The rise and fall of multiculturalism? New debates on inclusion and accommodation in diverse societies


  • Will Kymlicka holds the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen's University in Canada, and is a visiting professor in the nationalism studies programme at the Central European University in Budapest. He is the author of several books on issues of multiculturalism and minority rights, including Multicultural citizenship (1995), and most recently Multicultural odysseys: navigating the new international politics of diversity (2007).


There has been much talk recently of a retreat from multiculturalism across western democracies. While people disagree about what comes after multiculturalism, there is a broad consensus that we are indeed in a post-multicultural era. In this article I explore and critique this rise and fall narrative and suggest an alternative framework for thinking about the choices we face. Both the rise and fall of multiculturalism have been very uneven processes, depending on the nature of the issue and the country involved, and we need to understand these variations if we are to identify a more sustainable model for accommodating diversity. In particular, I argue that the master narrative (a) mischaracterises the nature of the experiments in multiculturalism that have been undertaken over the past 40 years, (b) exaggerates the extent to which they have been abandoned and (c) misidentifies the genuine difficulties and limitations they have encountered.