Backlash against multiculturalism?

Backlash against multiculturalism? European discourses, policies and practices

Steven Vertovec
Susanne Wessendorf

completed

Regardless of its purported meanings and diverse policy manifestations, in recent years across Europe ‘Multiculturalism’ has taken a beating. For example: in the UK publisher David Goodhart suggested that an over-emphasis on diversity has been responsible for a breakdown in social and political solidarity; in the Netherlands journalist Paul Scheffer (with an argument that underpinned the rise of Pim Fortuyn) famously criticized ‘the multicultural drama’ behind a breakdown in immigrant integration; right-wing Belgian politicians like Filip Dewinter describe multiculturalism as ‘an illusion’; and in Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced that ‘the idea multicultural society cannot succeed’ while the weekly news magazine Focus ran a cover story purported exposing ‘The Multicultural Lie’. In a relatively short time, many governments have been purposefully dropping ‘multicultural’ from their policy vocabularies. Is there indeed a common ‘sceptical turn’ against cultural diversity or a ‘backlash against difference’ sweeping Europe? If so, what has brought about such seemingly parallel public sentiments in considerably different societies and political contexts? If not, why has media coverage portrayed events and developments in this way? What effects have changing public discourses had upon actual national and local policies concerning the management of diversity and immigrant integration? Are the discourses and policy shifts actually reflected in everyday practices within culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse settings? In this edited volume to be published by Routledge in 2009, experts from numerous countries assess these questions with reference to recent and current trends concerning multiculturalism, cultural diversity and integration in their respective countries.