"Multiculturalism is a flawed doctrine"


Matthew McClean



The purpose of debating multiculturalism in this frame is to be first be shocking, and deliberately antithetical as to stir the debate. It is to reverse the burden of proof back onto multicultural advocates, which is almost too uncomfortable in modern Australian discourse. I secondly proposed the debate because I find ideologically charged debates more interesting because people commit more to arguing their points.


I will begin with a definition of multiculturalism, and with a politically charged issue, a neutral authoritative definition is often the best;


        "Of or relating to a society consisting of a number of cultural groups, esp. in         which the distinctive cultural identity of each group is maintained."



This position will be sometimes synonymously referred to as pleural monoculturalism. A very new word is Pluriculturalism; which seems to refer to people having many identities at once, which seems to make things extremely confusing. These definitions are sometimes redefined by the interlocutor's need in a particular argument.


"Culture" will be need to have some working definition in order for our debate to progress. While there are literally thousands of definitions, I will choose 3 which are reasonably well known:


        "The distinctive ideas, customs, social behaviour, products, or way of life  of a particular nation, society, people, or period. Hence: a society or group         characterized by such customs, etc."



        "An integrated system of learned behaviour patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not a result of biological     inheritance"

        Edward Hoebel Anthropology: the study of man McGraw-Hill, 1976:6


        "By culture we mean all those historically created designs for living, explicit and implicit, rational, irrational, and non-rational, which exist at any given time as potential guides for the behaviour of men."

        Kluckhohn, C., & Kelly, W.H. (1945). The concept of culture. In R. Linton     (Ed.). The Science of Man in the World Culture. New York. (pp. 78-105).


Rarely in Australian mainstream media has a proper examination of multiculturalism been performed. Debate into the topic has usually been passionate, and polarising, with interlocutors intersecting on many points.


 The table below is my own estimation of the usual background of people on each side of the debate.



A Person who is

Multiculturalist tends to believe/is/supports

A Person who is

Monoculturalist tends to believe/is/supports


Immigration net positive for society

Immigration net detractor from society


Cultural relativism. All cultures are equal, native culture are secondary, impure, non-existent or corrupt. Economics, class, and other determinant lead to national success, i.e., cultural non-determinism. Cultures are unable to be judged by outsiders.

Cultural non-relativism. Primacy of native or current culture, cultures able to be ordered hierarchically due to desirable, objective properties which lead to national success, i.e. Cultural determinacy. Cultures are able to be judged by outsiders.


Assimilation is onerous, impossible,  or plain unnecessary

Assimilation is necessary for society to function.


Tends to highlight crime against immigrants

Tends to highlight crime against natives

Treatment of migrants

Often in favour of equal opportunity programs in favour of recent migrants

Tends to believe in formal equality of  opportunity, equal treatment of citizens


Left wing: social democratic, green, socialist, centre left, anarchism

Right wing: palaeo/neo conservative, religious right, centre right

Extremism: Nazism, fascism, communism, Islamism


Western European, "The west"

East Asian, indigenous, Arabic, pacific Islander, Eastern Europe, South American


Internationally mobile, coastal, large city dweller, recent immigrant, spouse of immigrant, more likely to be Western

Less likely to be Western, non-coastal resident, small town/rural dweller, domestically sedentary



Nearly all faiths, including secularism


Civic nationalism, internationalist, anarchism



Porous border, few border controls

Strong border protection


Accuses opponents of  racism, key mistake is mistaking cultural criticism as unjustified bigotry or xenophobia

Often accused of racism, bigotry

Free speech

Free speech should be suppressed in order to prevent offence to culture, harmony

Free speech should be unsuppressed in order to deal with harmful aspects of dysfunctional communities

Profession / section of society

Academia, big business, property, social workers, state owned media, Gen Y, millennial

Armed services, police, commercial media, wage earners, the aged

Class support

Upper class

Middle and lower classes 


Jus Soli (citizenship by birth in country)

Jus Sanguinis (citizenship by birth to current citizen), or even more stringent citizenship conditions




For theoretical consistency multiculturalism requires a belief in:


·         Cultural relativism: the belief that all ways of life are interchangeable and equal

·         Non-assimilation: that the dominant culture is not at least worth more than the people who possess cultural traits of the immigrant

·         Unequal treatment of citizens: to preserve the culture requires the resistance of pressure to assimilate from the mainstream. This is usually to be achieved through the state with means above their demographic status would seem to deserve. For example, home language programs on SBS

·         Group rights trumping individual rights

·         The citizen as a cosmopolitan individual: Citizen Identification with a  Secondary and or conflicting national state, permanently divided loyalties


Why multiculturalism?


·         Legacy of WW2 - the Jewish genocide by the Nazi ethnonationalist state

·         Legacy of colonialism after WW2 - treatment of colonised people and indigenous people gaining academic attention

·         UN declaration of human rights – internationalist perspectives on justice

·         US Civil rights movement - acknowledging the legacy of slavery and racism against non-whites

·         The left-wing activist climate of the 1960s.


Main theoretical / conceptual arguments against Multiculturalism:


1.   Self contradictory. Multiculturalism seems to be a Western monocultural phenomenon - i.e., it is not embraced around the world in equal measure.

a.   The state picks a culture by its very existence; Australia's laws are based on English common law, we speak English, we learn history from a European perspective

b.   Immigrant hypocrisy. Immigrant populations leave a country, preferencing their new land, but wish to live the way they always live.

2.   Segregationist. Even if there is a small preference to live with one's own kind, given enough time, segregation will be inevitable:  Thomas Schnelling's modelling of racial segregation holds true today.

a.   Segregation can eventually manifest in civil war, and ethnic strife as borders and polities no longer reflect where people live and their culture

3.   Enforced toleration of illiberal/intolerant subcultures. Consistent multiculturalists have to allow and admit the good with the bad in minority cultures, even though it is disagreeable to the majority, which is anti-democratic;

4.   Makes racism and discrimination more likely, by introducing other groups, rather than the opposite.

5.   No good reason why minority groups should be state supported, because it is not a public good (as in: no good that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous). Similarly fostering minority pride may end up being divisive, particularly if values clash with other cultures.

6.   Creates an identity script for a member of a minority group to follow. This could be confining + could be disadvantaging, but depends on the vitality of the group in question. See the attached link "I'm not racist...but" insight debate on you tube.

7.   What is the identity giver? Is it ethnicity / colour / upbringing? This is a question you need to answer if an identity is to be protected by the state.

a.   What constitutes a language apart from a dialect?

b.   Does a minority group have to have a certain size before it can be protected?

8.   Importation of world-wide conflicts.

9.   Ironic suppression of nested minority groups. Multiculturalists may protect the "majority culture" of an otherwise minority ethnic group. Extending protections to minority groups may come at the price of reinforcing oppression of vulnerable members of those groups, for example, Islamic homosexuals. 

10.               It has the potential to destroy cultures already in existence. It forces existing citizens of a state to change underlying assumptions and their way of life permanently. Multiculturalism can be viewed as reverse colonisation.

11.               A permanent skew of the political system to the left.  Minority groups can have an expectation to vote for the social redistribution and therefore the left, because economics form a large reason for immigration to the West. Ironically the left evolves from working class struggle to

12.               Multiculturalism does not hold minority groups accountable in general for their vulnerabilities and failings. This is Brian Barry's point. Rather, supporters will point to a history of colonialism and racism etc, for failings of particular groups.

13.                Illiberal. "If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism." - Sociologist Tariq Modood, multicultural advocate. Free speech seems like it must be suppressed for muliticulturalism to function.



Theoretical / conceptual Benefits of Monoculturalism


1.   Reduced transaction costs - i.e., better and quicker communication due to lowered misunderstandings, common native language, idiom library, historical references, sports, etc.

2.   More conforming to evolutionary psychology and closer to human nature. We prefer to be close to people we know. This increases trust. See R Putnam's work e.g. bowling Alone, etc.

a.   Reduced social conflict. Basic assumptions about social organisation, work choices, raising  children, are similar.

3.   Increased education attainment by schoolchildren and lowered schooling costs - due to not having to provide ESL.

4.   Homogeneity in social indicators. Certain cultural groups have lowered success in various indicators. Equality as a social justice goal would be served with a greater homogeneity in the population through a monoculturalist policy.

5.   Lowered crime rates. Shared social norms reduce the crime rate to a lower point than with unshared social norms.

6.   Increased responsiveness to democracy. A monocultural population - even when their preferred representatives are not in power are more respresented by those in power because there is more basically “in common”.


Theoretical / conceptual  benefits of Multiculturalism


1.   Could other's ways be better than our own?

a.   Exposure to different food

b.   Exposure to different assumptions, expressions, social organisation

c.   Exposure to different worldview

2.   Setup of friendly areas of foreigners in a nation increases popular opinion in those countries, enhances international ties.

a.   Perhaps there could be a propensity to avoid international war

3.   Social pluralism - recognition of diversity. Multiculturalism simply reflects the world, and thus it simply mirrors reality.

4.    Culture is said to be instrumentally valuable to individuals.

a.   Culture enables individual autonomy. Culture provides a meaningful choice on how you want to live.

b.   It enables individual self-respect.

c.   Individuals should be free to choose and pursue their own conceptions of the good life. Monoculturalism seems to limit freedom in an important way (Kymlicka's argument)

5.   Disarms ethnonationalism as there is no ethnic nation state anymore. Seems like a guarantee that a colonial / imperialist / ethno-genocidal past will not be repeated.

6.   Seems to powerfully refute uncomfortable sloganistic criticism of states based on the supposed occurrence of discrimination


Videos of perspectives against multiculturalism


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-eNXWtXRQI 8 mins  

Conservative critic Mark Steyn on multiculturalism. Key themes:  Multiculturalists don't immigrate to developing countries thus exposing a perceived hypocrisy, one way immigrant flows to the west indicate dominant, valuable culture. 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNjHayK3C-o 12 mins

Right wing candidate Paul Weston on Multiculturalism. Key themes:  Multiculturalism is equivalent to invasion, territorial aggression. The West has responded with appeasement.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ESlS2jrhXY 15mins  

Conservative economist Thomas Sowell on Multiculturalism. Key themes: Multiculturalism means underperforming groups are not excused from blame on cultural grounds for underperformance; Multiculturalism has been instituted without evidence as to its benefits or risks


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzkmxJlS5yk 18 mins

Religious political candidate and Christian ministry leader Daniel Nalliah on multiculturalism. Key themes: Hypocrisy for immigrants to value their own culture while choosing to live in another, Leaving a country implies an inferiority of that system; Free speech is curtailed necessarily under multicultural regimes. Discussion of anti-offence laws in Victoria.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SReDcW0fokE 7mins

Comedian and you tube critic Pat Condell on Multiculturalism.  Key themes: Multiculturalism cedes way to the strongest minority preferentially, i.e., Islam.


More balanced

The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland and Matthias Matussek of Der Spiegel talk about the definition and support for multiculturalism after the comments of "The failure of multiculturalism" by Angela Merkel and David Cameron 17 mins



Videos on other elements of the multicultural debate


Insight - I'm Not Racist, But...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfTUMc7yS54 1hr   

Key themes: Assimilated Australians eg. 2nd generation immigrants feel hampered by ethnic stereotypes, stereotypes and discrimination


An attempt at some evidence on the effects of Multiculturalism vs. Monoculturalism



·         Strong democracy correlates with ethnic homogeneity.

·         Diversity correlates with latitude and low GDP per capita.

·         Diversity correlates with internal conflicts.


Fractionalization Alberto Alesina, Arnaud Devleeschauwer, William Easterly, Sergio Kurlat and Romain Wacziarg Harvard Institute of Economic Research Discussion Paper Number  1959


·         Ethnic fractionalisation lowers

o   GDP growth,

o   Provision of public goods,

o   Good governance

o   City growth rates grow less quickly,

o   Participation in social activities and trust


Multiculturalism and Economic Growth Gerald W. Scully N CPA Policy Report No. 196 August 1995

·         Multiculturalism retards economic growth independent of other factors. Several mechanisms are discussed. Dated paper.



Interesting reading


Will Klymicka. 1995, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Thomas C. Schelling (1969) "Models of segregation", American Economic Review, 1969, 59(2), 488–493.
Thomas C. Schelling (1971). "Dynamic Models of Segregation," Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 1(2), pp. 143–186.

Junfu Zhang 2009 "Tipping and Residential Segregation"  A Unified Schelling Model IZA DP No. 4413


Brian Barry Culture & Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism (2001)


Robert Putnam's points on trust in highly diverse areas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Putnam#Diversity_and_trust_within_communities


The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/multiculturalism/   - many links to arguments and references in the academic literature discussion multiculturalism.


. Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy


Salim Mansur 2011 Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism. 2011


References and a good discussion  are available here regarding culture in general:


Spencer-Oatey, H. (2012) What is culture A compilation of quotations. GlobalPAD Core Concepts.


Multiculturalism and the fetish of diversity Peter Kurti CIS 2013

Good critical analysis of Australian multiculturalism.


H. E. Baber, University of San Diego, Professor of Philosophy


An online essay discussing how “ethnic scripts” for minority individuals are ultimately limiting.


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