Saturday, 5 February 2011

Cameron is right in the wrong way

David Cameron is right to criticise the ideology behind multiculturalism and, in particular, the de facto segregation that has too often been the result of it. That a political leader in a position of power should do so is long overdue. Perhaps too long overdue.

But he is wrong to focus almost entirely on Muslims and Islamism. Firstly, it would be cheap and potentially dangerous political bandstanding even if he hadn't said it the day before the English Defence League march through Luton. Secondly, it encourages us to take our eye off the ball. The problem is much wider than Islamism.

Multiculturalism is a product of a broader - and, by the way, very Eurocentric - culture that makes a fetish of individuality, places often dubious notions of human rights over our core duty to the society that sustains us, and encourages social relations to amount to little more than a series of self-serving claims against people and institutions. These characteristics are deeply corrosive and entirely consistent with discourses from which, even now, no major party is able to free itself.

Governments of both left and right have encouraged this social atomisation over the past 40 or so years. Margaret Thatcher merely extended a selfishly individualistic economic version of Labour's social reforms of the 1960s to her own class; the post-socialist left then replaced whatever social vision it once had with a servile and attenuated individual that was only good for ever-increasing therapeutic manipulation by the state.

Multiculturalism is entirely at home when those two agendas meet, as they have for too long.

I hope that's glib enough for a Saturday morning. Shoot me down. Please.

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