Multiculturalism is essentially unstable

SIR – Fr Edmund Waldstein’s thoughtful and temperate article on Mrs Merkel and the Pope (Cover story, September 22) shows the need for reflection on multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism and globalisation, whether we like it or not, now exist. Multiculturalism is plainly preferable to civil war and to persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. But what is it? We are invited to think that a multicultural society is one in which there are several sub-societies with cultures that differ from one another. But every society of necessity has a culture of its own which is expressed in its laws and its practices in education and medicine. A multicultural society is one with sub-societies that differ in culture not only from one another but from the whole.

Although multiculturalism is better than war or persecution, it is essentially unstable: there will always be friction between the society as a whole and those sub-societies whose culture is different. Perhaps that was not recognised by Jacques Maritain or by European and North American statesmen after 1945; it is important to recognise it now. Otherwise advocates of multiculturalism, without realising it, will be working not for peace, tolerance and goodwill, but for a society with a single culture in which the vital principles and practices of former sub-societies have “dwindled”, as the liberal philosopher Bernard Williams put it, “into private tastes”.

William Charlton

West Woodburn, Hexham

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