What are some examples of neoliberal multiculturalism

1980s

Sebastian Berg

To person

Dr. phil. habil., born in 1964; Lecturer at the English Department of the Ruhr University Bochum, Universit├Ątsstrasse 150, 44801 Bochum. [email protected]

Unlike Germany, Great Britain experienced broad debates about the acceptance and form of a multicultural society as early as the 1980s. At the same time, the implementation of a neoliberal regime of capitalist accumulation began at this time; in addition, the Cold War ended. The understanding of national and international society changed, with consequences for the negotiation of multiethnicity, multiculturalism, inclusion and exclusion. In their actions, the British governments increasingly tried to defuse the contradictions between the primacy of the competitive economy and people's fear of loss. The political handling of multiethnicity became an example of a "subordinate policy regime within neoliberalism". [1] Several phases can be distinguished in Great Britain (and similarly elsewhere):
  1. The enforcement of neoliberal ideology in the 1980s and early 1990s disguised individualism with a nationalist concept of society.
  2. Due to the further expansion of neoliberalism and fundamental geopolitical upheavals, political action in the 1990s also dealt with migration processes and the right of asylum.
  3. The second half of the 1990s saw the propagation of moderate or "thin" multiculturalism as part of a consolidation of neoliberalism.
  4. 2001 saw a turn to post-multiculturalism with the "War on Terror".
  5. Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, wealthy chauvinist positions have been privileged.

Concepts: multiculturalism and neoliberalism

The concept of multiculturalism originated in Canada. It emerged in the 1970s to differentiate it from the assimilationist melting pot idea in the USA. In the 1980s, Australia and the Netherlands were also considered states with pronounced multicultural policy approaches. Multiculturalism is based on the idea that people are not only individuals but also social beings: they develop their identity in communities that develop specific cultural practices in the process. The state not only has the task of protecting individuals, but also these communities. For political theory, the main problem is how these communities relate to the larger collective of the state people. Theoreticians often mention the formula "unity in diversity and diversity in unity", which is not very precise. The sociologist John Rex suggested distinguishing the public from the private cultural sphere. In public, the same rights and duties should apply to everyone; in cultural, not only individuals but also groups should be able to do what they want. [2] The problem is obvious: where does the private sphere end and where does the public sphere begin? Scientific debates therefore still revolve around the question of whether multiethnic societies need a framework that holds their various cultural groups together. [3] It is disputed whether it is more about a collective political culture to which everyone feels obliged, or a minimum level of social and material equality that the state has to guarantee - for those affected by racism and discrimination also as compensation. [ 4]

Practical political action in the sense of multiculturalism consists primarily in protecting certain rights of culturally defined groups, instead of just those of individuals - above all the right to visibility in and equal participation in the public sphere. Multiculturalism thus demands an attitude of appreciative solidarity between different social groups. Solidarity, however, is inherently tense with neoliberalism, which in principle privileges individuals over groups and at best has an instrumental interest in collectives.

The rise of neoliberalism began with the oil crisis, the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and slowed productivity increases in the Western European welfare states from the mid-1970s. Initially, the governments of some countries (such as France and Sweden) also tried radical reformist alternatives to overcome the crisis, but met with skepticism from institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as bitter resistance from banks and companies. The idea that economic and social systems should be reorganized according to neoliberal principles prevailed among political and economic elites. The geographer David Harvey describes the project of neoliberalism as follows: "Neoliberalism is (...) a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. "[5] However, the political scientist Colin Crouch objects that the political practice of neoliberalism is less dependent on the installation of freer Markets as having to do with the satisfaction of increasingly powerful large corporations. [6]

The result of the debate about how much freedom a state has for shaping them is still pending. In general, the neoliberal state limits itself, voluntarily or by necessity, to organizing a framework in which all people are drawn as intensively as possible to create value. He only provides support in emergencies and against strict conditions. This economization of society is based on the principle of competition and is thus in a tense relationship with multiculturalism based on solidarity. The British example shows this quite well.