Pluralism and the Postmodern Condition
Abstract and Keywords
In the last third of the twentieth century, contrary to what modernity predicted, ethnic and cultural difference had a high salience, and contemporary societies in Europe and North America felt compelled to recognize this and implement policies of multiculturalism to cope with the demands that emanated from it. The reasons for this shift to the recognition of difference are complex, but it may be partly ascribed to the vast social, economic, and technological changes associated with post‐industrial economies under conditions of neoliberalism and globalization. In countries of immigration, transnationalism, too, enhanced the space of ethnic and cultural pluralism. Yet, pluralism may take many forms, and it is unclear whether the difference that will prevail in contemporary post‐modern societies will take the form of an essentialist version of multiculturalism, or some kind of ‘hybridity’.
Yannick Noah, the flamboyant French former tennis star, is causing uproar on the airwaves with a rap version of the Marseillaise . . . The song . . . ends with a plea for ‘liberté, fraternité et diversité’.
(Guardian, 17 September 1997.)
1. From the Patrimonial to the Post‐Industrial
Let me recall the argument of this book. I have been concerned with plural societies, and began by asking how the political process, working through the authoritative institutions of society (the state), shapes and reproduces difference. The state has in turn been seen as embedded in a wider system of economy, culture, and technology, and so the emphasis has been on exploring the politicization of difference in the context of particular configurations of state and society. Two such configurations have received special attention: the patrimonial state and the modern, industrial, nation‐state. In these two, the terms which best describe the place accorded to difference of the kind which is generally called ‘ethnic’ are, respectively, incorporation and assimilation. In the patrimonial state, ethnic and cultural difference did not, normally, pose any great difficulty so long as the groups which constituted the polity (and early states were often highly mixed linguistically and culturally) paid their dues, literally and metaphorically. The Ottomans are particularly instructive in this regard. They ‘cared less about how their empire was run so long as each of their dominions provided them with a steady supply of revenue’ (Ingrao 1996 : section 3). As Mansell says: ‘The Ottoman government was more interested in raising revenue than saving souls’ ( 1995 : 48).
Patrimonial rulers rarely attempted to spread uniformity of culture unless, like some, but by no means all, Islamic (and Christian) polities, they were committed (as the Ottomans were not) to proselytizing on behalf of their religion. Modern nation‐states, on the other hand, have been grounded in the fostering of common identities and homogeneous cultures. Whether their nation‐building ideologies were of Gemeinschaft or Gesellschaft type, their rulers eschewed difference, and promoted the homogenization which the economic, social, and political configuration demanded. And in pursuing such goals they (p.217) invaded and captured the institutions of civil society. Colonialism was in this respect ambivalent: ‘patrimonial’ in so far as it emphasized the extraction of resources, ‘modern’ in so far as the colonial powers believed they had a mission to uplift and transform their colonial subjects.
Nation‐building in Europe and elsewhere often incorporated linguistically, culturally, and economically disparate regions within a single polity. Many were ‘mosaic’ states (Strayer 1963 ), consisting of diverse localities pulled together, often unwillingly, under the hegemony of some powerful ‘centre’. Elsewhere (Grillo 1980 ) I have called them ‘disjunctive’ societies because the incorporative process sustained, but also created, various kinds of differentiation and difference between and within the constituent elements, and therefore they contain the seeds of their own dissolution. Much has been written about the integration or rather disintegration (actual or potential) of such societies: for many, ‘the crisis of the nation‐state’ refers precisely to this. As I pointed out in Chapter 1 , however, there are many crises, and this study has not really been concerned with that of the incomplete incorporation of regional, ethnic, or linguistic ‘minorities’. The focus, especially in the latter half of the book, has been rather on integration of another kind.
Various nation‐states apparently committed to a Gesellschaft, or associational, ideology of the nation‐state, and to assimilative goals, have at times entered periods of social and cultural crisis around those objectives: ‘crises of assimilation’. Chapters 6 to 9 explored these as they affected Britain, France, and the USA in the last decades of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In that last period there has been a new emphasis on difference, in terms of the demands made on society by many of its members, and what has been described as an upsurge in ethnic and cultural pluralism. That pluralism, however, takes different forms, and manifests itself in somewhat different strategic demands: multiculturalism and institutional pluralism, discussed in Chapter 9 , and hybridity, examined below. I noted in Chapter 7 that in contemplating the ‘revival’ of ethnicity in the late twentieth‐century USA, the historian John Higham made a valuable proposal in attempting to relate that phenomenon to long‐term social and economic change. The present chapter develops that suggestion by seeking to locate the demand for pluralism, and the ‘upsurge’ or ‘persistence’ of ethnicity, in contemporary forms of postmodern, post‐industrial state, economy, and society. It then discusses the much debated notion of ‘hybridity’ before returning to consider whether, despite all that has been said, despite all the criticisms, there is realistically any alternative to multiculturalism as a means of dealing with difference.
2. Pluralism and Postmodernity
‘Why? Why pluralism now?’ Hassan's question ( 1987 : 167), posed from within postmodern literary theory, referred not to pluralism of a social, political, or (p.218) cultural kind but to an intellectual, critical, and ‘methodological’ pluralism, found in postmodern writing, film, architecture, and so on, where ‘all styles are dialectically available in an interplay between the Now and the Not‐Now’ (ibid.: 171). None the less, that same question is appropriate for a different context, that of the cultural and ethnic pluralism of contemporary Britain, France, and the USA. Why these sorts of pluralism now? Specifically, what connection might be made between pluralism and the condition referred to as ‘postmodernity’? Gilroy's sense that the syncretism or hybridity which he explores in relation to black identity must be understood with reference to the contemporary economic and political (as well as intellectual) contexts in which they occur is a strong indication that there are issues to be addressed. But what constitutes the ‘postmodern’ and (closely related term) the ‘post‐industrial’ condition?
A distinction should be drawn between postmodernity as a descriptive and analytical category and postmodernism as an intellectual enterprise or philosophical project. One may be highly sceptical about the latter while accepting that ‘post‐industrial’, and more recently ‘postmodern’, are concepts of considerable value in assisting us to grasp and explain significant features of the contemporary condition, at least in the ‘West’, or the ‘North’. ‘North’, of course, does not refer to a location on the globe. It is not a geographical expression so much as a social, economic, and political one, referring to the rich and powerful ‘advanced’ industrial countries found mostly (but by no means exclusively) in the north‐western ‘quadrisphere’ of the planet.
My own scepticism about the intellectual enterprise derives from the damage that postmodernism as philosophical project has done to my own discipline. There have been several controversies of a deep and at times bitter kind in social anthropology, for example over structuralism and interactionism in the 1960s, Marxism and feminism in the 1970s, and semantic and applied anthropology in the 1980s. Though no holds were barred, these controversies did not affect the core of the subject: anthropology is a broad church able to accommodate a wide variety of adherents. But disputes associated with the self‐styled ‘postmodernist’ intervention have posed a real danger of a sort of China Syndrome, a meltdown of the core.
Postmodernism in anthropology has strong affinities with postmodernism at large and in other disciplines: irony and self‐reference, an emphasis on meta‐narratives, a stress on language games, a shared sense of what some call ‘a crisis of representation in the human sciences’ (Marcus and Fischer 1986 : 8). Postmodernist anthropology has taken seriously the notion that anthropologists ‘construct’ their data, and therefore what is central is the process of construction. This has led to an emphasis on the ‘how’ of gathering what become ‘data’ (that is fieldwork), and the way that ‘data’ are placed in the public domain (that is through ethnography). This in turn has led to a stress on the anthropologist as ‘author’, on his or her ‘authority’, and on the relationship (p.219) between anthropologist and ‘subject’. The flavour of this intervention is aptly summarized in the following:
A post‐modern ethnography is a co‐operatively evolved text consisting of fragments of discourse intended to invoke in the minds of both reader and writer an emergent fantasy of a possible world of commonsense reality, and thus to provoke an aesthetic integration that will have a therapeutic effect (Tyler 1986 : 125).
Geertz, in many respects a prominent fellow‐traveller of postmodernism, none the less recognizes the difficulties with this approach:
Unfortunately, what Geertz suggested as unthinkable has happened, and parts of anthropology are in consequence indeed in a parlous state. The ethnographer has become more important than the ‘ethnographed’, indeed post‐modernists would argue that it is impossible to write about them, and thus everything is reduced to reflexivity. On the whole, I agree with Firth, who has described himself as a ‘a modified empiricist’: ‘The world may be an illusion—I know of no means of proving it is not. But it is expedient to behave as if there be a substantial reality that can be encountered, with chartable effect and some possibility of prediction’ ( 1989 : 50).
If anthropologists were to stop reporting how things are done in Africa and Polynesia, if they were instead to spend their time trying to find double plots in Alfred Kroeber or unreliable narrators in Max Gluckman, and if they were seriously to argue that Edward Westermarck's stories about Morocco and those of Paul Bowles relate to their subject matter in the same way, and with the same means and the same purposes, matters would indeed be in a parlous state (1988: 1–3).
There is, however, a side to this which is potentially more important and interesting. There is an ambiguity in postmodernist writing in the social sciences: are we dealing with an intellectual stance (on language and so forth) or type of culture and society whose features are captured by the phrase ‘postmodern’? Or both? When Tyler says ‘A post‐modern ethnography is fragmentary because it cannot be otherwise’ ( 1986 : 131), does he speak philosophically, or is he referring to that ‘thing of shreds and patches’ (Hannerz 1992 : 34), the postmodern culture which ethnography attempts to capture? ‘The breaking up of the grand narratives’, says Lyotard, referring to what in his view is one of the principal features of the postmodern condition, ‘leads to what some authors analyze in terms of the dissolution of the social bond and the disintegration of social aggregates into a mass of individual atoms thrown into the absurdity of Brownian motion’ (Lyotard 1986 : 15). This much cited passage represents what might be called a ‘Heraclitan’ view of society (‘Everything is in a state of flux and nothing remains the same’). How far can such views of the contemporary social condition be justified, and in what way can they be related to discussions of difference?
(p.220) 3. The Postmodern and the Post‐Industrial
Concepts of the postmodern and post‐industrial intersect each other in numerous ways. As Rose ( 1991 : 21) points out, definitions of the two have been elaborated alongside and in relation to each other. Best known, and most persuasive, of the attempts to connect the two has been that of Lyotard, who, citing Bell and Touraine, identified the postmodern as the cultural aspect of the post‐industrial. Elaborating this, Jameson has glossed postmodernity as involving
So what, then, are the features of the ‘very peculiar world’ to which post‐modernism is a response and for which it is a preparation?
the production of postmodern people capable of functioning in a very peculiar socioeconomic world indeed, one whose structure and objective features and requirements—if we had a proper account of them—would constitute the situation to which ‘postmodernism’ is a response ( 1991 : xv).
The term post‐industrial has been in circulation for most of this century. Rose ( 1991 : xi) dates it to c.1914, though at that time it was used by American syndicalist critics of the ‘modern’ industrial system to refer to certain social, economic, and political alternatives to it. The ideas behind this original usage were in essence anti‐rather than post‐Fordist, and it might be said that Kallen's proposals on cultural pluralism in the 1920s fell within this camp. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, the term reappeared in a different guise, used as a convenient way of summarizing the apparent changes (mainly of a socio‐economic kind) in the ‘advanced’ industrial economies of North America and Western Europe in the affluent years which followed World War II. It was this notion of ‘post’ or ‘advanced’ industrial society which informed, inter alia, my own account of immigration in Lyon, France, in the 1970s (Grillo 1985 ). ‘Industrial’, ‘post‐industrial’, ‘modern’, ‘postmodern’ (and ‘early’ or ‘patrimonial’) are ideal‐type constructs through which social scientists carve up semantically what is in reality a continuum. Contrasts between modern and postmodern, or industrial and post‐industrial inevitably hide continuities and emphasize discontinuities between one era or form of polity and another, as Gilroy, for example, is well aware ( 1993b : 2, 42). None the less, it is important to try to grasp some sense of the difference between ‘then’ and ‘now’, and of the significance of changes that have occurred in the course of the twentieth century.
By the late 1970s writers such as Dahrendorf ( 1959 ), Bell ( 1973 ), and Touraine ( 1974 ), had appeared to define a post‐industrial form of society of which the following were the principal features. There was, first and foremost, the central and growing importance of scientific knowledge in the organization of both production and consumption. This involved the ever wider application of ‘advanced’ technologies based on electronics, nuclear physics, chemistry, microbiology, and latterly genetics. Linked to that was the demand for highly skilled manpower, at many different levels of skill, with a consequent growth (p.221) of a white‐collar, white‐coated labour force (and an education system to match). Industrial production was becoming more and more specialized by unit (within the production process), and by region. This created greater geographical interdependence, and interdependence between industries, but also led to greater inter‐regional and inter‐industrial disparities. Specialization and concentration meant that the economic and occupational profiles of different regions diverged. At the extreme, some flourished, others became wastelands. The organization of production and consumption was continually increasing in scale, with a corresponding centralization of key decisions at higher and higher levels, including, supranational levels. Organizationally, ‘rational’, bureaucratic modes of operation prevailed. The ‘managerial revolution’, however, meant that the simple idea of the ownership of the means of production became a problematic, and increasingly irrelevant means of differentiating between those who had power and privilege and those who did not.
In the 1960s and 1970s there was, generally speaking, a high wage economy, at least in the North/West, though there were great disparities, some of which represented an overturning of traditional differentials: nineteenth‐century labour aristocracies found themselves displaced from their once pre‐eminent position. At the same time, and despite the growth of the white‐collared, white‐coated labour force, the work of the clerk and the secretary (what the French call employés) became increasingly similar to that of the factory worker in a Fordist‐style production system. The ‘deskilling’ of many tasks due to technological change often meant that the gap between traditionally skilled and unskilled occupations declined. The lowest paid jobs in the older, declining industries, or the deskilled sectors of the industries, were given over to the least‐favoured elements of the population, immigrants and women. These changes were accompanied by a high degree of physical, and a significant degree of social, mobility with the break‐up (and breakdown) of traditional industrial and urban communities (old industries, inner cities), and what was seen as increasing individuation and isolation.
In all the economies of the ‘quadrisphere’, the tertiary (service) sector became increasingly important. This was related to the growing significance of consumption. But production and consumption were in turn closely linked, with the latter controlled, tailored, and consciously oriented through advertising. There was homogenization, but also, in different ways and at different levels, heterogenization of patterns of consumption. Products became standardized, but a much wider range of goods became more readily available, and there was greater variety in patterns of consumption by individual consumers. At the same time, the language of ‘consumerism’ spread to services which had previously been thought of in non‐commercial terms, and there was a shift in the focuses of conflict both within the production system and outside of it. Summarizing some of these changes, the French sociologist Alain Touraine called the emerging formation a ‘programmed society’: (p.222)
A new society is now being formed. These new societies can be labelled post‐industrial to stress how different they are from the industrial societies which preceded them, although—in both capitalist and socialist nations—they retain some characteristics of these earlier societies. They may also be called technocratic because of the power that dominates them. Or one can call them programmed societies to define them according to the nature of their production methods and economic organisation (Touraine 1974 : 3).
An important feature of the post‐industrial society in this sense, which demonstrated a significant continuity with its predecessor albeit in an accentuated form, was, or appeared to be, the power of the state to define and regulate the economic and social order. Young, writing in 1976 , characterized the immediately preceding decade as one in which there was a ‘centrality of the state system as authoritative arena’ ( 1976 : 73). There had been ‘progressive expansion in generalized expectations as the role of the state; continuing accretion of the power capabilities of the state . . . and the force of the international system in enforcing the maintenance of the existing state system’. The state was the prime mover in moulding and developing the economy, and in mobilizing resources, human and physical, and in creating the framework of boundaries and infrastructure (the bounded infrastructure) within which economy and society operated. There was a ‘growing capacity of the state’, and
The state system, in roughly its present form, is hardening into an iron grid fixing the most basic parameters of politics. The yearly increments of power of their coercive instruments, improving communications networks, ever more numerous public bureaucracies, new technologies of control—all these strongly flowing currents merge into a powerful tide of central power (Young 1976 : 518).
At the risk of allowing a proliferation of terminology to add further confusion (and pace Giddens 1991 : 27ff., 243), it seems in retrospect preferable to use the term ‘high’ modernity for the social, political, and economic formations which emerged in the transatlantic democracies after World War II (Wagener 1992 : 475). This was modernity at its apogee. The society described by Young, Touraine, and others, which Bell called post‐industrial, was, suggests Wagener, the product of a particular configuration of state and politics: a ‘Keynsian’, interventionist, welfare‐oriented state, and ‘competitive party democracy’ (ibid.). Wagener is, in this regard, in broad agreement with Rosanvallon, who characterized the post‐war world as one in which
(p.223) This, of course, was within the ‘quadrisphere’.
democratic industrial societies . . . developed either implicitly or explicitly, within the framework of the Keynsian compromise which regulated relations between the economic and social spheres in the manner of a positive sum‐game. The foundations of this model were the growth of the welfare state and collective bargaining. The welfare state governed relations between the state and the working class and reflected the latter's economic and political power (1988: 213).
In the period from the 1970s to the 1990s, however, in what Rosanvallon calls (p. 213) the ‘post‐social‐democratic’ era, further changes undermined this kind of formation, involving inter alia a shift from a ‘Keynsian’ to a neo‐liberal, ‘Washington’, consensus. Keane pulls some of the threads together by drawing attention to the way in which, after the 1970s, the Western economies (and one might add, after the 1980s, those of the East) were forced into major restructuring in response to the apparent failure of previously successful social and economic strategies, which now seemed unable to cope with ‘deindustrialization’ and widespread unemployment. There was also a major shift in the organization of production: ‘Fordism’ gave way to ‘Post‐Fordism’ (Murray 1990 ). In sum,
The cause, says Keane, was to be found in changes in the international monetary system, and in the emergence of a ‘new international division of labour’, all with important implications for the nation‐state as a form of social and political organization. It was the sense of rapid and dramatic change which informed the political manifesto aptly entitled ‘New Times’:
disintegration of the old technological paradigm based upon continuous‐flow industries and the assembly‐line system and the introduction of a great number and variety of process innovations . . . based on new microelectronics technologies . . . [has] forced trade unions into defensive (and often self‐regarding) strategies . . . thrown into question the official post‐war commitment to greater equality of opportunity . . . and severely undermined the capacity of the Keynsian welfare state to fulfil effectively its commitment to high levels of employment (Keane 1988a : 8).
The ‘New Times’ argument is that the world has changed, not just incrementally but qualitatively, that Britain and other advanced capitalist societies are increasingly characterised by diversity, differentiation and fragmentation, rather than homogeneity, standardization and the economies and organizations of scale which characterised modern mass society (Hall and Jacques 1990 : 11).
Crawford Young, a perceptive and prescient writer (see, for instance, his remarks about ethnicity and nationalism in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and about South Africa, 1976 : 10–11, 105), failed to foresee two ways in which the social, economic, political, and cultural systems of ‘high’ modernity would be transformed. Although recognizing the growing importance of multinational corporations, he believed that economic organization and decision‐making would continue to be bounded by the nation‐state: ‘No doubt such transnational bodies as multinational corporations are of significant scale and import—but the fundamental cellular composition of the international system remains tied to the nation‐state’ (Young 1976 : 81). Yet many observers point to the 1980s and 1990s as decades in which there was a vast increase in the globalization of economic (as well as social and cultural) relations. For Jameson, (p.224) it is this transnational character of business which is the predominant feature of what he calls ‘late capitalism’ ( 1991 : xx). The globalization or transnationalization of production, distribution, and exchange (banking, stock markets, debt, the ‘new international division of labour’, the relocation of production to Third World countries, mass international transportation systems, new communication technologies, the media, etc)., accompanied by new forms of international organization, had important implications for the nation‐state as site of social, economic, and political relations.
Melucci argues that the state has been ‘replaced from above by a tightly interdependent system of transnational relationships and subdivided from below into a multiplicity of partial governments’ ( 1988 : 257). For these and other reasons it no longer seems to be the ‘iron grid’ which Young envisaged. Rather than an inexorable increase in strength, what seems to be widespread is the weakness of the state, its incapacity to resolve the problems it is obliged to address. This view is not universally shared. Hobsbawm, for one, has continued to believe that despite international migration, industrial zones, offshore financial centres, etc., the powers of the state remain undiminished:
Robin Cohen also points out that although withdrawing from the economy, the state retains a strong political presence, controlling migration and ‘galvaniz[ing], although with diminishing capacity, a single identity around a national leadership, common citizenship and social exclusion of outsiders’ ( 1997 : 156). Hannerz ( 1996 ) entitles one chapter: ‘The withering away of the nation?’, with a question mark, and argues that it is not so much withering away as changing with the growth of ‘transnational imagined communities’ ( 1996 : 90). None the less, the evidence for what Waters ( 1995 : 98–100) has called ‘disétatization’ is widespread. It is readily apparent in much of Africa, for example, or Latin America, and across great swathes of South and Central Asia and Eastern Europe (Ronald Cohen 1993 : 232, 248–51), but it is also in the ‘advanced’ industrial countries, where sometimes for ideological reasons there was, through the 1980s, a ‘selective withdrawal of state power from civil society’ (Keane 1988a : 9). Global economic neo‐liberalism in particular represented a ‘central challenge’ to the Keynesian ‘promise . . . to take full responsibility for the economic welfare of a given population through the deft exercise of the power of its state’ (Dunn 1995 : 12).
Quite apart from the continued importance of state direction, planning and management even in countries dedicated in theory to neo‐liberalism, the sheer weight of what public revenue and expenditure represent in the economies of states, but above all their growing role as agents of substantial redistributions of the social income by means of fiscal and welfare mechanisms, have probably made the national state a more central factor in the lives of the world's inhabitants than before (1992: 182).
There were, of course, important tendencies of long duration, which run through both the era of ‘high’ modernity, and that which followed. One of these concerns changes in the form of the occupational base, and relates to (p.225) what many observers have seen as a progressive disintegration of the classic forms of social and political organization associated with modernity. In many respects it is the displacement of ‘class’ from centre stage which has appeared to be the most important shift in the transition from modern to post‐industrial and perhaps postmodern society (see inter alia Samuel 1989b : xxxiii). Touraine and his colleagues link this displacement of class with the emergence of ‘new’ social movements based on gender or sexuality, on regional or ethnic identity, or on some special interest or a non‐class‐based ideology such as environmentalism. Jameson, though sceptical of the view that these new movements come out of the ‘void left by the disappearance of social classes’, none the less understands why this should appear to be so in an era of ‘global reconstruction of production and . . . radically new technologies’ ( 1991 : 319).
4. Postmodern Sociality and the Politics of Difference
Maffesoli, in a paper which investigates, somewhat misleadingly, ‘neotribalism’, contrasts ‘modern’ and ‘postmodern times’. In the former there were ‘individuals’ whose place in the social and economic order was defined by their ‘function’ within it. In the contemporary world there has occurred a ‘process of deindividuation’. Individuals are replaced by ‘persons’ (‘polysemantic, polyphonic’, Maffesoli 1988 : 141), and collective solidarities based on function have given way to ‘emotional communities’ (p. 146). This ‘neo‐tribalism’, says Maffesoli, ‘refuses to be identified with specific political endeavours, does not conform to any single definite structure, and has as its sole raison d'être the preoccupation with the collectively lived present’ (p. 146). He has in mind the ‘spectacle [of] contemporary megalopolises’ where there is a multiplicity of eclectic lifestyles and representations of self (for example, punks), which change from year to year, and which generate mutual sympathies of an extremely fluid and fluctuating character. Adherents are continually ‘zipping from one group to another’ (p. 147), and, echoing Lyotard, it is this which creates the ‘impression of an atomization’ (p. 148).
There is a similarity between the thinking of Maffesoli and that of the French sociologist Baudrillard, whom Lyotard himself cites in this connection. Maffesoli's and Baudrillard's vision of a multiplicity of transient collectivities, of a polyphony of voices in cities transformed by post‐industrialism, is widely echoed elsewhere. Samuel, for example, refers to ‘the building of a whole way of life out of alternative lifestyles or even popular music’, and notes the way in which ‘style aristocracies hold the passes between capitalism and consumer; segmentation of the market encourages the growth of minority tastes’ (Samuel 1989b : xxxiii). How useful is such a vision in helping identify a relationship between ethnic and cultural pluralism and the current condition? It would certainly be misleading to suppose that ethnic and cultural difference involves simply a pluralism of style, that it is a matter of the ‘media and the market’ (p.226) (Jameson 1991 : 220). Some forms of ethnicity do undoubtedly become entangled with what Jameson calls the ‘obscene consumerist pluralism of late capitalism’ ( 1991 : 323), but most do not. Nor is it simply a matter of choice: as Sollors notes, ‘if voluntary or multiple‐choice ethnicity is possible, then what is the substance of ethnicity in America?’ ( 1986 : 33). It is equally unhelpful to reduce ethnicity to the individual search for place within a complex society. Fischer, writing of the tentative nature of ethnic identity in the contemporary USA, as that emerges in some autobiographies, uses the phrase ‘finding a voice’ (Fischer 1986 : 196), a notion which also appears in work on literature produced by les beurs (Hargreaves 1991 , 1995 ), second‐generation North African immigrants in France. ‘Being Chinese‐American’, says Fischer, ‘exists only as an exploratory project’ ( 1986 : 210).
This approach, redolent of ‘the disintegration of social aggregates into a mass of individual atoms’ has its limits. Following Gans ( 1956a , 1956b , 1979 ) there has been considerable discussion in American sociology of the notion of ‘symbolic ethnicity’. The suggestion is that many Americans have a ‘taste . . . for ethnicity in a mild form, without strong commitments to ethnicity as a social bond’ (Alba 1990 : 251). There is adherence to cultural markers of identification (cuisine, saints' days, life cycle rituals) which are ‘somewhat intermittently and consciously maintained’ (Waters 1990 : 116). The result is a ‘fragile and thin layer’ (Alba 1990 : 121) of ethnically specific cultural expressions of identity ‘alloyed to a larger body of common American culture’. Although it is not just a matter of talk, certainly in the USA there is a great deal of talk (at the very least talk) about ethnic and cultural pluralism. In Alba's survey ( 1990 : 79) ‘Discussing your ethnic background with someone else’ was the second most frequently cited ‘ethnic experience’, after eating ethnic cuisine. Nevertheless symbolic ethnicity has very little practical impact in the everyday world of the middle‐class white American suburbanites who espouse it. For such Americans ‘ethnic’ identity is highly flexible, and largely a matter of choice: evidence reported by Waters ( 1990 : 40) shows the extent to which informants changed their ethnic identification between interviews a year apart. Within certain limits, says Alba, ‘whites are largely free to identify themselves as they will and to make these identities as important as they like’ ( 1990 : 295). This is manifestly not true of other Americans: ‘the ways in which ethnicity is flexible and symbolic and voluntary for white middle‐class Americans are the very ways in which it is not so for non‐white and Hispanic Americans’ (Waters 1990 : 156). Consider, for example, the ‘exploratory project’ of a Korean‐American in Los Angeles in the early 1990s: find a corner grocery shop, stay open all hours, and get a .38 Police Special for protection.
There are other ways of understanding ethnic and cultural pluralism under conditions of post‐high‐modernity (see further below), but one question should not be evaded: why ethnicity? As Breines suggests, it is necessary to ask ‘why our age finds it so intensely important to have any sort of ethnic identity in the first place’ (Breines 1992 : 539). Compared with the past, when similarity formed (p.227) their basis, political demands and identities are now more often couched in language of ‘difference’ (Goulbourne 1991 : 12, Samuel 1989a : xx). How should we understand what has been variously described as this ‘new politics of difference’ (Phillips 1993 : 144, Hall 1992a : 257), this ‘new “identity” politics’ (Silverman 1992 : 124, Brunt 1990 : 152), and the ‘politics of recognition’ (Taylor 1994 ).
A useful starting point is Wagener's discussion of the sociology of post‐modernity ( 1992 ) where he adapts Giddens's term ‘disembedding’ (Giddens 1991 ). Though not concerned with ethnic and cultural pluralism, Wagener's account of the ‘disembedding’ which has accompanied the social and economic change associated with post‐industrialism provides a context in which a discussion of contemporary pluralism may be located. Wagener argues that postmodernism as philosophy, rather than being a product of post‐industrial society, is a response to it. Postmodern theorists in the late twentieth century are, he suggests, reacting to contemporary economic, social, and political change, and their reaction resembles that of the ‘crisis‐of‐modernity’ theorists at the end of the nineteenth century. There was, then too, a widespread sense of social and political crisis which accompanied the transition to ‘modern’ society. This in turn ‘followed on, or went along with, a disembedding process of grand scale’ (p. 482). Major changes in the order of society, major social disruptions stemming from rapid industrialization and urbanization, ripped people from long‐established ways of living in an era when, in Europe and the USA, there was also an upsurge in xenophobia. The disruption was, however, eventually resolved through a ‘reembedding’ of the population of modern societies along lines of class and nation (compare Glazer and Moynihan 1975 : 18), and the first half of the twentieth century may be characterized as a period in which the ‘organization of society's individuals as members of a class or nation was more or less successfully or disastrously tried’ (Wagener 1992 : 482). In the late twentieth century there have once again been major changes in the order of society which have resulted once again in widespread social ‘disembedding’, not least from class and nation. In postmodern and post‐industrial societies there has been a crisis of the nation‐state accompanied by a crisis of class as a mode of organization and identification. Thus far, however, ‘nothing comparable to the organization of the society's individuals during the first period [has] happened’ (Wagener 1992 : 483). There has, as yet, been no comparable ‘reembedding’.
Wagener's comparison of two periods of ‘disembedding’ brings to mind the suggestion sometimes made that postmodernity is a condition of displacement that could occur at any time in history. To use ‘postmodern’ in this way is not especially helpful as it destroys its historic specificity. (It would not be useful to write about ‘postmodernity’ in the context of, say, late fifth‐century Athens or fin de siècle Paris). None the less, the suggestion that the symptoms of what is currently called ‘postmodernity’ have occurred in other periods deserves attention. This brings to mind Durkheim's concept of ‘anomie’, the structural (p.228) condition of ‘deregulation’ which Durkheim observed in certain periods in nineteenth‐century France. These periods of deregulation and disembedding may in turn be correlated, at least in the ‘quadrisphere’, though, increasingly during the late twentieth century, across the globe as a whole, with periods of severe economic depression, themselves perhaps identifiable as low points in a long‐term Kondratieff cycle. (Interestingly, Stuart Hall notes one criticism of the ‘New Times’ argument: that what was portrayed were the conditions on the upward slope of a ‘Kondratiev’ curve, 1990 : 122.)
This wider context inevitably takes us some way beyond our immediate concerns, and we must return to the principal theme, and consider how ethnic and cultural pluralism might appear in this scenario. Are ‘ethnics’ to be seen, perhaps like coal miners, as left behind, relics of modernity, or is ethnicity, if not a product of postmodernity, a response to it?
5. Why Pluralism? Why Now?
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the solution to the problems of an industrializing, urbanizing society involved a consolidation of the assimilative state. In France, for example, nationalisation pressed ahead from the time of the Third Republic, drawing citizens ever more closely into state structures, guaranteeing the advantages of citizenship, extending means of communication, and so on, reaching its apogee in the years after World War II (Noiriel 1992 : 179). Kallen's cultural pluralism was a response precisely to that kind of solution ( 1924 : 9ff., 84). It represented a Romantic reaction to the fulfilment of the Enlightenment dream, comparable to the poet Mistral's seeking in Provençal regionalism a bulwark against late nineteenth‐century industrialization (Grillo 1989 ). In what ways is pluralism now a product of, or a reaction to, the international development of capitalism, easy and rapid means of international transport and communication, the emergence of supranational institutions, and other social and economic changes characterisic of the contemporary condition? That there is such an effect is widely accepted. Hall, for example, writes of globalization ‘powerfully dislocating national cultural identities’ ( 1992b : 299), generating a ‘fragmentation of cultural codes . . . multiplicity of styles, emphasis on the ephemeral, the fleeting, the impermanent, and on difference and cultural pluralism’ (ibid.: 302). Moreover, through flexible specialization and niche marketing globalization, ‘actually exploits local differentiation’ (p. 304). Thus:
(p.229) Thus, one way of approaching the question is a macroscopic one, stressing the decline of the nation‐state as the principle focus of economic, political, and social activity. The nation‐state, squeezed from above and from outside no longer shapes things as it once did and is in retreat.
As a tentative conclusion it would appear that globalization does have the effect of contesting and dislocating the centred and ‘closed’ identities of a national culture. It does have a pluralizing impact on identities, producing a variety of possibilities and new positions of identification, and making identities more positional, more political, more plural and diverse (Hall 1992b : 309).
At the same time, as Bell suggested long ago, the new forces and institutions operating at a multinational, supranational, global level have as yet ‘no real “civil theology” to bind them’ ( 1975 : 144). They do not, and cannot, provide a moral force, organize a community, command personal loyalty, provide a basis for identification. The relevance of this to ethnic and cultural pluralism lies in Bell's view that where this civil theology is absent, then ‘one finds the centrifugal forces of separatism gaining strength’. The link between the breakdown of the nation‐state and enhanced space for ethnic and cultural pluralism is also made explicit by Ronald Cohen: ‘increased localism and the active dismantling of centralized governmental control along with a worldwide movement for increased democratization, means that pluralism is on the rise’ ( 1993 : 251). Mass communications, the mobility of capital, international migration, adds Goulbourne, have ‘helped to undermine the continuing relevance of the nations‐state duo’ ( 1991 : 219). Ironically, mass communications and mobility of labour were often the very things which the nation‐state made possible, and vice versa.
Hannerz, seeking a way of signalling the interdependence of social, cultural, economic, and political relations which characterize contemporary experience, has promoted the phrase ‘global ecumene’ ( 1992 , 1996 ), meaning roughly the totality of the known world, which nowadays is coterminous with the planet. A consequence of existing in such a world is that essentialist visions of culture and society become ‘unviable’ (Werbner 1997a : 6). There is, however, what seems to be a paradox here: ‘It is a feature of the contemporary world that groups and individuals apparently become more similar and more different at the same time . . . although people in a certain sense become more similar because of modernization, they simultaneously become more distinctive’ (Eriksen 1993 : 147). Globalization brings with it ‘powerful centripetal waves of cultural homogenisation’ (Eriksen 1993 : 149; compare Hall 1992b : 313, Waters 1995 : 136), yet globalization has also been accompanied by massive movement of population, voluntary and involuntary, in what Castles and Miller ( 1993 ) have called The Age of Migration. ‘All societies’, says Taylor, ‘are becoming increasingly multicultural, while at the same time becoming more porous . . . more open to international migration; more of their members live the life of diaspora, whose center is elsewhere’ ( 1994 : 63). New migrations, new diasporas, new ‘localisms’ are constantly emerging (Eriksen 1993 : 150), and new choices have to be made: to be Asian or West Indian or English or British or Asian and West Indian and English and British, and perhaps ‘European’ as well (Goulbourne 1991 : 5). At the same time, ‘unable to control the social relations in which they find themselves, people have shrunk the world to the size of their communities and begun to act politically on that basis’ (Gilroy 1987 : 245). So (p.230) the nation‐state retreats, ethnic and cultural pluralism advance; and the more they advance, the less the nation‐state becomes capable of acting.
6. Cosmopolitans, Transnationals, and Hybrids
To say ‘pluralism advances’ of course begs the question: pluralism of what kind? As Hall comments: ‘The trend towards “global homogenization” . . . is matched by a powerful revival of “ethnicity”, sometimes of the more hybrid or symbolic varieties, but also frequently of the exclusive or “essentialist” varieties’ ( 1992b : 313). There are manifestly different ways of living ‘pluralistically’, and some of these become apparent if, in keeping with the notion of globalization and all it entails, we focus on the migrant. Migration and diaspora are key terms in current debates in social and cultural studies with migrants celebrated as archetypal hero(ines)/victims. Obliged to live within and between cultures, they must, metaphorically and usually practically, be multilingual and multicultural. Yet their multiculturalism (polyphonic, syncretic, hybrid) is very different from that described in previous chapters.
In Bhabha's view, the most productive contribution to the Rushdie debate came from feminists,
The position he takes on the affair thus broadens the issues to encompass the wider debate about pluralism in Britain. This is of a piece with his general position on culture and society in a post‐colonial world which he signals through the word ‘hybridity’ (or ‘hybridization’). Writers such as Bhabha and Gilroy reject both separatism and, as Bhabha's remark cited above indicates, much of what passes for multiculturalism in British policy. His starting point is an ‘international culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture's hybridity’ (1994: 38). Culture is seen as a dynamic force, ‘an enactive, enunciatory site’ (p. 178), and to that extent all cultures are ‘hybrid’, though Bhabha is particularly concerned with the hybridity which occurred in the colonial period (in India, for example), and currently in a post‐colonial world. I return to hybridity in a moment; but it is useful first to look at two other ways in which plurality is experienced.
concerned less with the politics of textuality and international terrorism, and more with demonstrating that the secular, global issue lies uncannily at home, in Britain—in the policies of local government and the race relations industry; in the ‘racialization of religion’ in multicultural Britain; in the imposition of homogeneity on ‘minority’ populations in the name of cultural diversity or pluralism (Bhabha 1994 : 229).
The old term ‘cosmopolitans’ has recently been resurrected to refer to communities which transcend national boundaries: scholars, scientists, artists, feminists, advocates of human rights, socialists (Waldron 1995 : 102). In another category would be the officials of international organizations such as the UN or (p.231) the European Union in Brussels, dreaming of ‘European citizenship’ (Shore and Black 1994 ). These are carriers of a ‘transnational culture’ (Hannerz 1992 : 249), not confined to a single nation or state. Hannerz rightly points to an earlier discussion of the cosmopolitan intellectual by Karl Mannheim ( 1936 ), though Mannheim himself wanted to distinguish between the conservative ‘cosmopolitic’ intellectual and the progressive internationalist ( 1952 : 168), and it would be interesting to consider the differences between the cosmopolitans of Mannheim's generation and those of Hannerz's (the Saids, for example, the Spivaks, and the Gilroys). Manifestly the global ecumene of the year 2000 is different from that of 1900 or 1930 or even 1960. The same applies to another category for whom the term ‘transnational’ might be the most appropriate (following Hannerz 1996 , Kearney 1995 , Rex 1996 , and Werbner 1997a ).
Transnationals are migrants who differ from cosmopolitans in that ‘their loyalties are anchored in translocal social networks . . . rather than the global ecumene’ (Werbner 1997a : 12). Their situation is typical of many international labour migrants and so‐called diasporic communities. (The term ‘diaspora’ has expanded far beyond its original sense and now refers to a wide range of migrant and exile groups to the point where virtually everyone now has a diaspora. Cohen, 1997 , attempts to institute some rigour into the discussion.) Pakistani migrants (extensively studied by Werbner), Sikhs, a favourite example of Rex's, and Senegalese street traders in France, Italy, and other countries are excellent illustrations of the phenomenon of transnationalism. The Senegalese may be based in a city or region, but are mobile within their country of (temporary) residence, between that and other countries in which their trading networks are established, and between them and their home regions in Senegal (Bruno Riccio, personal communication). Latino migrants in Sacramento whom M. P. Smith ( 1992 ) describes through an adaptation of Rosaldo's metaphor of ‘border crossings’, provide another example. Transnational migration of this kind is, of course, far from a recent phenomenon, and the differences between the form it takes now and what happened in the past deserve much fuller consideration than can be accorded here.
Transnationals, like cosmopolitans, are likely to be multilingual and multicultural, but their situation, their multiculturalism, must be distinguished from that of a third category: hybrids. ‘Hybridity’ is an awkward word. It appears to have entered postmodern and post‐colonial critical theory via architecture: Rose draws attention to the way in which Jencks ( 1978 ) used it ‘to describe the complexity of codes in postmodern architecture’ ( 1991 : 105). For the literary critic Hassan, ‘hybridization’ (the ‘mutant replication of genres’, 1987: 170) is one of eleven ‘definiens’ of postmodernism along with indeterminacy, fragmentation, decanonization, and so on (1987: 168–72). It is somewhat puzzling, however, that this word, which is of course a biological metaphor, should appear innocently in post‐colonial theoretical writing, unless of course intended as a deliberate, ironic gesture of defiance against the ‘degeneracy’ (cultural and physical) of ‘miscegenation’ or ‘mongrelization’ presumed by (p.232) racist thought (Young 1995 : 10). Papastergiadis ( 1997 : 258) in fact suggests this may be the case with Rushdie: Cohen ( 1997 : 130) and Waldron ( 1995 : 93) both cite Rushdie's own assessment ( 1991 ) that the Satanic Verses ‘celebrates hybridity, purity, intermingling . . . It rejoices in mongrelization’.
In earlier anthropological literature on the Caribbean, ‘hybrid’ was certainly used biologically, to refer to people of mixed racial origin (Smith 1965 : 6), though it was also used metaphorically as in ‘cultural hybridism’ (ibid.: 172, Wolf 1962 : 254). None the less, it is not pedantry to insist that whether or not the intent is ironic, biological metaphors need to be used with great care when referring to culture and identity, not least when, as a good dictionary would remind us, hybrids are sterile (Cohen 1997 : 131, Young 1995 : 8). The same applies to another metaphor widely used in this context: schizophrenia. Gilroy, who employs ‘hybridity’ in The Black Atlantic, signals as possible alternatives ‘creolisation’, ‘métissage’, ‘mestizaje’ ( 1993b : 2). ‘Hybridity’ does not appear in earlier work ( 1987 ), where he uses ‘syncretism’ instead, and this may be preferable.
Hybridity signals a range of themes, and perhaps now carries too much baggage. For Bhabha it refers to what happens culturally in the ‘third space’, the ‘interstitial passage between fixed identifications’ ( 1994 : 4): this is where multilingualism and multiculturalism is made possible and their creative potential exploited. The concept also draws on the Bakhtinian concept of ‘heteroglossia’, the juxtaposition of voices within texts (Papastergiadis 1997 : 267–8, Werbner 1997a : 4–5, Young 1995 : 20), and perhaps on a Lévi‐Straussian notion of bricolage (Back 1996 : 5). Thus, as Gilroy implies, it has to do with linguistic and cultural syncretism and with creolization (Hannerz 1992 , 1996 ). Hybridity therefore celebrates polyphony and creativity. As Rushdie says, it also ‘rejoices in mongrelization’, perhaps in a biological rather than cultural sense, appealing simultaneously to a social, cultural, and physical ‘Brazilianization’, as it were, or at any rate imagined Brazilianization, from which would emerge new social and cultural forms, and new persons. Thus Back: ‘Young people . . . are creating cultures that are neither simply black nor simply white. These syncretic cultures produce inter‐racial harmony while celebrating diversity . . . and result in volatile cultural forms that can be simultaneously black and white’ (1996: 159). And consider Bissoondath's ‘new vision of Canadianness . . . a Canada where inherent differences and inherent similarities meld easily and where no one is alienated with hyphenation. A nation of cultural hybrids, where every individual is unique, every individual distinct . . . a cohesive, effective society enlivened by cultural variety: reasonable diversity within vigorous unity’ (1994: 224). In a curious way does not this echo nineteenth‐century visions of the ‘melting pot’?
What emerges from Gilroy and Bhabha is that multiculturalism, and still more separatism, are underpinned by a static view of culture and cultural production and by cultural essentialism. There is an underlying sense of cultural (p.233) difference as ‘fixed, solid almost biological properties of human relations’ (Gilroy 1987 : 39). The result has been to promote a ‘pseudo‐pluralism’ in which ‘a culturally defined ethnic particularity has become the basis of political association’ (ibid.). This reification and freezing of culture is something that Gilroy finds in ‘Afro‐centricity’, a form of separatism which operates with an ‘essentialist’ view of black culture and identity ( 1993a : 122, 197, 1993b : 31). This ‘desire to anchor themselves in racial particularity’ ( 1993b : 86) runs counter to the historic hybrid or syncretic character of black (and other) cultures which have always been in a constant state of renewal. Ethnicity, says Gilroy, is an ‘infinite process of identity construction’ ( 1993b : 223; compare Hall 1992a ), and the reification of culture through both multiculturalism and separatism seeks to impose an unacceptable block on that process. As Sollors remarks, ‘Perhaps ethnic scholars ought to develop as much joy in syncretism as they have found in purity and authenticity in the past’ ( 1986 : 246).
For Gilroy, what is paramount has been the development of black culture and identity in a dynamic way within the context of what he calls a Black Atlantic: ‘A new structure of cultural exchange has been built up across the imperial networks which once played host to the triangular trade’, that is slavery ( 1987 : 157). These networks have four nodes: the Caribbean, USA, Europe, and Africa, the limits, in broad terms, of the black diaspora, with London, in the 1980s and 1990s, ‘an important junction point’ in this ‘web’ of black political culture and identity ( 1993a : 141). In his view, therefore, the process of cultural production transcends the traditional boundaries of nation‐states, and must be seen in relation to the ‘transnational character of modes of production, social movements and informational exchanges’ ( 1993a : 71). In similar fashion, new information and communication technologies ‘have taken all nationalisms away from their historic association with the technology of print cultures’ ( 1993a : 192).
This intersection of the local and the global in the production of culture and identity may at first sight be thought of as a problem of interest only to cosmopolitan intellectuals. Comments by Bhabha might seem to confirm this. Referring to ‘the people of the pagus—colonials, postcolonials, migrants, minorities—wandering peoples who will not be contained within the Heim of the national culture and its unisonant discourse’ ( 1990 : 315), he gives the appearance, at times, of locating them in some universal Paris: ‘Gatherings of exiles and émigrés and refugees, gathering on the edge of “foreign” cultures; gathering at the frontiers; gatherings in the ghettos or cafés of city centres; gathering in the half‐life, half‐light of foreign tongues’ (p. 291). Here ‘hybrid’ appears to mean marginal, and the marginality, the cultural doubleness of the migrant or exile, is an old theme (Sollors 1986 : 243, 252). Another, perhaps better sense of what hybridity means at the street level emerges from Gilroy. He remarks of one record, the 1990 hit by the ‘Impressions’ entitled ‘Proud of Mandela’, that it (p.234)
The ‘fusion and intermixture’ he commends is revealed in the work of another group, ‘Fun‐Da‐Mental’, whose leader is Haq Qureishi, Pakistani‐born but who grew up in Bradford. Known at school as ‘Pete’, but calling himself ‘Propa‐Gandhi’, he sees their songs and lyrics opposing the idea of Asians as passive recipients of racial abuse. ‘Seize the time’, for example, contains the lines: ‘We're ready for a collision with the opposition | It won't be a suicide mission | And one thing about me, I'm not afraid to die’. The rap style enables the writer of an article (Caroline Sullivan) to describe the group as ‘half‐West Indian/half‐Pakistani’, a music for which, ‘ironically’, as she says, ‘most of their audience is white’ (Guardian, 17 June 1994; see also Gardner and Shukur 1994 , and Hutnyk 1997 ).
brings Africa, America, Europe, and the Caribbean seamlessly together. It was produced in Britain by the children of Caribbean and African settlers from raw materials supplied by black Chicago but filtered through Kingstonian sensibilities in order to pay tribute to a black hero whose global significance lies beyond the limits of his partial South African citizenship and the impossible national identity which goes with it ( 1993b :95).
Some of the most interesting writing on hybridity has come from cultural studies concerned with popular music. This may lead to the reproach that it is ‘far too textual’, as Wolff ( 1992 : 557) says of Smith's account of Latino creative endeavours to ‘make a space’ for identity at the intersection of the global and local ethnic identity. Certainly Smith's study is partly textually based, in a manner reminiscent of Gilroy (see, for example, the description of Latino identity in song, 1992: 516–23), but he goes far beyond the text to provide an institutionally rooted, though not institutionally confined, rendering of how ethnicity operates in a postmodern, post‐industrial, transnational environment. There is also what Back ( 1996 : 11) calls a ‘small but significant literature’ dealing with multiracial areas of Britain which describes how new, syncretic cultures are emerging among gangs of young people. Back himself and in an earlier study, Roger Hewitt ( 1986 ), both describe how young people from racially mixed South London housing estates have begun to develop a common culture. Hewitt shows how black (British, Jamaican) language and music has ‘hegemonic authority’ (p. 81) in the clubs and on the streets, and this leads to some white youths adopting black speech and lifestyle. Both Hewitt and Back stress that in the clubs and on the playgrounds a novel culture was being negotiated. ‘Young white and black people’, says Back, ‘construct an alternative public sphere in which truly mixed ethnicities develop’ (Back 1996 : 158), and this to an extent transcends the barriers of race.
Those who write about hybridity are in the main optimists, seeing in it a way forward out of the quagmire of essentialism and multiculturalism. Others are not so sanguine, and Back himself stresses the need for caution in ‘projecting romantic and utopian desires on to the accounts and interpretations of the culture of young people’ (1996: 1). In Hewitt's study, relationships did not (p.235) survive much beyond the mid‐teens and leaving school, and Back found that young Vietnamese were excluded by both blacks and whites. Friedman and Hutnyk both criticize hybridity on political grounds. For Friedman it is elite, cosmopolitan idealism, and far removed from the ‘Balkanisation and tribalisation experienced at the bottom of the system’ ( 1997 : 85). Hutnyk describes it as ‘a rhetorical cul‐de‐sac which trivialises Black political activity’ ( 1997 : 128). ‘This view of the world seems very happy to identify differences and celebrate multiplicities’, he says, and continuing in Dave Spart vein, ‘but does little in the way of organizing political alliances across these differences. It is all well and good to theorise the diaspora, the post‐colony and the hybrid; but where this is never interrupted by the necessity of political work, it remains a vote for the status quo’ (Hutnyk 1997 : 134). He is right, of course, to point to the need to address ‘the contextualising conditions in which these [cultural] phenomena exist’ (ibid.), but his own agenda seems as devoid of substance as those he criticizes.
What now, then? What will eventually happen in postmodern and post‐industrial societies is unclear because not yet determined. It is not obvious what kind of pluralism will prevail: institutional pluralism (what the French would call ghettoisation), the messiness of multiculturalism, or that hybridity which, argues Gilroy ( 1987 : 219), comes from ‘stepp[ing] outside the confines of modernity's most impressive achievement—the nation‐state’. (None would have pleased Gellner, for whom ‘in a mobile world of overlapping communities, the diversity of communal visions is a problem, not a solution’, 1987 : 168.) Ironically, the globalization which encourages hybridity also fosters conditions where separatism and other forms of particularism might flourish. In the deregulated political and moral economies of the late twentieth century, where there has been ‘a disintegration of social aggregates’, where there are only ‘individuals’, and ‘no such thing as society’, institutional pluralism and hybridity are both understandable responses to the multiply riven, media‐driven, anarchic, postmodern, post‐industrial wastelands inhabited by many ethnic minorities in Britain, France, and the USA, a landscape vividly portrayed in the mid‐1990s in the French film La Haine.
For most of us, I suspect, the problem remains one of navigating between the ‘Scylla of universalism and the Charybdis of differentialism’ (Wieviorka 1997 : 149). Much has been written in the 1990s about the rights of cultural and ethnic minorities, and it is clear from the work of Kymlicka that liberals can justify a wide range of group‐specific rights of the kind which go with a relatively strong form of multiculturalism. Although much less familiar with the position of minorities such as Muslims in Europe than he is with racial and ethnic minorities in North America, Kymlicka provides a convincing philosophical basis for a (p.236) politics of difference from a liberal perspective. On the other hand, like Taylor ( 1994 ), he has a less sure grasp of questions of power, and as his comments on numerous issues suggest, of the day‐to‐day practicalities of living in a multicultural society: his suggestion that ‘shared identity’ will provide the basis for unity in multinational states ( 1995a : 187ff.) seems to beg all the questions of what and how.
My own feeling is that matters are determined less by philosophy than by rapports de force, and I make no claim to have any answers. None the less, like Rex, Werbner, and others, I believe that so far as migrants are concerned a nonessentializing version of ‘egalitarian’ multiculturalism, if that is possible, one which provides for a genuine integration, is probably the least‐worst solution. Perhaps Noah Yannick is right: liberté, fraternité, AND diversité. A ‘politically reconfigured’ multiculturalism (the phrase is Back's, 1996 : 251), however, requires a strong national and local state prepared to intervene directly in society's affairs, for and on behalf of egalitarian multiculturalism's ideals, and willing to tolerate a vibrant, ethnically and culturally diverse, civil society. Under modernity, the state acknowledged it had such an interventionist role, though usually it intervened to suppress rather than promote difference. Goulbourne has called for it to ‘resume its historical responsibilities’ ( 1991 : 238), though not necessarily its traditional stance. Whether there is the will or the ability or the resources remains to be seen, but it would be safest to assume that we will have to learn to do without it.