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Is There Really a Backlash Against Multiculturalism Policies?


  • Banting , Keith

    () (Queens University School of Policy Studies)

  • Kymlicka, Will

    () (Queens University Department of Philosophy)


In much of the western world, and particularly in Europe, there is a widespread perception that multiculturalism has ‘failed’ and that governments who once embraced a multicultural approach to diversity are turning away, adopting a strong emphasis on civic integration. This reaction, we are told, “reflects a seismic shift not just in the Netherlands, but in other European countries as well” (JOPPKE 2007). This paper challenges this view. Drawing on an updated version of the Multiculturalism Policy Index introduced earlier (BANTING and KYMLICKA 2006), the paper presents an index of the strength of multicultural policies for European countries and several traditional countries of immigration at three points in time (1980, 2000 and 2010). The results paint a different picture of contemporary experience in Europe. While a small number of countries, including most notably the Netherlands, have weakened established multicultural policies during the 2000s, such a shift is the exception. Most countries that adopted multicultural approaches in the later part of the twentieth century have maintained their programs in the first decade of the new century; and a significant number of countries have added new ones. In much of Europe, multicultural policies are not in general retreat. As a result, the turn to civic integration is often being layered on top of existing multicultural programs, leading to a blended approach to diversity. The paper reflects on the compatibility of multiculturalism policies and civic integration, arguing that more liberal forms of civic integration can be combined with multiculturalism but that more illiberal or coercive forms are incompatible with a multicultural approach.

Suggested Citation

  • Banting , Keith & Kymlicka, Will, 2012. "Is There Really a Backlash Against Multiculturalism Policies?," SULCIS Working Papers 2012:4, Stockholm University, Linnaeus Center for Integration Studies - SULCIS.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:sulcis:2012_004

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Multiculturalism; immigration; civic integration; citizenship;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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