Monday 7 February 2011

Integration after the rhetoric

David Cameron’s multiculturalism speech at the weekend caused quite the stir, despite not saying anything particularly new.

The press releases and the hoo-hah mask the fact there is a fair amount of common ground in the broad critique of multiculturalism. What the debate often lacks, however, is the detail of how to move beyond the speechifying and make integration a policy reality.

Nick Johnson’s recent Fabian pamphlet ‘Separate and Unequal: How integration can deliver the good society’ attempts to do this, arguing that the debates about integration and equality need to be brought together. He goes on to set out a detailed policy framework for "progressive integration in practice" across government - from health to education, crime to housing.

We've now made this pamphlet available online.

Johnson presents a strong challenge to both the left and the right on multiculturalism, as he blogged on Next Left after the Oldham by-election:

"Integration offers a progressive approach to the social challenges of the twenty first century. It rejects a narrow conservatism that erodes diversity into a monolithic whole. However, it is also a move beyond the identity politics that has been sustained by many on the left. Identity politics was a legitimate challenge to a conservatism that did not want society or institutions to change and demanded conformity from new immigrants or other groups in society. At its extreme, this conservatism turns into xenophobia, racism and overt prejudice.

The left’s response was and is correct – rightly asserting that different views, lifestyles and cultures are equally legitimate. However, in rejecting an assimilationist approach that privileged the status quo and was resistant to change, too great an adherence to identity politics also implicitly rejected notions of a shared identity and experience. What made us different became more important than what we had in common.

I am not looking to replace difference with uniformity but arguing that we need some mutual identity alongside our own individual identities. That mutual identity is also constantly evolving, shaped by our diversity and by social change. Indeed, it is the process of change and the negotiation, tolerance and understanding involved that may well be the most important aspects."

You can read ‘Separate and Unequal’ online here or download it as PDF.

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