Toward a More Pragmatic Multiculturalism? How the U.K. Policy Community Sees the Future of Ethnic Diversity Policies



The United Kingdom is often considered a leader in multiculturalism. However, recent statements by British politicians, community leaders, and academics question the multiculturalist direction in policymaking. This article reports interviews about multiculturalism, national identity, social cohesion, and future policy directions with leading figures in the debate, including Home Affairs Select Committee members, authors of major reports, experts, researchers, and academics. The attitudes expressed when discussing overall policy directions in most cases indicate disquiet at the assumed segregative effects of current policies. However, when specific issues (sharia law, faith schooling, dress codes including veiling, dietary practices, political representation) are considered, most interviewees express a concern to accommodate differences in cultural and traditional standpoints through dialogue. We conclude that multiculturalism in Britain is not “dead,” as some have argued. Instead it is developing in a more pragmatic direction that emphasizes the importance of interaction and accommodation rather than top-down interventions.