Conceptual Issues, Multiculturalism, and Arts Policy Mechanisms
In Chapter 3, a descriptive definition of multiculturalism was offered--The coexistence of groups of racial minorities within a common socio-political system, groups that, while continually undergoing change, are seen and see themselves as having relatively unique shared and transmitted values, dispositions, behaviors, and outlooks on the world as well as a shared economic future and that draw on the loyalty of group members to harness discontent in the face of racial discrimination and powerlessness as a basis for social and political action. At the time, I stressed that this or any other descriptive or stipulative definition of multiculturalism does not foreclose subsequent examination of value-laden, programmatic definitions of the term. Such an examination is clearly necessitated, given the value assumptions about multiculturalism that public arts agencies bring to elements of their policy mechanisms. This analysis, in turn, recognizes that normative uses of the term multiculturalisrn draw on historical conceptions of the term cultural pluralism, that is, views of how the coexistence of ethnic groups and their cultural, economic, political, and social relations should ideally be in American society.
With the rise of interest in multiculturalism in the arts world and other sectors of society, as outlined above, one might assume that this movement has been informed by clear concepts of cultural pluralism and the relations of ethnic groups. But, as will be seen, there are many different interpretations of the term cultural pluralism, a pluralism of pluralisms according to one commentator. 1 Indeed, there is even a pluralism of ways of characterizing this pluralism of pluralisms.
The diversity of concepts of cultural pluralism can be traced, in part, to the fact that cultural pluralism is a relatively recent ideal, at least in Western intellectual history. As Stephen Therustrom has argued, the ideal