Multicultural Questions

Multicultural Questions

Multicultural Questions

Multicultural Questions


This volume assembles leading scholars from a range of disciplines to debate multiculturalism in theory and practice. The volume is grouped around four central questions raised by multiculturalism; Is universalism ethnocentric?; Does multiculturalism threaten citizenship?; Do minoritiesrequire group rights?; and what can Europe learn from North America? The book aims to answer these questions by moving the debate about multicultural questions into a more consensual mode. The authors show a resistance to either endorsing or rejecting multiculturalism, but a preference fordissecting and differentiating the concrete historical and geographical contexts in which specified versions of multiculturalism make sense, and others in which they do not.


Martin Hollis

'I have placed you at the centre of the world so that from that point you might see better what is in the world.' Thus God spoke to Adam in Florence five centuries ago, giving him the freedom 'to determine your own nature, . . . to mould and fashion yourself into that form you yourself shall have chosen.' This divine assurance is given in Pico's Oration on the Dignity of Man, the voice of Renaissance humanism and harbinger of modernity. It signposts a trail which has led to the recasting of Reason to serve new sciences of nature and then, with the Enlightenment, of human nature. the resulting social sciences continue to prompt attempts to mould human beings and fashion suitable institutions. But the promised freedom has brought very mixed blessings, even if the benefits include today's return to Florence for further inspiration.

If universal Reason proves suspect, perhaps the centre of the world is an imperfect vantage point for seeing what is in the world. To make a human perspective central is one thing, to achieve a detached and objective point of view another. Besides, even if a single Adam can integrate what he sees on the way to deciding his own nature, are there not in truth many Adams with many angles of vision and many interests? This insidious thought did not much trouble the Enlightenment, when it turned Reason inwards to discover the laws of human nature and human society. Confident that it was applying a universal scientific method to a universal human nature, it could presume that the variety of human cultures, institutions, beliefs, and aspirations was due to identifiable differences in initial conditions. By reconciling perspectives which had an angle on the truth, and correcting those in error, Enlightenment thinkers could offer the prospect of a human race shaped in ever more perfect form as knowledge advanced. the prospect inspired, among other developments, the civilizing mission of Enlightenment colonialism.

But what if there are indeed many Adams and, be it said sooner rather than later, many Eves, or at least as many as there are distinct cultures? Then God's singular invitation takes on another face. Renaissance man is being bidden to think of himself as the whole of humanity and, with the spread of Enlightenment, thereby beguiled into prescribing ways of progress in morals and politics which are ethnocentric beneath their universal, perfectionist surface. If

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