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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: September 2014

7 - Group-Conscious Policies: Ethnic Consensus and Cleavage


This chapter turns our attention away from opinions about general norms and principles to preferences regarding the major policy domains highest on the multicultural agenda in the United States. These policies have evoked heated legislative and electoral conflicts, often dividing the main political parties. Due to their visibility, they are more likely than abstract normative questions about descriptive representation or the maintenance of immigrant cultures to have penetrated mass consciousness.

To repeat our starting point, the two overriding purposes of multiculturalism are to redress entrenched political and economic inequalities between racial and ethnic groups and to assure that religious and cultural minorities can survive and flourish in the face of formal and informal pressures to blend in and conform to the mainstream. As articulated in Chapter 1, multiculturalists believe that solutions based on individual rights such as antidiscrimination laws and efforts to provide equality of opportunity are inadequate. Instead, multiculturalism endorses policies that are group-conscious, sometimes explicitly and sometimes only implicitly.

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