The retreat of multiculturalism in the liberal state: theory and policy

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Abstract

This article discusses a recent retreat of multiculturalism in the liberal state. This retreat has occurred both at the level of theory and policy. With the help of some recent liberal critiques of multiculturalism, the first part maps out some shortcomings of the notion of minority integration through cultural recognition, particularly with respect to immigrants. The second part discusses a retreat from multiculturalism policies in three states that had been prominently committed to them: Australia, the Netherlands, and Britain. This practical retreat of multiculturalism is due to a variety of factors, their importance differing across cases: the chronic lack of public support for multiculturalism policies; inherent deficits and failures of multiculturalism policies, especially in socio-economic respect; and a new assertiveness of the liberal state to impose liberal principles.

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