Multiculturalism first appeared on the political and philosophical agenda of the West in the 1960s in response to the cultural demands of newly arrived as well as long established minorities. It is based on the belief that the receiving society’s response to cultural diversity should be guided by three principles, namely liberty, equality and unity. The minorities should be left free within the limits of the law to lead their self-chosen ways of life, should be entitled to equal treatment and should over time be integrated into the wider society. In recent years it has been argued that multiculturalism leads to cultural ghettoisation and social fragmentation and undermines national unity. I argue that many of these criticisms are misguided and that multiculturalism facilitates minority integration. I recognize that it produces certain legitimate anxieties, and suggest how this can be met without abandoning the basic principles of multiculturalism.
About the Speaker
Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh is currently Emeritus Professor at the Universities of Hull and Westminster, and prior to that was Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. He has been Visiting Professor at McGill, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and the Institute of Advance Study in Vienna, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Baroda. He is the author of Rethinking Multiculturalism, A New Politics of Identity, Gandhi and half a dozen other widely acclaimed books in political philosophy. Lord Parekh has received many awards throughout his career: the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for lifetime contribution to political philosophy by the Political Studies Association (2002), the Distinguished Global Thinker Award by the India International Centre Delhi (2006), and the Padma Bhushan honours in the 2007 Indian Republic Day Honours list. Parekh’s work has been translated into twenty languages. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, past President of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a member of the House of Lords.