Bhikhu Parekh, Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000, £14.99 paperback, vii+379 pp. (ISBN 0-333-60081-8)
Stephen May (ed.), Critical Multiculturalism: Rethinking Multicultural and Antiracist Education. London: Falmer Press, 1999, £16.99 paperback, vii+296 pp. (ISBN 0-7507-0767-4)
Christian Joppke and Steven Lukes (eds.), Multicultural Questions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, iv+267 pp. (ISBN 0-19-829610-X)
Barnor Hesse (ed.), Un/settled Multiculturalisms: Diasporas, Entanglements, Transruptions. London: Zed Press, 2000, £15.95 paperback, x+262 pp. (ISBN 1-95649-559-4)
Long recognized as a signifier of difficult matters of policy and schooling, multiculturalism as an idea did not really take hold, in Britain at least, until the 1990s. The ‘cultural turn’ in social theory has helped underscore the second half of the multicultural label, whilst the overwhelmingly pluralist cast of contemporary thought has affirmed the ‘multi’ part. Accordingly, multiculturalism has resisted subsumption under apparently more singular and materialist projects such as anti-racism, political economy and radical postcoloniality. Yet until recently there have been few systematic attempts to articulate and defend the idea of multiculturalism, or to work out its full consequences for concrete understanding. The books under review are important contributions to the development of multiculturalist theory and research, sharpening our sense of multiculturalism's analytical and political reach - its ‘problematic’. Above all, and in strikingly different ways, these volumes wrestle with the taxing overarching issue of whether ‘multiculturalism’ can stand not only as an appropriate descriptive encapsulation of contemporary social diversity, but also as a fully-fledged theoretical and evaluative perspective.