Multiculturalism and Intergroup Relations

By James S. Frideres | Go to book overview

4.
THE VESTING OF ETHNIC INTERESTS IN STATE INSTITUTIONS

Raymond Breton

As a goal for society and its institutions, multiculturalism can take a number of meanings that vary within and between those who are its supporters and its opponents. These meanings, however, are not always clear. Occasionally the desired institutional forms and activities are explicitly stated, but frequently they remain implicit in general propositions affirming its desirability, advocating moves in that direction, or condemning authorities for failing to take the steps deemed necessary for its implementation. Sometimes multiculturalism seems to refer to a set of attitudes (ideas and feelings) that members of different ethnocultural collectivities have for each other. In this case multiculturalism involves little more than the absence of prejudice and discrimination. It is a synonym of intergroup tolerance.

Beyond this minimal conception, there is the position that ethnocultural diversity is a source of enrichment for individuals and for the society. Accordingly, it should be maintained as much as it is practical to do so. The different groups should be encouraged to preserve and develop as much of their cultural heritage as possible and, if necessary, be assisted in doing so. Multiculturalism is equated with the retention and expression by ethnic groups of their cultural heritage.

While some advocates of multiculturalism would be content to leave it at the level of intergroup attitudes or of cultural expression and maintenance, others want to see it incorporated into the institutions of the society: government, schools, universities, health and welfare organizations, churches, the media, and other cultural agen-

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