Parity between crisis of multiculturalism and economic recession
Ongoing economic recession in the world has its negative impact on the multiculturalism values of the West. Thus, citizens of those European countries suffering from profound economic crisis and high unemployment rate display greater animosity toward the new inhabitants. French newspaper “Le Parisien Dimanche” conducted a survey among the French on the issue of referendum with respect to restrictions on movement of migrant labor in the European Union. Some 60 % of respondents favored introduction of quota restrictions on migrants.
Growing unemployment and shaky social security among the native Europeans, on the backdrop of rising migration, questions the very sustainability of Western multicultural values and tolerance. Purportedly, failure of the European model of multiculturalism has to do with migrants’ inability to grasp universal Western norms of life and soft European legislature, based on democratic principles and human rights. This has lead to rise of proponents of extreme nationalistic ideology and far-right political parties, as well as racist and chauvinistic rhetoric.
Apparently, as economic situation deteriorates, migrants, who were once invited and stimulated by the very European states and today, conversely face attitude, defying such universal values as justice, democracy, tolerance and human rights. Somehow, this has to be accepted as a normal practice and an effort to preserve Western identity. Although actions against migrants are indeed a retreat from democratic principles, European political leaders do not refrain from resorting to such steps.
Inviting foreign labor and demonstrating segregation toward them, depending from the economic situation, is incompatible with the multicultural values. What kind of multiculturalism is it, when rejection of national-moral values by the very migrants is regarded as climax of multiculturalism? Warning of failed multiculturalism is nothing but an outcome of erroneous policies pursued by the Western nations.
Multiculturalism and migration policy
The impact of migration policies of the European nations upon the crisis of multiculturalism is currently on the agenda. It is fascinating to examine the historical tradition and the Western philosophy of life regarding those considered as aliens. It has historically been known that from the days of the Roman Empire, the Romans referred to the city of their residence as an “eternal city” and as such, placed themselves superior to others. True Roman would acquire specific values and put a distinction between self and others, including visitors from other cities.
Roger Osborn, a researcher in the field of civilizations writes, “Greek, Hellenic, and Roman civilizations’ view of other peoples and cultures as a “barbaric world” was the bedrock of an attitude of the Western civilizations toward others based on the criteria of discrimination” (Осборн Р. Цивилизация. Новая история западного мира. Москва АСТ 2008, p. 144). These are the exact principles that underlie the position the migrants are placed in Europe.
In this sense, migration policies pursued by the European countries can safely be named as one of the key reasons for the volatility of the multicultural society because multiculturalism primarily signified an attitude toward historical national minorities. Nonetheless, migration policy bolstered by the European authorities and calculated to integrate labor migrants into a system of common cultural values has clearly failed. Despite the statements of the European politicians that migrants are not there to stay, this assumption is detached from reality.
First experience when migrants were held equal to national minorities happened in Europe. Leading nations in this field, Sweden and the Netherlands took action to protect the rights of the migrants in the early 1970s and 1980s respectively. The state sponsored various measures to ensure education in native language, printed media publishing and other rights of the migrants. Still, only a limited group of active migrants were considered eligible. Rise in their numbers and adherence to their own values eventually resulted in abandoning of these initiatives by the European authorities.
Both countries backtracked in their legislatures in the 1990s. In Sweden, where migrants were held equal to ethnic minorities (Samis and Finns) legislature on protection of the rights of migrants was amended (M. Saininen. “The Swedish Model as an Institutional Framework for Immigrant Membership Rights / Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 1999. Vol. 25). The Netherlands had scrapped its minorities’ development program in 1983 (H. Entzinger. The Rise and Fall of Multiculturalism: The Case of The Netherlands. C. Joppke, E. Morawska, Toward Assimilation and Citizenship, Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan. 2003).
Contrary to the European countries, there are other parts of the world where nations apply stringent migration laws, yet experience no problems related to multiculturalism. Japanese model can be cited as success. Japan’s migration rules are quite conservative and obtaining citizenship is associated with complex procedures. State regulates the migrants’ numbers and still provokes no speculations under political pretexts. Large populations of ethnic minorities in the country are the Chinese, Koreans and Brazilians. These people are neither being discriminated against, nor are there any problems.
Azerbaijan where multiculturalism is accepted as a way of life is one of the places that multiculturalism flourishes. Located at a geographical crossroad between East-West and North-South and where Christianity meets Islam, Azerbaijan serves as a hub for different civilizations and cultures and signifies perpetual nature of multiculturalism. In his address to the Second International Humanitarian Forum in Baku, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev said, “Multiculturalism is our way of life. Albeit a young notion, multiculturalism has pertained to our nation for centuries. For centuries representatives of different faiths and peoples lived in Azerbaijan as a family”. Key precondition for the success of multiculturalism is the coexistence universal and national ideas, as well as preservation of national identity of the peoples encompassed by the system of multicultural values.
Thus, a failure of the Western experience must not imply a crisis or demise of multiculturalism. Successful practices around the world attest to the viability of prosperity of different peoples and religions based on mutual respect and preservation of national identity. It simply must not be the ideology of forcible assimilation but rather a lifestyle enduring for centuries.
Solutions emerging in the wake of crisis
Coexistence of bearers of different civilizations, with mutual complementing, is the salvation available to the humanity. Ideology aimed at fabrication of standard criteria out of these values not only experiences crisis but is doomed. Nonetheless, actions envisaged by the new Europe in defining its future can be classified into several groups.
First is integration through assimilation. Primary objective of Europe’s multiculturalism policy remains to be an isolation and assimilation of migrants, instead of ensuring their integration with the host country’s lifestyle. German-style multiculturalism for example, aims not integrate the migrants and their subsequent descendants but rather to isolate them, to impose linguistic and moral restrictions, thereby compelling them to leave. According to Professor Vladimir Malakhov, an expert with the Philosophy Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, “Multiculturalism in Germany envisions segregation instead of integration” (Владимир Малахов. Мультикультурализм в Западной Европе: по ту сторону риторики. http://russiancouncil.ru/inner/?id_4=1155#top).
Second is incorporation of the second generation of migrants into cultural-social-political life of the society. Italian policy is notable in this regard. It was not accidental that Italy’s former PM Romano Prodi once said, “In the person of migrants we are acquiring potential resources. We must pursue integration. Next generation of migrants has to be the next generation of Italians”.
Third is promotion of cosmopolitan values on the global scale. After experiencing a crisis, the West is trying to advance its values globally as a universal idea. This phase can be seen as an attempt to transform the Western model into a universal value, meaning that potential migrants are exposed to the Western values in their native countries, prior to arriving to Europe. The West seeks to tackle the problem pertaining to Europe by employing the cosmopolitan values, alien to national-cultural mentality, on the global scale. Process of globalization of today is focused on creation of a universal model of cultural values from the prism of multiculturalism. Peculiarity of this new trend is that the West is not satisfied with mere imposing of its cultural values and oversees formation of value criteria of other cultures.
Fourth is stringent migration policy. Voting in favor of imposing ceiling height on migrant labor during the referendum held by Switzerland in February 2014 signified a new trend of restricting not only migrants from abroad but also those from the European Union itself. Accordingly, European states are presently stiffening migration policies and searching for ways to surmount the multiculturalism crisis by promotion of cosmopolitan values and overriding of national-cultural peculiarities.
This moment in time will amount to a test in the life of the West and humanity in general. And only the time will show how successfully the humanity overcomes this challenge.
PhD in Economics