Dr Chris Skowronski’s Classes for students from China Mainland, Hong-Kong, and Taiwan
Multiculturalism has many meanings. Most frequently perhaps, it means that you have many ethnicities, cultures, religions, identities, and languages side by side in your country. Indeed, there are many countries that are multicultural in this sense, yet their governments do not have any multiculturalist policy according to the idea of multiculturalism. For example, it happens when you have many languages that are used by the citizens of your country, yet university studies are possible only in one. Or, another example, males and females having the same status (e.g. students) do not have access to the same goods and ways of self-realization. So, what is the meaning of ‘multiculturalism’ we are going to discuss during our classes? We will talk about multiculturalism as
a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, entry: “Multiculturalism”; accessible on the Internet; I recommend taking a look at preferable parts of this text).
The basic discussion of this definition may include the following issues:
1. “proper”: what does it mean ‘proper’ in this definition? Most frequently, the ideas of ‘freedom’ (positive freedom, negative freedom) and ‘social justice’ must be discussed.
2. “way to respond”: what is the character of the ‘way to respond’? If this means a governmental or legal action, it should be preceded by a theoretical discussion so that all the aspects could be shared with public opinion. Perhaps, this is why the definition above starts with the expression: “a body of thought in political philosophy.”
3 “cultural and religious diversity”: each diversity has its limits as toleration has, and discussion about these limits is central to the problem.
More generally, the idea of multiculturalism has a strong connection with Western and European values of rationalism, democracy, freedom, social justice, toleration, and activity; it’s main practical aim is to recognize and promote:
- The cultural and racial diversity of the given state/country/region
- Language diversity of this state (if its citizens use many languages)
- Religious toleration (freedom to practice and freedom not to practice a given religion)
- Active participation of various groups and individuals in socio-political life
- Inclusion (not exclusion) of different groups into socio-political life
- Harmonization (not repression) of various groups that co-exist in one state