, "ни Российская империя, ни Советский Союз не были этническими "русскими империями", в которых метрополия полностью бы совпадала с господствующей русской национальностью. Место господствующей национальности занимал институт господства - дворянство в одном случае, коммунистическая партийная элита - в другом. Данный институт господства был многонациональным". В российском дворянстве русских родов было меньшинство, остальные представляли знатные фамилии из присоединенных территорий - татарские, литовские, польские, остзейские, немецкие, украинские. Исключительно многонациональной была и советская номенклатура. Нация "не правила" и не имела системы политического представительства или господства. Окраинные территории не были и источником обогащения, а многие и не могли быть в принципе, коль скоро большая часть страны либо совершенно не рентабельна даже для проживания в силу климатических условий, либо сильно отставала в развитии от центра, который выступал источником инвестиций, а не наоборот. За втягиванием окраин в общероссийскую систему управления, правовой, культурной унификацией всех частей страны скрывалась не только и не столько злая воля "колонизаторов из тюрьмы народов", сколько объективная потребность модернизации, формирования индустриального общества, связанная с необходимостью развивать максимально широкое и общее экономическое пространство, стягиваемое единой транспортной инфраструктурой, предотвратить распространение сепаратистских настроений. Стремление царского, советского правительств создать единое административно-правовое и культурно-языковое пространство в условиях ХХ века означало не создание преимуществ и привилегий для русских, а прежде всего систематизацию и унификацию управления, интеграцию всех этносов в единую российскую нацию. Речь шла не об ассимиляции, а о стремлении обеспечить аккультурацию и лояльность центральной власти. Но при этом наш политический класс до сих пор не предложил убедительной и привлекательной концепции "российскости", не сводимой ни к этническому, ни к имперскому государству, ни к "новой исторической общности". Между тем еще в начале ХХ века в России существовало пусть немногочисленное, но достаточно влиятельное интеллектуальное течение, сформулировавшее концепцию политической полиэтнической российской нации. Эту идею активно проповедовали Петр Струве и его сторонники: "Нация - это духовное единство, создаваемое и поддерживаемое общностью культуры, духовного содержания, завещанного прошлым, живого в настоящем и в нем творимого для будущего". Идея российской нации, впервые получившая поддержку на высшем уровне, лучше других способна серьезно укрепить Российскую Федерацию как государство и заполнить разруху и идейный вакуум, которые наблюдаются в головах многих представителей молодого поколения всех национальностей.

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