Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

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Uses of the Index

We hope that the Index will enable and encourage new cross-national research that will shed light on the often over-heated and polarized debates about multiculturalism. Public and academic debates around multiculturalism tend to circle around two broad questions:   

(1) whether multiculturalism policies have been a "success" or "failure"; 

(2) whether there has been an "advance" or "retreat" of multiculturalism policies. 

The Index makes possible make more fine-grained judgements about both questions, enabling us to see important variations over time and space in both the effects of multiculturalism policies and their spread or retreat. In the “Research” section of the website, we list a number of studies that have used the Index to explore these variations.

[Read more on Uses here.]

We will not attempt to give a comprehensive list of the questions that have been explored using the Index, but we will just highlight some of the main areas of research:

Regarding the effects of MCPs, research to date has focused largely on three questions: 

  1. What is the impact of MCPs on the welfare state and redistribution? In the literature, this is sometimes called the “recognition-redistribution” question: does the adoption of policies of multicultural recognition displace or undermine a commitment to economic redistribution? 
  2. What is the impact of MCPs on interethnic attitudes? Do MCPs encourage greater trust and mutual acceptance across groups, or do they generate distrust and hostility? And do these dynamics differ between majority and minority? For example, do MCPs encourage a greater sense of belonging amongst minorities, but generate anxiety and alienation amongst majorities?
  3. What is the impact of MCPs on the social, economic and political participation of minorities? For example, do MCPs facilitate greater political participation by members of minority groups? Do they encourage greater engagement in civil society, or in the labour market? (In the case of immigrant groups, this is often framed as a question of how MCPs affect the social, economic and political “integration” of immigrants).

Regarding the spread of MCPs, research to date has focused on:

  1. Is there a general trend towards either the expansion or contraction of MCPs over the past forty years, or are there divergent trends in relation to different types of minorities, or in different groups of countries? For example, have MCPs in relation to Indigenous peoples been more stable than MCPs in relation to immigrant groups? And have MCPs been more stable in “New World” countries than in “Old World” countries? 
  2. Is there a disjunction between policies and discourses around multiculturalism? Has the word “multiculturalism” become unfashionable, even as multicultural policies persist? What is the relationship between multiculturalism as discourse, multicultural practices on the ground, and state policies of multiculturalism? 
  3. What are the political conditions and coalitions that support the adoption of MCPs, or their repeal? For example, does the adoption of MCPs depend on the electoral strength of minorities, or on the strength of left-wing parties? Is the retreat from MCPs driven primarily by far-right populist parties?

Exciting work has been done on all of these questions. A selective list of publications using the Index, including our own work, is listed here. However, we believe that there is much more to be learned about the effects and diffusion of MCPs, and we hope the Index will continue to be useful to researchers and practitioners.