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

5 - Public Opinion and Multiculturalism’s Guiding Norms


In the preceding chapter, we saw that only a small minority in each ethnic group viewed America (or Los Angeles) as a cauldron in which irreconcilable ethnic conflicts boiled and bubbled. However, in establishing the general acceptance of the feasibility and desirability of e pluribus unum, we did not directly assess public opinion about the main principles of multiculturalism as a political ideology. In reviewing the many variants of multiculturalism in the scholarly literature, we distinguished among three components: a theory of personal identity, an image of the political community, and a set of policies designed to implement the normative commitment to the official recognition, representation, and protection of minority groups and their cultures.

In this chapter, we turn to public opinion about these core commitments to group-conscious principles. First, should society recognize an official responsibility for sustaining ethnic diversity, in the sense of government support for the maintenance of cultural differences in the face of the ongoing pressures toward acculturation? We describe this domain as social multiculturalism. Second, should these underlying ideas about the value of preserving ethnic identities and supporting the maintenance of particular cultures on a basis of equality dictate a policy regime based on descriptive representation in domains ranging from politics and professional occupations to the content of education and other cultural areas? We describe this outlook as political multiculturalism.

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