Assessing the backlash against multi culturalism in Europe

by Steven Vertovec and Susanne Wessendorf

Working Papers WP 09-04
June 2009
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

In recent years across Europe ‘Multiculturalism’ has taken a beating, and many governments have been purposefully dropping the notion ‘multicultural’ or other references to cultural diversity in their policy vocabularies. More and more politicians and public intellectuals have criticized a perceived shift towards ‘too much diversity’. This Working Paper describes a variety of instances and cases across Europe in which ethnic diversity and multiculturalism (recognizing that the term is contested and used variously) has come under attack in public discourse, local and national policies, and politics across the political spectrum. Anti-multiculturalist sentiments are shown to be certainly not new, but the language, images and instances recently thrown up have taken on new forms. Moreover, there seems – on the surface – to be far greater ubiquity, simultaneity and convergence of multicultural ‘backlash’ discourse across Europe, in both ‘old’ and ‘new’ countries of immigration. This Working Paper discusses how these parallel discourses have arisen, and why they have they taken root in divergent political cultures and countries with divergent migration histories and composition.

Steven Vertovec is Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MMG), Göttingen, and Head of its Department for Socio-Cultural Diversity.

Susanne Wessendorf is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MMG), Department for Socio- Cultural Diversity, Göttingen.