Multiculturalism: Policy and Ethnic Diversity

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Multiculturalism and the Need for New Policy Responses to Ethnic Diversity In less than three decades 'multiculturalism' has become a word immediately recognised by policy makers, social commentators, academics and the general public in Western industrial countries, if not elsewhere. The rapid adoption of the term 'multiculturalism' has occurred in a situation where there is increasing international concern about the limitations of existing policies to address changing patterns of inter-ethnic relations. Recognition does not, however, ensure uniformity in usage. Three major levels of usage are distinguished here, as a means of bringing some clarity into the debate over the relevance of 'multiculturalism' to policy development in multi-ethnic societies (7).

Multiculturalism: A Clarification of the Concept

Three interrelated, but nevertheless distinctive, referents of 'multiculturalism' and its related adjective 'multicultural' which can be distinguished in public debate and discussion are: the demographic-descriptive, the ideological-normative and the programmatic-political.

The demographic-descriptive usage occurs where 'multicultural' is used to refer to the existence of ethnically or racially diverse segments in the population of a society or State. It represents a perception that such differences have some social significance-primarily because of perceived cultural differences though these are frequently associated with forms of structural differentiation. The precise ethnic groupings which exist in a State, the significance of ethnicity for social participation in societal institutions and the processes through which ethnic differentiation is constructed and maintained may vary considerably between individual States, and over time.

In the programmatic-political usage 'multiculturalism' refers to specific types of programs and policy initiatives designed to respond to and manage ethnic diversity. It was in this usage that 'multiculturalism' first...
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