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Robin Wilson

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Robin Wilson

Troubling contemporary developments in Europe have been captured in the phrases ‘refugee crisis’ and ‘security crisis’—indeed these have become interlinked in a moral panic about ‘migration’. Yet the numbers involved in both cases do not bear out the ‘crisis’ talk. Both are manageable, when compared with much larger refugee intakes elsewhere in the world and Europe’s prior experience with refugees fleeing a collapsing Yugoslavia, and when compared with violence elsewhere in the world and in Europe in the 1970s, respectively. Europe has pursued policies of ‘externalization’ towards refugees and ‘securitization’ towards violence, which have not been successful in their own terms and conflict with convention obligations. And the real challenge has been misrecognized—how to manage the growing cultural diversity of Europe in a more effective and normatively adequate manner.

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Robin Wilson

There were two prior paradigms for the management of the relationship of the Self and Other—apart from exclusion of the Other, at worst through the Nazi genocide. Assimilationism had a ‘progressive’ aspect, as in the pure French version in which every individual was treated abstractly as an equal citoyen, but often took a ‘thicker’ form (including in France), where members of minority communities were required to subscribe to a purported majority ‘ethos’. It was associated with nationalizing states and was captured in the formula of ‘self-determination’ at the Paris Peace Conference, but its limits were exposed by the interwar collapse of the League of Nations and the rise of Nazism. By contrast, multiculturalism emerged after the second world war, holding that minority ‘communities’, treated as collective entities, had rights to equal ‘respect’ of their purported cultural identities.

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Robin Wilson

The wars of the Yugoslav succession and ‘September 11’ initiated a series of troubling events throwing into question the adequacy of the old (assimilationism and multiculturalism) models for the management of cultural diversity in Europe. These events continued with the Islamist bombings in Spain and London in 2004 and 2005, respectively, the riots in northern England and France in 2001 and 2005, respectively, and the worldwide protests over cartoons, including images of Muhammad published by a Danish newspaper in 2005, the Utøya massacre of young social democrats in Norway by a far-right figure in 2011, through to the Islamist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan in Paris in 2015, on the airport in Brussels in 2016, and at Manchester arena, Westminster and London Bridge, and in New York, in 2017. At the heart of all of these was a process of outgroup stereotyping, dehumanizing the Other and fostering polarization and violence.

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Robin Wilson

Assimilationism and multiculturalism faced insuperable contradictions. Even ‘progressive’ assimilation suffered from the tension between the substantive liberal norms (particularly equality) it purported to uphold and the illiberal means adopted to enforce them (such as banning the burqa in France). And its inherently relativistic notion of ‘national culture’ was incompatible with the principle of universal norms. Multiculturalism, meanwhile, could only uphold the freedom of the ‘community’ to pursue distinctive cultural practices at the expense of individual rights of voice and exit for those, especially women and girls, corralled within it. It left the majority ‘culture’ unquestioned and unwittingly engendered ‘parallel lives’ with ghettoized living. Both paradigms were overtaken by processes of globalization and individualization which rendered their essentialist conceptions of ‘culture’ obsolete.

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Robin Wilson

There has been considerable debate in recent years as to whether the rise in intolerance associated with the growth of populist parties in Europe is a social phenomenon of the ‘losers of globalization’ or a psychological manifestation of individual authoritarianism. Both the social and the psychological determinants of intolerance can, however, be addressed within a perspective which identifies rising social insecurity on the one hand and an authoritarian predisposition on the other as at play, with the former catalysing the latter. The ‘ordo-liberal’ straitjacket of the eurozone and related austerity measures since the financial crisis have only served to increase unemployment and heighten insecurity, while migrants and refugees have provided convenient scapegoats for the projection of blame by the authoritarian Self on to the Other.

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Robin Wilson

The EU could have been the vehicle for the articulation of a new paradigm for the management of cultural diversity. But not only have its ordo-liberal economic policies exacerbated the challenge but, more generally, the EU as an institution primarily concerned since its establishment with market liberalization has not been best placed to address this fundamentally ethical concern. Much better has been the more longstanding and larger Council of Europe, established in 1949 to say ‘never again’ to aggressive nationalism, anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance through promotion of the universal norms of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These norms are underpinned by the principle of equality of human dignity, intrinsic to humane relationships between the Self and Other. Worryingly, however, support for these norms has been atrophying in recent decades.

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Robin Wilson

The role of the Council of Europe led it to address the challenge of managing cultural diversity in Europe in the wake of the Yugoslav collapse and ‘9/11’. From a small unit on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention in 2002, this work developed as shocks multiplied and member states asked in 2005 for a ‘white paper’ on intercultural dialogue. The product of a widescale consultation, the white paper, launched in 2008, enunciated the new intercultural paradigm. This was founded on democracy, human rights and the rule of law and built an architecture defined by egalitarian individualism, reciprocal recognition and impartial treatment. A wide range of consequent policies and practices were set out. Although some member states subsequently retreated into assimilationism and there was a multiculturalist rearguard action in the academy, the new paradigm has survived and developed.

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Robin Wilson

Every paradigm requires theory-building and interculturalism can draw on the burgeoning work on cosmopolitanism across the social sciences. Cosmopolitanism goes back to the ancient Stoics and Kant but in modern times has been associated particularly with the work of Ulrich Beck. For Beck, the processes of globalization and individualization demand a self-evaluative disposition which is inclusive of the other. But they also engender what he called ‘really-existing cosmopolitanization’: far from being rootless and elitist, this ethic thus operates at all levels down to the street. It is fostered by the trust-based Nordic welfare states, which have proved even more distinctive in recent years. Cosmopolitanism also chimes with the ‘deliberative turn’ in thinking on democracy—where Self and Other engage in serious deliberative exchanges—and offers an alternative to authoritarian populism at a time when support for democracy is weakening.

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Robin Wilson

The urban milieu has throughout history been a resource for creativity because it favours encounters among its diverse denizens. The ICCs programme was established in 2007, just before the white paper, and has trialled the new paradigm on the ground. It has rapidly expanded to more than 120 members at time of writing, including outposts beyond Europe on all four other continents. It has developed as a repository of good practices in a host of domains, from stimulating encounters in a convivial environment to assisting refugee integration into the economic arena. It has worked best with committed political leadership, ‘joined-up’ government across the municipality and engagement of NGOs, all best drawn together in a bespoke municipal integration strategy. There is quantitative evidence that in ICCs member cities attitudes are more xenophilic and general wellbeing is higher. There are, however, tensions with national governments influenced by the populists.