February 21, 2006
Against Plural Monoculturalism
Amartya Sen is one of my favourite economists, because he comes across as being a thoughtful and humane man, committed to human freedom. His latest focus of attention, express in a recent article in The Guardian is on the dangers what he calls Plural Monoculturalism:
"What grates on Sen is the idea that individuals should be ushered like sheep into pens according to their religious faith, a mode of classification that too often trumps all others and ignores the fact that people are always complex, multi-faceted individuals who choose their identities from a wide range of economic, cultural and ideological alternatives. "Being defined by one group identity over all others," he says, "overlooking whether you're working class or capitalist, left or right, what your language group is and your literary tastes are, all that interferes with people's freedom to make their own choices."
What begins by giving people room to express themselves, he argues, may force people into an identity chosen by the authorities. "That is what is happening now, here," he says, a little indignantly. "I think there is a real tyranny there. It doesn't look like tyranny - it looks like giving freedom and tolerance - but it ends up being a denial of individual freedom. The individual belongs to many different groups and it is up to him or her to decide which of those groups he or she would like to give priority.""
As he argued in an article in the FT (reproduced here):
"Multiculturalism can be understood in terms of making it possible for people to have cultural choice and freedom, which is the very opposite of insisting that a person’s basic identity must be simply defined by the religious community in which he or she is born, ignoring all other priorities and affiliations."Posted by richard at February 21, 2006 1:20 PM