Multiculturalism and "Political Culture"

The question of "multiculturalism" is now being asked forcefully. The term has indeed different meanings in different national contexts. About fifteen years the polemic is raged in France.

The concept of "political culture" is central here. It involves a relationship to institutions, rules (explicit and implicit) of political debates, to history of these institutions and rules that are common so that it could be possible to construct a real space for debate. Without this shared political culture a society has the risk of civil war, what Hobbes called "war of all against all."

Diversity of people

A "people" is not ethnic, cultural or religious notion, but a political community of concerned individuals, which take their future in hand around a representation of their future. This "people" is a people "for himself", which is constructed into the action and not as a people "on his own ". It is therefore necessary to overcome the idea of a people formed on ethnic, cultural, or any other community of believers. Regional cultures were different in France, and sustained until the late nineteenth century by languages and regional dialects, which coexisted within the French. Between Brittany, Provence and Picardy existed significant differences in culture. Yet there was a common political culture that, beyond the differences of languages, allowed the emergence of a common idea of the future.

The opposition between supporters of an essentially subjective vision of ethnicity and supporters of a vision called "objective" is well known. These are however not the "objective" facts that lead to the formation of a Race or a people but political principles as demonstrated by great anthropologist, Maurice Godelier. The premium is the process of generation and production of social and political rules. Social life is in fact a prior reality to the construction of ethnicity. Newcomers can be political culture carriers which are very different from that which predominates in community, in which they wish to aggregate. The integration is then a process of assimilation of rules and customs, which is partly conscious but is also partly unconscious.

The conditions of integration

Meanwhile, to put this unconscious mechanism in place there must be a referent. The loss or deletion of the latter on behalf of a discourse of "multiculturalism", which actually means tolerance to very different practices, is a serious obstacle to integration.

We end up with several observations. Cultural diversity is a fact, prior to large populations of migratory waves that we have is today. There is a "multiculturalism" of fact. It is neither good nor bad. Call it "multiculturalisme de constat” or a “de facto multiculturalism”. But "multiculturalism" can’t be a reference to a social organization and therefore can’t exist as ideology because it condemns the constitution of "people for himself." It can exist only as recognition of the diversity of cultural references. The "multiculturalisme de constat " is not the acknowledgment of ethnic or religious community as the stepping-stone for a society. It implies that either is admitted by all the fundamental distinction between private and public spheres, between values (within the privacy and intimacy) and principles (within the public sphere), which are organizational rules. This distinction has a name: it is called secularism.

Multiculturalism and secularism

Secularism is an organizing principle of the political field and not an individual value. Secularism is not tolerance. Tolerance is an individual value and secularism a principle of political organization. Secularism is characterized both by the principle of separation between the public sphere and the private sphere and the principles of inclusion. We must therefore return to the question of what is called the "political culture". The principles mentioned above may only apply to cultures recognizing the primacy of these so-called principles. If one is faced with a culture or an ideology that rejects these principles (in whole or partly), an inclusion is not possible. The existence of civil peace (which is not the extinction of conflict but limiting the level of conflictuality) is possible only through the acknowledgment of these principles, no matter in what form they will take, and their implementation be it through threats, and public violence. The existence of a people conceived as a political community implies convergence around a common political culture. These rules of inclusion imply what is respected in the distinction between private and public spheres, and there should be agreement on the basic principles. It condemns the existence of "multiculturalism as a project" that would hardly lead to coexistence in the same space of too different political cultures. The possibility of existence of these rules of inclusion implies that we also think about the possibility of the radical separation with the public expression of cultures that do not respect these principles.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.