How do left-wing principles stack up in the face of diversity?


by Sunny
11th June, 2010 at 9:20 am    

Carl Packman says over at Libcon that the left hasn’t developed an effective response to multiculturalism:

There have been very many areas of distraction where the left seem to have been weak, and it has been an almost impossible task to try and square this circle, about immigration, about Islamism and extremism, about right wing groups such as the EDL or SIOE.

Let me try and develop a response to this because I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately. But it’s worthwhile pointing out that concerns around immigration and far-right movements aren’t new. Even during the 70s and 80s the Tory right used the spectre of the National Front and BNP to say that more immigration would lead to increasing community unrest. That underpinned Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech and it has been echoed repeatedly since, though in different guises. Even now it’s fashionable on the right to say that the BNP’s growth has been entirely due to immigration, even if the evidence doesn’t hold up (it certainly didn’t in the last election).

Politically active minorities in Britain have gone through evolutionary cycles of identity politics: from ‘black unity’ to more fragmented secular Asian politics to even more fragmented religious politics by community leaders. The last paradigm is now also fading away as 9/11 starts becoming a distant memory. Of course, if a few major terrorist attacks in the UK happen then hysteria about Islamists could rise again and you could be back to people clinging to their religion to defend it.

Let me emphasise that last point again: the rise of religious communitarianism was largely a response to the hysteria against Muslims: it made them defensive of an identity they didn’t pay much attention to earlier. They had mostly ignored the religious fundos and were then damned with them by loose religious association. I talked about this evolution a few years ago in this article for The Times.

And where does the future lie? I think, in the breakdown of religious and race-based structures and a focus back to the biggest British identity politics of all: class/poverty differences.

What’s needed to respond to the point by Carl, I think, is to lay out principles that lefties should be able to agree on, that govern how issues relating to ‘diversity’ and multiculturalism’ are treated.

Free speech and neo-cons
I was at a round-table on free speech last week with the excellent writer/think Kenan Malik who made a good point: that a diverse society not only needs free speech but actually relies on that principle. It’s easy having free speech in a relatively homogeneous society because people mostly think the same. It’s diverse societies that stretch those free speech principles to breaking point because suddenly people are confronted with views they find abhorrent.

Over the last ten years a curious alliance developed between Conservatives (generally against ‘abhorrent views’ and diversity anyway) and lefties we can label as ‘neo-cons‘ in favour of restricting civil liberties and suppressing free speech.

And so they turned a blind eye to falsified evidence (in support of war), torture, extraordinary rendition, locking up ‘enemy combatants’ etc. They start looking for potential terrorists everywhere and started smearing them as Islamists and sympathisers. They wanted “hate literature” banned while simultaneously demanding that Muslims adhere to their ‘enlightened’ values of free speech.

They cried about how great civil liberties were while simultaneously calling for students to be spied on at universities in the name of national security.

That isn’t to say minorities helped their own cause. And so we need to establish some first principles: in favour of free speech, civil liberties, secularism and basic individual freedoms of religion, the right to marry who they want etc. (partly why I argued against demands for BNP / EDL marches to be banned – they go against basic principles of civil liberties).

Anyway, those are some initial thoughts. This is how you could contribute: tell me in the comments what such a list of ‘first principles’ should look like. A list of 5-10 thoughts maybe.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blog post:: How do left-wing principles stack up in the face of diversity? http://bit.ly/aSAizu


  2. AdamRamsay

    RT @sunny_hundal How do left-wing principles stack up in the face of diversity? http://bit.ly/aSAizu >> excellent piece.


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    RT @sunny_hundal Pickled Politics » How do left-wing principles stack up in the face of diversity? http://bit.ly/btqpuZ


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  1. boyo — on 11th June, 2010 at 9:59 am  

    What “the left” is coming back to where i’ve been all along? Jolly good.

    Multiculturalism was a valid response to racism in the 70s but it became the raison d’etre of the left after the fall of the wall and frankly no matter how much you twist it had its bluff called by Islam, which has always been communal (for heaven’s sake – you’re telling me it wasn’t before 9/11?) and frankly was happy to fill the ideological gulf of “the left” who believed multiculturalism was all.

    Perhaps finally we can return to a class-based analysis and secular, equality-driven vision that views all culture and religion with scepticism and certainly subordinate to the right of each individual to fullfil their potential.

    I wish.

  2. MaidMarian — on 11th June, 2010 at 10:06 am  

    Ok – there is no inherent tension between diversity and a pluralistic society. There is no reason why groups can not rub along nicely together as – away from the media and the talkboards – many do. To that extent Sunny, this is sensible stuff. And you are absolutely right that class will be the main dividing line in UK politics.

    However….’the rise of religious communitarianism was largely a response to the hysteria against Muslims.’

    Too many on the left seem to work on the assumtion that that is wholly irrational – hence the use of the word, ‘hysteria.’ It is not irrational.

    To say as much is not to ‘understand’ brazen racism. It is however about going back to a vision of diversity and equality that is about active support for those suffering material loss as a result of a priori moral condemnation. Diversity does not mean that society as a whole is forced to bend its knee before every cultural taboo.

    The knee-bending analysis that has infected some left wing politics, whilst well meaning, has skated close to self-loathing dogma. That is wrong and there is no reason for the public at large to buy it.

    Left wing principles and diversity (in the truest sense) are fully compatible. I mentioned on here previously my grandfather – a coal-mining trade unionist who had no problems fighting for rights and jobs alongside people who nowadays would be called BME. Left wing principles sit easily with diversity because those principles at heart are about class, not identity.

    Identity politics is not an end or a good in itself and the left needs to go back to putting identity politics where it belongs – well behind a class-based analysis.

  3. Arif — on 11th June, 2010 at 10:08 am  

    I don’t know if these are principles – more like personal observations, but hope they could be useful in developing common principles and furthering the discussion:

    1. Disrespecting other people’s identities can feel not just offensive but also threatening to those disrespected, so if you do that in the public sphere (even inadvertantly) be prepared to listen to complaints and apologise to the degree that it appeared threatening, then – as long as you don’t keep repeating the disrespect, we can all move on.

    2. Violence or threats of violence against people because of their real or supposed social and political identities is a more serious act than violence for non-political goals because their effect is to intimidate whole groups and undermine their value in society. It is on this basis that terrorist actions should be defined and brought to justice.

    3. Just because you feel threatened by another group or individual, it does not justify threatening them back. If the State fails to offer protection, there should be some recourse. The left and right should also provide solidarity and protection in civil society as well as counter-speech and campaigns based on universal rights.

    4. You have a right to practice your culture, but if someone wishes to leave the culture they are in, or develop a subculture, they are free to do so with support from others with other cultures. Neither culture must threaten or impede the other. In particular, a dominant culture must be careful not to devalue a minority culture, and a minority culture must not devalue a subculture and vice versa in ways that can be construed as threatening (including being stigmatising or promoting negative stereotypes).

    5. Free speech is undermined if some people’s identities are relatively devalued through stigma and negative stereotyping. It reduces the relative power of people to voice their concerns in a way that can be understood. There is no perfect solution to our tendency to stereotype, other than trying to be conscious of it and to interpret other people’s admissions of stereotyping as constructive honesty, rather than condemning it which makes honest discussion less likely.

  4. cjcjc — on 11th June, 2010 at 10:31 am  

    “the rise of religious communitarianism was largely a response to the hysteria against Muslims”

    Yeah right, there was none of that before 7/7 eh?

  5. MaidMarian — on 11th June, 2010 at 10:35 am  

    cjcjc – Indeed. I very much doubt that the PLO hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s would have gone without comment had the talkboards been around at the time. I doubt that the difference is qualitative, quantitive maybe.

    There has been a tendency to confuse, ‘hysteria,’ with, ‘comment being more open and visible post-internet.’

  6. douglas clark — on 11th June, 2010 at 10:53 am  

    Arif,

    Can I ask you a few questions about your list?

    1. How is it possible to disrespect ones identity? What, actually constitutes ones identity? I find the religious answer particularily feeble.

    2.Yeah, well. Unless they are using their identity for what we tend to consider nefarious means. As long as they aren’t trying to dominate us…

    Which tends to be a concern.

    3. Agreed.

    4. Agreed.

    5. Arif, there is no-one here that has ever done that. At least, not to my knowledge. I’d be astonished if you ever experienced that sort of shit in the big wide world either. That is kind of a retro racism.

  7. cjcjc — on 11th June, 2010 at 11:01 am  

    I meant that communitarianism didn’t start in July 2007.

  8. Arif — on 11th June, 2010 at 12:11 pm  

    Hi Douglas

    1. I guess disrespect is in the eye of the beholder, so while it labels a subjective intention, in a practical sense it is a matter of intersubjective agreement. I don’t think “respect” is the key definitional issue for point 1, but what is “threatening”.

    For example – is being called an Islamist indicating disrespect? If I take it that way, then you can either say sorry, I didn’t mean it that way – or you are not sorry and you use it to label someone who is X. I don’t think either response is objectionable, because there is nothing necessarily threatening. It may become threatening if it is in a context where you also say Islamists should be bombed or something like that. I guess I am trying to come closer to what constitutes incitement, and maybe others can help me with that.

    2. Not sure if your “Yes, well” is agreement or disagreement – I read the tone to be that you think this is too harsh a principle, but the text seems to be in line with what I am saying – which is basically my way of partially defining what you call “nefarious means” and “trying to dominate”.

    5. What is it that has never been done by anyone here? Stereotyping? Or admitting to stereotyping? Or reacting constructively when someone admits to and apologises for stereotyping? I couldn’t grasp what you found unrealistic, so won’t respond until I’m more sure.

  9. ukliberty — on 11th June, 2010 at 12:39 pm  

    Over the last ten years a curious alliance developed between Conservatives (generally against ‘abhorrent views’ and diversity anyway) and lefties we can label as ‘neo-cons‘ in favour of restricting civil liberties and suppressing free speech.

    And so they turned a blind eye to falsified evidence (in support of war), torture, extraordinary rendition, locking up ‘enemy combatants’ etc.

    Um no, the Conservatives didn’t turn a blind eye to those things (eg).

    And so we need to establish some first principles: in favour of free speech, civil liberties, secularism and basic individual freedoms of religion, the right to marry who they want etc. (partly why I argued against demands for BNP / EDL marches to be banned – they go against basic principles of civil liberties).

    Anyway, those are some initial thoughts. This is how you could contribute: tell me in the comments what such a list of ‘first principles’ should look like. A list of 5-10 thoughts maybe.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    That’s a start.

  10. Caludron — on 11th June, 2010 at 1:50 pm  

    Any political U-turn is as much about symbolism as policy.

    In addition to coming up with some first principles, perhaps some previous advocate of multiculturalism needs to do something symbolic to signal a new beginning. Something clause 4ish to show that this whole multiculturalism thing was a ghastly detour that took Labour away from its roots and in the end was pretty ineffective anyway.

    How about sending Yasmin Alibhai-Brown or someone from UAF round for a cup of tea with Ray Honeyford? Maybe even express an incy-wincy bit of contrition for being so beastly towards an old man who did nothing more than point out things that are now accepted by the entire mainstream polity?

    Why not? Mandela managed to have tea with Betsie Verwoerd.

  11. Wibble — on 11th June, 2010 at 3:26 pm  

    “How about sending Yasmin Alibhai-Brown or someone from UAF round for a cup of tea with Ray Honeyford?”

    Why, has he had his own Clause 4 moment?

  12. Carl — on 11th June, 2010 at 4:38 pm  

    It will be of no surprise to you that I’m reading From Fatwa to Jihad by Malik right now. But of course it has been on my mind for a while now.

    A later review of this book,which will appear on my blog at some stage, will answer the question of first principles. What I’ve also argued before, on a blog entry about Michael Gove, is that to say enlightenment politics is a leftie first principle is erroneous, and fails to explain anything. The notion that enlightenment wasn’t on British conservatism’s first principles in the last decades had less to do with the faults of conservatism and more to do with what has been referred to as the ‘epistemic closure’ of those who use the word conservative (Littlejohn is a product of epistemic closure, for example, where Burke is a conservative).

    A shortfall of left wing politics regarding immigration, multiculturalism and Islam today is the fear of agreeing with the far right, so much so that often politics has been developed only in opposition to far right views, and not developed through reason and first principle. Part of what Malik’s concern with the left in 70s/80s had to do with how the GLC or the ‘loony left’ dealt with racial tensions promulgated by the tories, not by celebrating sameness and cohesion but difference based on race.

    A cutting line by Malik goes:

    “Imagine that you are a secular Bangladeshi living in a run down area of Birmingham. You don’t think of yourself as Bangladeshi. But you want a new community centre in your area. It is difficult to get the councils attention by insisting that your area is poor or disadvantaged. But if you were to say that the Muslim community is deprived or lacking, then council coffers suddenly open up – not because the council is particularly inclined to help Muslims, but because being ‘Muslim’, unlike being ‘poor’ or ‘disadvantaged’, registers in the bureaucratic mind as an authentic identity.”

    It is a little simplified, but it illustrates two things: firstly class featured lower than “identity” in this period, despite the feelings of those whose “identity” it was supposed to be looking out for (whether they really felt this to be their identity or not); secondly that mainstream leftwing politics was simply an inversion of Tory rightwing racist politics. For Malik’s money, this actually did little to stop racism, but encourage differences that were not apparent before in many citizens mind.

    Some of the over-politically-correct forcing of identity politics within the left should be a thing of the past, but it lingers, and is often how the left is categorised still by the right. We can combat this, not only by affirming what the left really stands for, its first principles and the way in which we carry them out, but also by distancing ourselves from the politics of old.

    Thatcherism is dead; it’s time for the left to pursue a politics of post-anti-Thatcherism to keep up.

  13. Roger Thornhill — on 11th June, 2010 at 5:25 pm  

    My list of principles.

    1. Non aggression axiom – not to commit force or fraud upon another*
    2. Freedom of speech, thought, word and opinion. And cartoon.
    3. Freedom of Association and Disassociation.
    4. Rule of Law – equality before the law, no special favours, trial by jury of peers in an adversarial system, habeas corpus, transparency, property rights, no detention without charge, warrants for entry etc.

    These are not “Left” issues nor “Right” issues, but resist Authoritarianism from both directions; and the “Centre”, come to that.

    What we must also do is end this “hate crime” legislation and the idea that a disgruntled observer or the professionally offended/offendistas can declare what they think is in someone else’s head and cry foul. Nobody has the right not to be offended.

    * force does not include self defence in the face of clear and present danger.

  14. damon — on 11th June, 2010 at 5:39 pm  

    I was at a round-table on free speech last week with the excellent writer/think Kenan Malik who made a good point: that a diverse society not only needs free speech but actually relies on that principle. It’s easy having free speech in a relatively homogeneous society because people mostly think the same. It’s diverse societies that stretch those free speech principles to breaking point because suddenly people are confronted with views they find abhorrent.

    Kenan Malik is as you know, a part of that Spiked group that you don’t like Sunny.

    What you might make of this I don’t know.
    http://www.battleofideas.org.uk/index.php/2009/speaker_detail/280/

  15. Samuel Beckett — on 11th June, 2010 at 6:41 pm  

    Not being a leftie I have nothing to contribute, but that won’t stop me from trying:

    I think it’s hard to come up with a purely universalist/socialist response to diversity. It might have been possible if there really had been a post 7/7 collapse in identity politics.

    Why not take the view that you can’t get away from identity politics but there is a real opportunity for the left to take the initiative in building a new “post diversity” identity? That may sound outlandish, but it’s the corporate globals (more than, say, diverse communities) that have produced an identity vacuum through what Paul Kingsnorth calls the blanding of Britain.

    The prospect of finding a new way to describe ourselves is fascinating, and we could talk forever about the British/English identity issue. But how about this as an approach that puts diverse communities and the working class at the centre of the process… The what I must not call indigenous population feels insecure in its idenity, and it will tend unfairly to blame minorities for this. I guess this is partly what the BNP feeds on. How wonderful it would be if minority communities could somehow be involved in a process that signalled their validation of “native” culture/identity (this would require a certain amount of rediscovery!). I think this can only take place at the working class end of society, and (I know I will be kicked out for saying this) I sense this happening in the EDL. I’m not suggesting we all join the EDL, merely that it is a potent example of how a new identity can be formed.

  16. Shatterface — on 11th June, 2010 at 8:20 pm  

    Malik has been one of the few sources of reason on this subject for a *long* time so I’m glad you’ve spent a little time listening to him. He’s the only member of Index on Censorship who still retains any credibility.

    Our Hitchcockian friend @13 has it right with his suggestions 1-4.

    I’d also add seperation of church and state. So long as our state is biased in favour of Christianity you aren’t going to stop other religions special-pleading on their own behalf. A secular state doesn’t just benefit atheists and agnostics, it ensures religious freedom as well.

  17. Saj — on 11th June, 2010 at 10:04 pm  

    cjcjc
    “I meant that communitarianism didn’t start in July 2007.”

    true – arguably it started with the murder of 91 British citizens by zionist terrorists at the King David Hotel in Palestine in 1946.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_David_Hotel_bombing

  18. MaidMarian — on 11th June, 2010 at 11:19 pm  

    Samuel Beckett – ‘The what I must not call indigenous population feels insecure in its idenity,’ Sorry, can you explain why is it that you can not call them that?

    As to EDL, I suspect that you have totally whe wrong end of the stick. EDL are not identity politics as such, more they are about the very specific defintion of themselves as NOT belonging to a particular identity. I could name several muslims with whom I have more in common than the average EDL member.

    This whole cobblers about a mass-validation of an identity was something of a leftie wet dream over the anti-war protests. An identity is not formed out of being against something, be it war, Islam or anything else. That is a way of saying, ‘my enemey’s enemy,’ it never works.

    So the ‘old’ working class was for a vision of a society based on class they had no problem taking in people from all backgrounds and skin-colours because they were ‘for’ the class-vision.

  19. Samuel Buckett — on 12th June, 2010 at 12:55 pm  

    Maid Marian

    I was saying that a possible leftist approach to diversity was to engage in the building of a common identity; I can see that is highly arguable although I am sad to learn that it is actually cobblers. My real, unspoken, point was, I suppose, that the question posed by Sunny strikes even reactionary me as important and requiring an imaginative response that does not deny identity.

    On the definitional points, some of us will use the term “indigenous” as short-hand for the pre-Windrush population, ignoring its technical incorrectness and value-ladenness; and I doubt whether I really do have totally the wrong end of the stick about the EDL and identity politics, altho’ it may have been a mischievous example to produce here.

    Where we really differ is that I just don’t believe you can constrain identity within class. Do you have anything more to offer or is that it?

  20. damon — on 13th June, 2010 at 1:28 am  

    Thankfully we don’t have the ”divesity” of those South African vuvuzela noisy horns that are ruining the world cup.
    It’s almost unwatchable because of them.
    http://www.politics.ie/culture-community/131489-world-cup-hate-those-klaxons.html

  21. Sunny — on 13th June, 2010 at 2:20 am  

    boyo:
    (for heaven’s sake – you’re telling me it wasn’t before 9/11?)

    Didn’t say that – I simply said it didn’t exist to the same degree. Loads of Muslims I know were radicalised by the abuse they received after 9/11.

    Perhaps finally we can return to a class-based analysis and secular, equality-driven vision…

    Not everyone will buy into it, and certainly ppl like Nick Cohen will exaggerate those examples, but we’re already getting there.

    MaidMarian:
    The knee-bending analysis that has infected some left wing politics, whilst well meaning, has skated close to self-loathing dogma

    Right-wingers have always accused the left of self-loathing. It’s not a new phenomena. Except now, we have some neo-cons (former lefties) joining in.

    but the simple answer is that in any society going through cultural transition will fudge through badly for a while until progressive voices are found on both sides.
    You seem to assume that change is not accompanies by conflict. It always is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing in the long term.

    Identity politics is not an end or a good in itself and the left needs to go back to putting identity politics where it belongs – well behind a class-based analysis.

    Class based analysis is also, at its heart, identity politics. As is nationalism etc. Identity politics exists in every society. I keep telling you guys – you seem to think ‘identity politics’ only came to the UK with the diversification of race and religion. That’s rubbish.

    Carl:
    The notion that enlightenment wasn’t on British conservatism’s first principles in the last decades had less to do with the faults of conservatism and more to do with what has been referred to as the ‘epistemic closure’ of those who use the word conservative (Littlejohn is a product of epistemic closure, for example, where Burke is a conservative).

    Excellent point – but it’s then the fault of conservatives themselves for letting themselves being hijacked and defined by reactionaries.

    For Malik’s money, this actually did little to stop racism, but encourage differences that were not apparent before in many citizens mind.

    To be honest, this is a variation of the rubbish right-wing meme that ‘multiculturalism causes racism’ – which is bollocks.

    There was far more racism in this country during the 60-80s when multiculturalism wasn’t an issue than now.

    damon – well, I’ve been asked to speak at the Battle of Ideas too. And I have other friends who have. I don’t dislike anyone vaguely associated with them – that is the Harry’s Place way of thinking. I just don’t like climate change deniers.

    Roger – I’ll agree with that.

    Samuel, this blog isn’t just aimed at lefties. As long as you have something intelligent to say on the subject, welcome.

    The prospect of finding a new way to describe ourselves is fascinating, and we could talk forever about the British/English identity issue.

    That is in fact where I wanted to move to anyway. I’ll be writing about the need to embrace Englishness soon. That will be my attempt to move to look at the future of identity politics.

    My real, unspoken, point was, I suppose, that the question posed by Sunny strikes even reactionary me as important and requiring an imaginative response that does not deny identity.

    yes yes yes!

  22. halima — on 13th June, 2010 at 3:40 am  

    Surely, identities and what matters most – whether it’s a class- based identity or an ethnic or a religious identity – depends very much on the situation.

    I like the idea of situational and relational identities. Identities rarely need evoking unless someone provokes and calls it into question. I am likely to flex my identity as a woman, working class, British, Muslim, Bangladeshi, heterosexual, depending on where it comes up and needs articulation. Sometimes all these identities might be at work – and sometimes only one.

    So I guess white, middle class heterosexuals are less bothered about their identities because they’re not denied much in terms of access and resources – and hence they feel relatively secure. They’re not likely to articulate this identity because it doesn’t need much defending.

    Class is quite a strong one for me, but it doesn’t mean I go with Kenan Malik’s arguments as he presents them. I think people like Kenan have quite a fixed positions and will write everything from this one grand narrative. Others will write narratives from the perspective of religious identities, or gender. Real life is a little more fluid and complicated than roundtables.

    I don’t have a problem with Kenan’s writings, but prefer to locate him with where he’s coming from. I only remember him from the 1980s when he was associated with a number of Marxist organisations, including the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) . That said, he was always vocal about anti-racist campaigns. His analysis will always be class-based, drawing from his Marxist ideas. As such, religion or other identities like Bangladeshi or Indian, will work against his ideas for social justice. As he sees it.

  23. halima — on 13th June, 2010 at 3:59 am  

    As far as writers go on this topic, I am an unashamed fan of Stuart Hall’s work. Since I was a student and through to today. I’ve listened to him speak in London have always been impressed by his presence, very few public figures I know have Stuart Hall’s presence and empathy.

  24. cjcjc — on 13th June, 2010 at 10:23 am  

    “Loads of Muslims I know were radicalised by the abuse they received after 9/11.”

    Loads? How many?

    Don’t you call me a radical otherwise, erm, I might turn into one!

  25. Carl — on 13th June, 2010 at 1:17 pm  

    Sunny #21

    I think it was less about criticising what multiculturalism actually is, to criticising those were implementing multiculturalism and pretending to have an idea of what a different cultures wanted.

    Malik notes that the GLC, it appeared, saw Bangladeshi’s or Afro-Caribbeans for example as an homogeneous group with the same needs, when in fact if a council was set up in the interests of say the white british it wouldn’t be able to cater to that whole demographic because what marks out difference and sameness is not race.

    As the GLC were kind of guessing what each culture wanted, this was a form of monoculturalism anyway, or what Armartya Sen calls plural monoculturalism (one cultural outlook that borrows at will from others and integrates it).

    Multiculturalism, if it is to be properly implemented, must be the integration and toleration of all culutral traits and pluralistic national identity that is able to contain them all. Of course this might mean accepting some things in law we really hate.

  26. Sunny — on 13th June, 2010 at 4:12 pm  

    Loads? How many?

    How many Muslims do you know cjcjc? And I mean know – like hang out with?

    Multiculturalism, if it is to be properly implemented, must be the integration and toleration of all culutral traits and pluralistic national identity that is able to contain them all. Of course this might mean accepting some things in law we really hate.

    I think this is also confused. Whenever you have some form of state spending on culture – you are going to assume that a group of people like it. With minorities, the problem wasn’t just that they only catered for a specific group – but partly that they didn’t want to spend too much money on minorities so they created a little sop that would cater for ALL afro-caribbeans for example.

    So you have two choices – you either increase spending, or the govt gets out of spending on culture entirely and doesn’t subsidise anything, leaving it to the commercial sector. Or you accept there will be a degree of grouping going on.

  27. Arif — on 14th June, 2010 at 9:47 pm  

    You cannot wish away people’s political or social identities.

    Granted, people mobilise around issues as well as identities, and it is fine to say you prefer we mobilise around particular issues rather than around particular identities.

    But how do we avoid our particular preferred formulation of issues (such as class-based analysis) coming to be part of our identities (ascribed by ourselves or others)? And how do we argue for issues we believe important to be taken seriously, without being seen to privilege that identity over other people’s identities?

    Personally, I think a class-based analysis can deal with some forms of oppression and domination, but not all of them. I’d argue that power dynamics work in many ways – economic, cultural and political – and some social pressures can be hard to pin down, but nonetheless completely blight people’s lives. Should we marginalise those issues from politics?

    And while it may seem tiresome for people that others have different simplifications to our own, I’ve found I’ve learned things by listening to them.

  28. Dean — on 15th June, 2010 at 3:04 pm  

    Great stuff. Very interesting.

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