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Meeting the Challenge of Cultural Diversity in Europe

Moving Beyond the Crisis

Robin Wilson

Europe has talked itself into a refugee and security crisis. There is, however, a misrecognition of the real challenge facing Europe: the challenge of managing the relationship between Europeans and the currently stigmatized ‘others’ which it has attracted. Making the case against a ‘Europe of walls’, Robin Wilson instead proposes a refounding of Europe built on the power of diversity and an ethos of hospitality rather than an institutional thicket serving the market.
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Chapter 4: What went wrong?

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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