Has multiculturalism in Britain retreated?

Spring 2013

The authors argue that it is almost always misunderstandings of the meaning of multiculturalism that have been responsible for the view that it is in retreat. They define three form of multiculturalism. There is first the simple descriptive meaning – a society that includes people of diverse cultural identities; then there is the policy adopted toward this – for example legislation on equality before the law; thirdly there is multiculturalism as an ideology, which they argue is better understood in terms of a ‘vision for the nation’ that in different ways for different people incorporates the reality of multiculturalism into an understanding of what constitutes the nation. It is in this third area that most argument takes place, and most doubt about multiculturalism is expressed. In fact most contemporary leading politicians have made statements in support of inclusivity, including incorporating it into the nation’s sense of itself, and this leads to the authors to the conclusion that, though politicians like to argue that multiculturalism in retreat, this is not in fact the case.

Soundings 53 Where next?