Multiculturalism in the West has reached its limits?

voted YES
voted NO

About this debate:

The topic of this debate is a very broad and complex one. Therefore we are very delighted to host an excellent and diverse panel of experts who have sheer experience and expertise in the subject matter of Multiculturalism. The concept and idea of Multiculturalism has been in the spotlight, especially here in the ‘West’, perhaps more so recently than ever. Yet not everyone knows the intricacies of it, or know whether it has a positive or negative impact on the society. Some might say it’s merely cultural diversity, yet some might refer to how that diversity is managed by the state. It is a reality that often seems to be the subject of debate during political campaigns, whether it be the US presidential elections, Brexit campaign in the UK, or the ongoing presidential elections in France.

Any dialogue on matters like poverty, unemployment, racism, xenophobia, refugee crisis, migration and terrorism, touches one way or the other upon the existence of multiple cultural traditions existing within a single society or a country. As opposed to cultural assimilation, multiculturalism provides an alternative of maintaining different identities and values coexisting in the same society. Being a reality, nonetheless, this idea is often subject to debate when it comes to questions like: Is multiculturalism durable? Does multiculturalism promote intolerance? Is there an alternative to it? How does nationalism and multiculturalism relate to one another? And as this debate asks, has multiculturalism reached its limits in the West? Enter our online debate now to see what our distinguished panel of debaters and guests have to say.

Voting in 20 days

Debaters' latest statements


Defending the

Prof. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies at SOAS University - UK


Against the

Prof. Handel Kashope Wright

Professor and Director of the Center for Culture, Identity & Education at University of British Columbia - Canada

There continues to be agreement between Professor Wright and myself. Similarly, the guest writers are largely supportive of the crux of the argument that I have made. However, at the heart of what I have been saying is a rather more radical approach towards deconstructing “collective identities” which ensure that minorities are not coerced into subservience, for instance to the national narrative. This is not about individualism as Prof. Warikoo implies; it is about protection from overbearing grand narratives that are full of violence and discrimination, from capitalism to psycho-nationalism. There are differences of course, but even in Canada mosques were torched in the name of authenticity.... Read more

The featured guests continue where Adib-Moghaddam and I left off, namely troubling and providing different views on what the very concept of multiculturalism means. Colleen Ward usefully points out that we ought to consider multiculturalism a journey rather than a destination, an exhortation that dovetails well with my assertion that multiculturalism is pliant and evolving rather than given and static. Natasha Warikoo eschews what she describes as the age-old debate between individual versus group consideration of diversity, difference and rights and while I endorse her consideration of how people are positioned in relation to ability to live out their lives well in society, I would assert... Read more

Guests' latest statements



Prof. Virginie Guiraudon

Research Professor at the National Center for Scientific Research, Sciences Po - France

Are European societies multicultural? They are. Did European governments adhere to multiculturalism and enact policies to recognize or even promote cultural difference? In very rare cases and not for long in Western Europe. Local authorities were the ones left to accommodate demands formulated by groups to practice their culture or religion and courts also had a role. There was a "multiculturalist" moment in the 1980s in countries such as the Netherlands. Can multiculturalism have reached its limits when it was at best embryonic as a policy and in any case severely contested?

Multiculturalism is an '-ism' that entails core and crucial components to become a national policy. Equal rights... Read more



Prof. Colleen Ward

Director of the Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research at Victoria University of Wellington - New Zealand

Much of the disagreement about multiculturalism arises from a failure to gain consensus about what the term actually means. Cultural diversity is a necessary, but not sufficient, precondition for multiculturalism and a multicultural state. But in the end, multiculturalism is less about cultural, religious and linguistic diversity than it is about how we negotiate it.

Of course it is naïve to think that merely tolerating, accepting or even celebrating difference is a panacea for the challenges of living with diversity. Multiculturalism requires more than that. It is necessary that policies, programmes and practices accommodate and support diversity in a way that ensures members of diverse... Read more



Prof. Natasha Warikoo

Associate Professor of Education at Graduate School of Education, Harvard University - USA

Natasha Warikoo is Associate Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education and the author of The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities.

For decades scholars have debated normative questions about dealing with difference in diverse societies. Indigenous movements for rights, longstanding minority groups, and migration have all forced countries to come to terms with the tensions between national identity, group identity, and the individual. While both Professor Adib-Moghaddam and Professor Wright support the co-existence of individuals and groups in society with different cultures and both observe that cultures are... Read more



Ambassador William Lacy Swing

Director General International Organization for Migration (IOM), The UN Migration Agency - Switzerland

Has multiculturalism reached its limits? Of course not! While it would be foolish for anyone to venture a single definition of what that first noun, “multiculturalism,” even is, it’s arguably riskier still to hazard a definition of the second one: “limits.”

The question itself deserves scrutiny.

Limits to what? Where? Is it the number of “outsiders” living in a community? What about those merely passing through? Would it be a matter of perception, a tipping point, say, when “everyone” realizes a limit has been approached and then breached? If so, how would we know? Maybe it is not an absolute number, but a percentage or proportion of total population? Or is it something we... Read more

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