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Multicultural Controversies

Multicultural Controversies
Political Struggles, Cultural Consumerism
and State Management

Imanol Galfarsoro

The Davies Group, Publishers

Aurora, Colorado

Copyright 2014, Imanol Galfarsoro

All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this book may be reproduced,
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

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Printed in the United States of America

Published 2008. The Davies Group, Publishers



Part I

Multiculturalism as Struggle: Society

Chapter 1 Culture is (not) ordinary
Culture and community
Double consciousness
Structures of feeling
Chapter 2 Hegemonic articulations
Infinite dispersal & arbitrary closure
Discourse and constitutive exteriors
There is no society


Part II

Multiculturalism as Consumption: Market

Chapter 3 Others for sale
Indifference to difference
Ideological form of global capitalism
Boutique multiculturalism
Chapter 4 Its the economy, stupid!
Tolerance and respect
Universal, particular, singular
The market (and the) economy


Part III Multiculturalism as Management: State

Chapter 5 Nation and Migration
Border Theory
Implicit assumptions
Chapter 6 The State is death, long live the State!
Sophisticated multiculturalism
State of affairs
References and Bibliography


I have the feeling that my books get written through me and that
once they have got across me I feel empty and nothing is left. [ . .
. ] That is, my work gets thought in me unbeknown to me. I never
had, and still do not have, the perception of feeling my personal
identity. I appear to myself as the place where something is going on,
but there is no I, no me. Each of us is a kind of crossroads where
things happen. The crossroads is purely passive, something happens
there. A different thing equally valid happens elsewhere. There is no
choice; it is just a matter of chance.

Claude Lvi-Strauss, 1978

Albeit never in an overly apocalyptic way, conservative philosophers

and politicians have accustomed us to all kinds of end games: the end
of modernity, the end of ideology, the end of society, the end of history
. . . It is no surprise then that conservative ideology should also be at
the forefront of social trends when coming to proclaim the end of
multiculturalism. This book began to be written some years ago while
the three leaders of the three main State-powers in the European Union
announced almost simultaneously the end of multiculturalism. I am
referring to British Prime Minister David Camerons (2011) attack against
state multiculturalism and his defense of a more active, muscular
liberalism; I am also referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkels
(2010) claim that multiculti politics in Germany had failed, utterly
failed; and I am also referring to (the then) French president Nicholas
Sarcozy who spent the best part of 2009 promoting a great national
debate on French identity.
Obviously, this book is not dedicated to the heads of the three
major European nation-states always so keen to reduce the meaning
of multiculturalism to the question of emigration and what is always
narrativized as its epitome: religious fundamentalism. This book is rather
dedicated to all of those who helped me to present a wider and more
critical view of multiculturalism while pursuing my research work at the
School of Sociology and Social Policy (University of Leeds). Thank you
Salman Sayyid, Paul Taylor, Ian Law, Katy Sian and Kishore Budha.


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I also want to thank Brian Klug, Joseba Gabilondo, Mary Earnshaw,

Santiago Zabala and James K. Davies for their encouragement and
assistance. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to the many friends
and colleagues who have entered into dialogue and discussion with me
and with my work and without whom I would have accomplished but a
fraction of what I have done. I will not name any. To all of them, many
A final heartfelt thank you to my family, my parents, brothers, sisters
and relatives and obviously to my four children, Miren, Lawrence, Antton
and Kattalin for the huge amount of cheering up that they have offered
me along the way, to my wife Donna Lucy for her unending support and
encouragement through thick and thin.

The key witness to the fact that our societies are obviously in-humane is nowadays the illegal proletarian alien: he is the mark, immanent to our situation, of the fact that there is only one world.
Treating the proletarian alien as if he came from another world is
the specific task of the Ministry for National Identity, which has
its own police force (the Border Police). Stating, against such a
State device, that any illegal worker comes from the same world
as me and drawing the practical, egalitarian and militant consequences of this, is an example of provisional morality, a local
orientation which is homogeneous to the communist hypothesis,
within the global disorientation which only its reinstallation can
ward off.
Alain Badiou, 2010

There is an obvious trend and interest in reducing the meaning of

multiculturalism in order to address issues of emigration only. This is
often carried through more or less frightening narratives of race, ethnicity
and religious difference. A consequence of such reductionism is that the
question of multiculturalism and (cultural) difference together with their
main subjects and causes (present emigration certainly, but also past
colonialism, for instance) fail to be seriously accounted for, and critically
engaged with. In this book, while seeking to challenge re-presentations
of otherness understood as an abject object of contempt, the question
of multiculturalism is addressed in a rather more expansive and allencompassing manner.
To do so this book is organized around three main dimensions of
multiculturalism. Three rather lengthy extracts are instrumental to
situate the notion of multiculturalism in the very parameters upon which
this book bases the whole enquiry. From an explicitly stated defense of
multiculturalism in its liberal forms Bhikhu Parekh (2006, 349) sustains
the following:
Multiculturalism is not a homogeneous body of thought. As a
political movement it is just over thirty years old, and as a theoretical

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exploration of it only half as old. Unlike liberalism, it has neither
founders nor canonical texts. It is also not so much a substantive
political doctrine laying down political goals and institutional
structures as a philosophical perspective drawing its inspiration
from a variety of sources. In addition to the widely known liberal
forms of multiculturalism, there are also its conservative, Marxist,
socialist and even racist versions. European multiculturalism is
quite different from the American, and both again from the Indian.
Unlike the United States, European states have long seen themselves
as nation states, demand a close relation between culture and state,
are hospitable or hostile to different kinds of differences, and have
built up a distinct discourse on multiculturalism. Some advocates
of multiculturalism are relativists, some other universalists, yet
others reject this tired and dubious dichotomy. Some again are
individualists, some other communitarians, yet others straddle
both. Just as liberals disagree about their basic values and challenge
each others liberal credentials, so do multiculturalists. When a
writer attacks multiculturalism, we need to be on our guard, for
he is likely to homogenize its different forms, equate it with one
particular strand of it, and end up misunderstanding those who do
not fit his simplistic version of it.

From quite a different perspective to Parekhs liberal multiculturalism,

Barnor Hesse (1999, 1) offers another historical outlook and panoramic
view of multiculturalism within the context of radical identity politics:
Throughout the 1990s the concept of multiculturalism entered the
American and British lexicons of western cultural studies in various
portentous ways. Previously it had been a vaguely western political
ideal. Between the 1960s and 1980s the dominant vague sense of
multiculturalism had been one which valorized the incidence of
harmonious cultural differences in the social, particularly where this
meant the decontestation of race and ethnicity and their conflation
with the individualist ethos of nationalist liberal-democracies. From
the mid-1980s onwards, this distinctive transatlantic configuration
became increasingly unsettled by ethnically marked and crossculturally mobilized interrogations of the nations imagined
communities. Whether inflected in celebratory or condemnatory
idioms, the undulating, urban vernaculars of multiculturalism were
gradually transformed into a critical concept. Multiculturalism
had become a contested frame of reference for thinking about the


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quotidian cohesion of western civil societies uncertain about their

national and ethnic futures.

In addition, Barnor Hesse (1999, ix) states that this framing of

multiculturalism in contesting terms bears the traces of an uneven
British/American dialogue and accounts for a rarely acknowledged
progeny, Black British Cultural Studies.1 Finally, in an attempt to resituate the multiculturalist debate in its social and economic context,
Walter Benn Michaels (2008, 33) speaks of the market dimension of
multiculturalism. This he does in a rather ironic yet informative way by
specifically referring to the relationships between the labor market and
multiculturalism as follows:
One of the great discoveries of neoliberalism is that [racism, sexism, homophobia . . . ] are not very efficient sorting devices, economically speaking. If, for example, you are looking to promote
someone as Head of Sales in your company and you are choosing
between a straight white male and a black lesbian, and the latter
is in fact a better salesperson than the former, racism, sexism and
homophobia may tell you to choose the straight white male but
capitalism tells you to go with the black lesbian. Which is to say
that, even though some capitalists may be racist, sexist and homophobic, capitalism itself is not.

Multiculturalism appears thus to be a complex conceptual entity

conveying several overlapping and contradictory meanings. Yet the
intention of this book is not to dwell too long on building an in-depth
genealogic account of multiculturalism as a concept. Like any other concept,
multiculturalism is an empty signifier. That is to say: the meaning of the
concept of multiculturalism is always open to contestation. As a concept,
multiculturalism has been defined as an all-fitting portmanteau (Bhabha,
1998) and as a shorthand umbrella term (Kymlicka, 2009). In other words,
multiculturalism is a convenient buzzword and the source of highly
contested controversies (West, 1990). This is indeed echoed in academia
as the tradition of liberal multiculturalism is conventionally studied,
mainly albeit by no means only, in the realms of the social sciences and
political theory. Meanwhile what is known as identity politics is linked to
more radical traditions associated with cultural, gender and post-colonial
studies. To all accounts, however, multiculturalism now constitutes an


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institutionalized discourse in the broad fields of the humanities and the

social sciences (including political theory and philosophy, educational
and media studies, cultural and social theory etc).2
As an intellectual project linked to concrete theoretical developments
and academic explorations, discourses on multiculturalism are
organised around a broad spectrum of legal, social, political, historical
and ethical themes as well as technical and bureaucratic issues. As a
practice, multiculturalism accounts nowadays for a wide repository of
interdependent cultural, social, economical and institutional processes
and dimensions where everybody participates in varying degrees and
Another key distinction that must be established is also
between multiculturalism as such and the fact that all societies are
multicultural nowadays. That is to say: on the one hand even the
most traditional of possible mono-cultural communities that may
exist will still be multicultural; this is so to the extent that awareness
exists of the various anthropological splits along the lines of gender,
generation etc which make up such a community. On the other hand,
multiculturalism as such is understood, by and large, as a normative
response to the problem posed by cultural diversity and minority
groups. Yet only some nation-states, certainly not all, take on board
such a problem through a variety of explicit policy making initiatives
[Hall, 2000, 210215; Parekh, 2000, 6]).
As described by Parekh and Hesse, multiculturalism is a notion
contested along a relatively classic political divide. In concrete political
terms, unlike post-colonial and activist approaches to multiculturalism
from below, the aims of liberal multiculturalism are clearly to frame and
indeed to narrow-focus, as it were, the actual realm of multicultural policy
intervention from above. In other words: on the one hand, activist and
radical activist approaches to multiculturalism tend to articulate questions
of identity politics in militant terms whereby race and ethnicity are also
related with gender issues as well as other struggles (pro-civil rights, anticolonial struggles, ecology . . . ) carried out by social movements, single
issue groups, etc. Liberal multiculturalism, on the other hand, tends to
associate multiculturalism solely with the management dimension of
multicultural policy making.


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Will Kymlicka (2009), for instance, is rather clear in this respect.

While praising liberal multiculturalism and stating that it is still
perceived as a high-risk venture in some Western counties (21),
effectively, he is far from embracing any risky adventurewhich is
misleadingly implied in the metaphor used for the title and subtitle
of his book Multiculturalist Odyssey: navigating the new international
politics of diversity. What he rather embraces is the ideology of liberal
multiculturalism that had already become an officially sanctioned
political reality from above both in Canada and Australia in the 1970s.3
Hesse, on the other hand, identifies what are known to be the main
critical and/or radical approaches to multiculturalism from below,
and he does so at both ends of the Anglo-Atlantic divide (anti-racist
struggles in Britain, culture/sex wars in the United States). Hesses
approach speaks thus of radical multiculturalism expanded in the USA
and the UK as a rather more unofficial and parallel ideology through
the 1980s and 90s.4
In short, what is often referred to in this book as militant
multiculturalism speaks of struggles for social and political
recognition. These struggles are both specifically linked to ongoing
anti-racist as well as feminist struggles for racial and gender equality
as well as historically related to former civil disobedience, civil
rights and anti-colonialist struggles. There is, secondly, a more
visibly acknowledged as well as socially and politically practical
or indeed technical approach to multiculturalism. As in the first
case, the practice of this kind of management multiculturalism
certainly involves all institutions of civil society: schools, universities,
churches, media . . . but also the bureaucratic institutions of the state:
judicial system, the army, the police, which all have vested interests
in the administration, supervision and governance of intercultural
relations. Then, thirdly, there is also the ubiquitousalbeit arguably
seldom accounted for and often avoidedeconomic and consumerist
dimension of what is named as market multiculturalism, and which
forms an integral part of this book.
Hence this threefold context of multiculturalism is accounted
for by means of a specifically which as said, is organized into, and is
to be presented in, three main sections already loosely headlined and
conceptualized as follows:


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(1) Militant multiculturalism (activist/radical/critical)
(2) Market multiculturalism (consumerist), and
(3) Management multiculturalism (administrative, expert).

Furthermore, a precise procedural framework is also established

in a parallel manner, whereby, as a matter of emphasis,5 significant
correspondences can be established between three contemporary
moments hinging around two events that have acquired iconic status:
(i) the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989) and (ii) the Al-Qaeda
attacks of September 9, 2001 (in United States shorthand respectively
11/9 and 9/11); three distinct but overlapping spheres of public activity
encapsulated within the classical liberal model of social organization as
well as in the Marxist notion of social formation6: (i) civil society, (ii) the
field of the economy, and (iii) the state; and, three main intersected binaries
through which culture is mainly understood: (i) dominant vs. subordinate
and/or oppositional cultures, (ii) high/elitist vs. popular/mass/ consumer
cultures; and (iii) culture as a whole way of life vs. culture as aesthetic
creation (as in literary production and the arts).
Finally, to this three-fold (historical, social and cultural) approach
another speculative line of enquiry is also added which remains central to
the study of multiculturalism in this book. This key line of enquiry speaks
of what is also referred to as the paradox of universalism (Butler, Laclau,
and iek, 2000) whereby universalism is understood as both necessary
but impossible in its relationships with the notion of particularism.7
Despite Parekhs rejection of this tired and dubious dichotomy, the
discussion regarding the relations between the universal and the particular
is to remain prevalent throughout this enquiry. Hence, it is convenient to
summarily introduce the kernel of this tension between the universal and
the particular. One relevant example that illustrates the poignancy of this
tension stems from Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (2001, xiii) who
frame the terms of this key debate in such a way that their own position
(p)arts company with a conception such as that of Habermas, for whom
universality has a content of its own, independent of any hegemonic
articulation. But it also avoids the other extremerepresented, perhaps,
at its purest in the particularism of Lyotard[s] conception of society as
consisting in a plurality of incommensurable language games.
The relevance of this debate spills over into specific concerns regarding
this enquiry. This becomes apparent through another question, which


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Laclau (1996, 48) formulates in these terms: Is a pure culture of difference

possible, a pure particularism that does away entirely with any kind of
universal principle?
To find answers to this question becomes a task in itself. Consequently,
the discussion on the relations between universalism and particularism is
present across many parallel debates taking place in this book. Over all,
the enquiry developed in this book performs the function of displaying a
large problem, and so offering clues for further reflection and collective
action. In addition, this book is based on forms of social and cultural
research in which the rigor intended cannot be mistaken for a sense of
false neutrality.8
In this introduction, a preliminary, tentative point of departure has
been set forward with which to advance in the study of broad issues related
to the general topic of multiculturalism. To do so a threefold historical,
socio-political and cultural descriptive model and analytical framework
has been presented with which to approach the various dimensions of
radical, consumerist and liberal multiculturalism. The task of the first
section is to analyze what is understood as multiculturalism as struggle.


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Part I
Multiculturalism as Struggle

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part 1 multiculturalism as struggle: society

| 3

A main theme of part I, central also to the entire book, refers to

the questions of subject formation and political subjectivity. The
main argument is that the possibility of protecting oneself in the
security of a unique/unified identity is limited. In this context,
the focus on multiculturalism as struggle (militant/activist/radical
multiculturalism) was (and still is) related to a broad definition of
civil society and the public sphere. This moment in Western post
WWII political and intellectual history, particularly the last third of
the twentieth century, accounts for a twofold activist and intellectual
movement: the emergence/irruption of key procivil rights, protest and
social movements (second wave feminism, ecology etc) together with
the uneven handling in the West of the process of de colonisation in the
Third World; and, the parallel emergence of various crucial paradigm
shifts and/or breaks within the academic fields of the humanities and
the social sciences, which by and large accompanied the new political
developments and cultural and identity formations above.
If anything, multiculturalism as struggle is linked to the struggle
over the meaning of a particular word, notably: culture, the study of
which together with other notions such as community, is brought into
the core of chapter 1. The critical study of concepts such as culture and
community also account for a specific intellectual and activist structure
of feeling whereby the idea of double consciousness permits a move away
from rooted (organic, homogenizing, elitist) cultural politics to routed
understandings of a political culture, which is global and transnational:
diaspora politics, exile identities, foreignness, migration . . .
In chapter 2, the transnational understandings of cultural
politics come together with ideas of multiculturalism as struggle.
Multiculturalism here is linked to the formation of myriad political
subjectivities and pluralized identity politics (gender, ethnicity, class,
etc). This generates intrinsic theoretical problems. A main problem is
that by privileging sheer particularism, diversity and pluralism the
risk of infinite dispersal in political practice must be faced. In this
context, notions such as arbitrary closure and unityin difference speak
of modes of addressing this issue. Central to this chapter are also the
notions of discourse and articulation and hegemony. By insisting on the
idea that political meaning is always contingent and relational it will
be shown how statements such as there is no society acquire different
meanings in different contexts.

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Chapter 1

Culture is (Not) Ordinary

For Marxist cultural critic Raymond Williams (1976) culture was one
of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.
Although he never went on to say explicitly what the other one or two
might possibly be, the concept of communitythat difficult word
(1976, 23)could well fall into this category.1
The study of culture is central to any relevant discussion on
multiculturalism. So too is the necessity of developing some working
definitions of community. An overview of what such key words as
culture and community stand for is the task of the first part of this
chapter. Williams seminal approaches and insights into such concepts
are presented both historically and in terms of their strategic uses within
the context of studying multiculturalism.
In addition, it is commonly argued that, in the context of an
increasingly globalized world during the late twentieth century views on
culture changed dramatically. In this way, traditional views of cultural
authenticity (rooted, organic) and communal homogeneity (cohesion,
unity) were confronted with the formation of trans-national, deterritorialized and heterogeneous cultures and communities (traveling
cultures, diaspora communities). As a consequence, key authors (Stuart
Hall, Paul Gilroy, James Clifford etc) and works are brought forward
in the second part of this chapter. In doing so notions of diaspora,
nomadicism, hybridity, foreignness and exilic consciousness are also
linked to certain ideas of multiculturalism and radical identity politics
organized around complex cross-articulations of gender, ethnicity,
class, etc.
Particularly relevant to this first part of the book, in general, and this
chapter, in particular, are discussions structured around the topic of the
formation and construction of a multiplicity of cultural identities and
struggles for recognition from a variety of perspectives. In this context,
cultural, postcolonial and subaltern studies, together with critical theory,
are considered to be fundamental along a specific line and tradition of

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academic and intellectual engagement with, and commitment to radical

cultural politics. Likewise, an initial mention is made to the new ways of
studying culture and politics that emerged accordingly.
Finally, as it will be shown next, Raymond Williams established a
division between the extended and restricted definitions of culture. At
the end of this chapter another key notion by Williams is presented,
notably that of structure of feeling. This will also serve to put an argument
forward, which is to be repeated in a variety of ways throughout the
book, i.e., that the political discourses, ideals and utopias, as well as,
the resulting desires (and fantasies) invested in multiculturalism at this
time, had, like culture itself, some extended domains of intervention
(geographically global and theoretically radical). With liberal
multiculturalism, this domain of intervention has since been restricted
and narrowed down to the managerial and/or administrative dimension
of the nation-state.
Culture and Community
The notions of culture and community not only constitute a main object
of study in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and cultural studies; they are also central to any understanding of multiculturalism.
As Raymond Williams put it in his books Keywords, (1976) and
Culture (1981) culture is ordinary. Culture is ordinary in the sense that
we all are endowed with culture, and it is not only for a selected elite.
This is perhaps why, as we are all part of culture and as we all participate
in culture, so we feel we have something to say and can have an opinion
about culture. Yet, at the same time, it is also obvious that as an object of
study, culture is a complicated word. The complexity or, more concretely,
the ambivalence of culture as a concept becomes clear as, always
according to Williams, the overall meaning of culture is organized and
articulated around a twofold line.
(1) First there are the notions and visions of culture that are related
to the whole way of life of a community, society or country. These
account for an extended definition and understanding of culture, usually
examined through the intellectual apparatus of knowledge provided
in the humanities by the social sciences, particularly anthropology
and sociology. Here, for instance, Bronislaw Malinowskys classic
anthropological definition comes to mind. According to this definition

culture is (not) ordinary

the essential fact of culture we live, experience and perceive scientifically

is that humans organize themselves in lasting groups (1944, see also
1931). More recently, Paul Willis definition also resonates with this
approach, which sees culture as the very material stuff of our everyday
lives, the bricks and mortar of our common understanding (1977).
Culture in these extended views and definitions, is made of human
customs, languages, representations, attitudes and ideas; it consists of
both the material components and symbolic resources any organized
social group inherits, uses and transmits. Simultaneously, however, as
culture accounts for a continuous process it also transmutes. Hence it is
fair to argue from the outset something that will become clearer later,
namely that culture too is always in transit.
(2) In addition to the understanding of culture as the process defining
normal and ordinary daily life experience, culture as a concept also
expresses another more restricted meaning. This narrow definition, as
it were, limits culture to the realm of aesthetic creation, to the world
of the fine arts and literature. This is an idea that has traditionally
tended to place emphasis on the necessity of culture being nurtured by a
cultivated minority or expert cultural elite as well as privileging the idea
of the individual artistic genius. In Britain, Samuel Taylor Coleridges
position (1976 [1830]) comes to mind according to which, culture is the
harmonious evolution of the qualities and capacities that our humanity
displays. Likewise, Mathew Arnolds enduring cosmopolitan canon and
vision of culture (1965 [1869]) is memorable as he sees culture being
made up of the best that has been shown and told.
As a matter of fact, there is no problem whatsoever with these
visions, definitions and attributes whereby acquiring the taste for
culture (the fine arts, literature etc) amounts to acquainting ourselves
with the history of the human spirit; there is no problem, that is to
say, were it not for the fact that, some 70 years after Arnold and 100
years after Coleridge, Frank Raymond Leavis (1930) would unveil the
very essence hiding behind such apparently pristine positions; namely
that the discerning abilities of art and literature remain at all times
in the hands of a very small minority (see also Leavis and Thompson,
1933). In this regard, it is no coincidence that for Matthew Arnold the
fundamental struggle defining modernity was not as Marxism would
have it, for example, a class struggle between rich and poor but a class
struggle between the guardians of culture and the philistines.

multicultural controversies

What is imperative here is taking into account the timing of most

of these definitions. For in order to understand how culture as a gift
of educated taste comes to be used as a notion mostly of containment,
culture must also be linked to the efforts to redefine it in the face of
the new conditions brought about by modernization throughout
the nineteenth century. In a context of rapid industrialization and
urbanization, it is important to notice that mass and popular culture
were increasingly taking over the new (modern) societies emerging
in the West. In turn, this new development was seen as a significant
threat for those who defended the restricted, elitist understanding of
This threat did not stem only from the repetitive noises of the new
industrial and mechanical reproduction of goods and commodities,
which were perceived as challenging the high status of fine artistic
delivery and the aura of individual works of art (Benjamin, 2008 [1936]
1973a/b). At the same time, the threat of modernization and another of
its effects, the expansion of Western/European imperialism, were also
a source of concern voiced in defense of the traditional or pre-modern
ways of life both in Europe (ethnology, romanticism) as well as the
development of a distinct anthropologic narrative of the good old noble
native in the colonized world. There, along with the military campaigns
and commercial enterprises associated with all colonial ventures, a
surplus of subordinating orientalist discourses proliferated as a result
of splitting (high) civilization from (low) culture.
Considering all of the above, it is not difficult to understand why
Raymond Williams thought culture to be a most complicated word
in the English language. For Williams, in addition, the concept of
communitymuch like culturealso fell into the category of being
both very much taken for granted and difficult to define at the same time.
The heart of the matter lies in the very slippery nature of community
as a concept unable to encapsulate or capture the realities of communal
life in all its diversity. It is from this difficulty that idealized, operative
(pragmatic), taken for granted and un-problematized assumptions and
definitions of community often follow.
According to Williams community is a binding (suture) and an
indicative (descriptive) word, which has been deployed in language
for at least five hundred years. Like culture, Williams argues that
community also carried a range of senses. It first came to denote actual

culture is (not) ordinary

groups (for example commoners) and to connote specific qualities of

social relationship (as in communitas). Historically, community speaks of
membership and identity in which interest and shared meanings were at
issue. Then, as it happened to culture, with the advent of industrialization
there is also a rupture in its usage: community is felt to be more immediate
than society and by the nineteenth century, community is invoked as a
way of theorizing modernity itself. Communityand its sister concepts
of tradition and customstand in sharp contrast to the more abstract,
instrumental, individualist and formal properties of state and society in
the modern sense.2
The twentieth century, then, encountered a comparable shift in
usage. Community is thus invoked as a way of discussing a particular
style of politics distinct from the formal repertoires of national and local
politics. Here, according to Williams, the reference is direct action, direct
community participation and organization, and embraces, typically,
a notion of working with and for the people: grassroots initiatives,
social movements, etc. In this respect, the semantic complexities of
community account for a tension between the is and the ought, the
positive and the normative. The community can refer to what exists
(often under threat or about to be lost) but also to what Williams calls
experiments, that is, to more speculative forms of group living and to
utopian alternatives. As a consequence, attempting to reach a conclusive
and definitive understanding of what constitutes a community can be a
self-defeating task; although as Williams (1976, 76) states:
Community can be the warmly persuasive word to describe an
existing set of relationships, or the warmly persuasive word to
describe an alternative set of relationships. What is most important,
perhaps, is that unlike all other terms of social organisation . . . it
never seems to be used unfavourably, and never to be given any
positive opposing or distinguishing term.

To summarize, what Williams shows is how the concept of

community feeds from a long tradition of labeling and overlapping, even
contradictory meanings. Community assumes a strong sense of locality
(location) and togetherness, of tradition, true collective bonding and
authenticity, of history and continuity, but also of voluntary association
and common interest, purpose and potentiality. In addition, unlike


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other forms of social organization (e.g. the state) community seems to

be used in favorable terms.
However, this way of thinking of the communitarian or the
communal through a general framework where notions of authenticity
and homogeneity prevail must be confronted with its own limits. These
limits are twofold: they first refer to the question of internal splits and
divisions within a given stable community. Secondly, they refer to the
issues that arise from dealing with the question of globalization and the
formation of de/re-territorialised and heterogeneous global diaspora
communities, cultures and identities within the contemporary world
system (Cohen, 1997, King (ed) 1998).

Double Consciousness
Within the context of discussing multiculturalism, community as a
notion can be used in practically all of its historical senses. These are
divided along two main axes: 1/ communitas: tradition(al), custom,
common good, etc, and 2/ commoners: grass root activity, social
movements . . . As to culture, the anthropological, extended definitions
of culture (which overlap with communitas) prevail over the restricted
sense of culture as aesthetic production.3
Hence there is always a strategic dimension to defining culture
and community. In terms of their use and utility for multiculturalist
debates, this all-encompassing approach to such notions as community
and culture already anticipates the following; namely that the
complexities of community formation require quite an informed and
contrasted perspective on culture. An informed perspective that avoids
understanding the concept of community as referring to a homogeneous
category of people within a culture sharing common interests and
meanings; a contrasted perspective, which assumes instead the reality
of divisions and variations in worldviews in spite or even because of
a common geographic reference of origin; a critical perspective, as a
consequence, that must look at the various tensions, representations
and modes of cultural and social reproduction (traditions, customs . . . )
arising within the community.
In this context, in order to formulate a more complete vision of
culture and community within the confines of multicultural politics, it
is always worth shifting the attention to a whole critical literature, which

culture is (not) ordinary


emerged in the late 1980s and the last decade of the twentieth century.
This was a critical literature, which proliferated within the context of
what came to be known as cultural studies, mostly, and functioned as
a counterpoint to such views relying on un-problematized notions of
organic communities, cultural authenticity and timeless belonging to
a given geographical location. This was also a literature, through which
concrete political desires were invested and articulated at the time in
terms of relating community and culture to processes of traveling and
transnational diaspora formation. Against traditional visions of rooted
cultures and communities, seminal works of scholars, among many
others, such as Stuart Hall on diaspora politics, Paul Gilroy on the
Black Atlantic or James Clifford on traveling cultures contended that
the formation of new routed cultures and communities across the world
also brought about new possibilities of critical enquiry and research.
Likewise, the works of Edward Said and Julia Kristeva on the split
nature of exile and foreign experience were (and still are) instrumental
to understand what, early in the twentieth century, W.E.B. DuBois (1989
[1904]) meant by double consciousness:
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of
always looking at ones self through the eyes of others, of measuring
ones soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt
and pity. One ever feels his twonessan American, a Negro; two
souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring
ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from
being torn asunder.

Stuart Halls depiction of what he understood and named as the new

diaspora cultures (1993, 359) offers a first (theoretical) approach, which
captures DuBois insight. Hall is critical of such views of culture and
community understood as fundamentally stable and a-temporal. For
Hall, facing the constraining visions and structures of the modern State,
diaspora communities are not (and never will be) culturally unified
along the lines of a straightforward, single identity membership. Instead,
Stuart Hall claimed, the diaspora subject is the product of different and
interrelated cultures and histories, and inhabits different homes at
the same time. Diaspora cultures produce new subjects who must face
the issue of modern identity, understood as always under construction,
always open, complex and unfinished.


multicultural controversies

In this sense, diaspora identity is both a burden and a gift.

The second (this time practical) insight by Hall (362) is that the
formation of such new diaspora cultures across the world brought about
the possibility of studying new discourses of departure, resettlement
and return4. This, in turn, required the (methodological) deployment
of what Paul Gilroy (2003, 66) defined as an explicitly transnational
and inter-cultural perspective; a point stated in his seminal The Black
Atlantic, Modernity & Double-Consciousness (1993).
Paul Gilroy defines the black Atlantic through a desire to
transcend state/national identifications. This desire, which is also
relevant to understanding the need of cultural criticism and political
interventionist practice, calls for a critique of cultural insiderism (52).
According to Gilroy, cultural insiderism defines the explanations of
modernity developed in Western thought by means of which identity
is fixed through privileging nations (or camps) as the main container
for cultural and political identification. This brings about the problem
of weighting the claims to national identity against other contrasting
varieties of subjectivity and identification (66).
For Gilroy, the question of allegiances along national lines is not
only a problem that can be found in standard hegemonic understandings
of national identity; it is also found in subordinate re-articulations of
counter-hegemonic political and cultural intervention. In this context,
Gilroys overall political aim and ideal is to transcend both the structures
of the nation-state but also the constraints of ethnicity and national
particularity (66). This is why Gilroys position remains very critical of
English cultural studies, as he put it, as well as the politics of the New
Left that preceded it. For Gilroy, not only did the cultural politics of the
English Left rely on the statist modalities of Marxist analysis that view
modes of material production and political domination as exclusively
national entities (52). At the same time, the New Left and early cultural
studies were explicitly framed within the view or dream of socialism in
one country (62). What this brought with it at a more implicit level was
the fact that:
[T]he quiet cultural nationalism [crypto-nationalism] which
pervade[d] the work of some radical thinkers [was] more evasive
but nonetheless potent for its intangible ubiquity (52).

culture is (not) ordinary


In addition to this critique that Gilroy directed against the

fathers, as it were, of cultural studies (e.g., Raymond Williams,
Edward P Thompson, Richard Hoggart) and the then emerging New
Left, it is important to remember that his best-known and perhaps
harshest criticism deals more particularly with the forms of ethnic
absolutism he identifies within black communities themselves.5 It
is in fact by setting himself against both ethnic and state-national
absolutist temptations of fixing identity that Gilroy suggests taking
the Atlantic as one single, complex unit of analysis (66) instead of
locating any particular tradition within the confines of particular
territorial boundaries. As a consequence, this approach also calls for
the already alluded to deployment of an explicitly transnational and
intercultural perspective, (66) which seeks de-homogenising difference.
This requires producing alternative readings of globalised modernity or
modernization understood as a dynamic, fluid and nomadic process.
For Gilroy the Atlantic accounts for temporary experiences of
exile, relocation and displacement (65). These experiences of movement
are not only crucial to the understanding of concrete black historical
struggles (for emancipation from slavery, for political and social rights,
for seeking an independent space); they are also crucial to understand
modernity itself, a process which is not restricted to black experiences
Finally, Gilroy looks for a tradition that may better underpin the
notion of the Atlantic through both the marginal politics of black
nomadicism and emancipatory consciousness. He thus finds that W.E.B.
Du Bois notions of double consciousness but also Richard Wrights
double motion reflect the extent to which peoples (black and otherwise)
live in-between nations and nationalisms.
This state of in-between-ness also speaks of the nomadicism inherent
to the migrant, exile and diaspora experience of double consciousness.
This Gilroy represents both metaphorically and literally, by focusing on
the image of the ship, for according to Gilroy:
The ship embod[ies] the Middle Passage between territories as
epitomised by the Black Atlantic. The ship is the first of the novel
chronotopes presupposed by my attempts to rethink modernity via
the history of the black Atlantic and the African diaspora into the
Western hemisphere (64).


multicultural controversies

By speaking of the ship in this manner Gilroy also states specifically

that he follows the venturesome spirit proposed by James Clifford in
his influential work on travelling culture. As Gilroy points out, Clifford
is known for his work on the topic of Traveling Cultures (1989, 1992,
1997). Yet if Gilroy focuses on the image of the ship, Clifford (1992,
105) invokes instead the image (chronotope) of the hotel as closely and
especially intertwined with travel vocabularies and metaphors:
The hotel epitomizes a specific way into complex histories of
travelling cultures (and cultures of travel) in the late twenty
The hotel is a place of transit, not of residence. It is both a
launching point for strange and wonderful voyages ( . . . ) a
place of collection, juxtaposition and passionate encounter and
somewhere you pass through, where the encounters are fleeting,
arbitrary ( . . . ) as a station, airport terminal, hospital and so on

Clifford specifies that the concept of the hotel does not refer only to
a simple description of a physical space; it also works as a research tool
for interpretation. Although at the same time, this metaphor of the hotel
as an organizing research-image is necessarily ambivalent: On the one
hand it represents the moving and provisional nature of the traveling
experience understood as a process; on the other hand, it allows looking
to the past and recollect traces and vestiges of travel histories whereby
class, gender and race relations of inequality and privilege become
What transpires here is that the object of traveling cultures is to
rethink culture in terms of journey and movement while the subject of
the traveling experience conveys the idea that the notions of mobility,
fluidity, and process are more suitable than the notions of stability,
solidity, and fixity in order to express the dynamic character of human
cultural practice.
Straightaway, these views collude with certain standard
multicultural ideals; most notably those based on seeking frictionless
harmonious co-existence among communities through the integration
of the different other within the structures of a given nation-state or
indeed host society. In this respect, what both (late) Palestinian exile
and scholar Edward W. Said as well as France-based Romanian literary

culture is (not) ordinary


critic and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva add(ed) to the debate must also
be clearly point out: the structures of nation-states and their corollary
ideal of sustaining stable societies can hardly account for the various
conflicting identities informing migrant and exilic experiences of
fragmentation and withdrawal.
According to Edward Said (1994, 36) the foreigner, the diaspora
subject, or, more concretely, the exile lives in a state of inbetweenness
(43), that is to say, in a median state, neither completely at one with
the new setting nor fully disencumbered of the old (36). Said comes
together here with Stuart Halls view in that they both disagree with
the mistaken assumption that being exiled is to be totally separated and
isolated from the place of origin. Yet when referring to the receiving end
of the journey, Said qualifies slightly Halls overall optimistic diasporic
proposition, for:
[O]nce you leave your home, wherever you end up you cannot
simply take up life and become just another citizen of the new
place. Or if you do, there is a good deal of awkwardness involved
in the effort, which scarcely seems worth it (45).

On this particular issue Edward Said thus comes closer to Julia

Kristeva. Certainly Kristevas point of view is not very distant from
Halls when she sustains that the foreigner is lost in the kaleidoscope
of his multiple identities, (1988: 57). Yet as Kristeva theorizes Halls
new diaspora subject through the image of the foreigner this has also its
own specific implications; namely that foreignness is certainly related
to the idea of inhabiting several identities (Hall) but this also implies
(unlike in the case of many diaspora communities) that other languages
must be learned; and, for Kristeva, this very process of negotiation and
translation between languages becomes, inevitably, a constant source
of estrangementa source of disaffection, disenchantment, split and
withdrawal eventually leading to the silence of the polyglot.
Placing special emphasis on this particular aspect related to the
linguistic problematic, Kristeva reminds us (4849) that for the foreigner,
once deprived of the attachment to the maternal tongue, the newly learned
foreign languages remain altogether artificial languages, like algebra or
solfeggio. As if in a hallucination, the verbal constructions of the foreigner
roll on empty space, dislocated from his/her body and passions, and taken


multicultural controversies

hostage by the mother tongue. According to Kristeva, the foreigner does

not really know what (s)he says in the new language. His/her subconscious
does not inhabit his/her thoughts and feelings. As a consequence, the
language of the foreigner becomes one of an absolute formalism, of an
exaggerated sophistication. This is why for Kristeva the voice of the
foreigner rests on the single strength of his or her naked rhetoric or else it
turns, as said, into silence; but not the kind of structural silence, which is
imposed upon him/her from the outside and will be discussed later when
dealing with the notion of subaltern silence. Instead, this silence of the
foreigner refers back to an inner state of being.
In a nutshell so far, by rethinking culture through traveling, diaspora
and exile identities, certain naturalizing preconceptions conventionally
associated with the concept of culture as an organic entity (cultivation
etc) are definitely contested. As Raymond Williams himself informed
us, culture is not a coherent and rooted organism that grows and lives
in one place, territory, nation, etc, according to some pre-ordained or
permanently ordered laws of nature.
In this context, the limits of conventional approaches to
multiculturalist integration will have to be drawn. Yet, at the same
time, some over-optimistic visions and theories surrounding traveling,
diaspora and exile identities will have to be critically addressed also in
due time.7
Structures of Feeling
Scholars such as Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, James Clifford or Edward Said,
among many others, publicly and explicitly acknowledged the immense
heuristic creativity of Raymond Williams critical work and capacity for
reworking old concepts as well as generating new ones. On this account,
Williams is also credited with the creation of another important notion,
that, namely, of structures of feeling, which is most helpful in defining
and framing concrete epochal and generational cultural moods.
Williams brought to the fore the notion of structure of feeling in
order to better capture the overall political and social coordinates of any
given cultural and/or social formation. As Jenny Bourne Taylor points
out (1997) Williams first used this concept8 to refer to the lived experience
or the quality of life at a particular time and place. It is, Williams argued,
as firm and definite as structure suggests, yet it operates in the most

culture is (not) ordinary


delicate and least tangible part of our activities. In short, a structure

of feeling is the culture of a particular historical moment, though in
developing the concept, Williams wished to avoid idealist notions such
as that of the spirit of the age (Zeitgeist.) Structure of feeling suggests,
according to the same entry, a common set of perceptions and values
shared by a particular generation, and is most clearly articulated in
particular artistic forms and conventions.9 Hence each generation lives
and produces its own structure of feeling.
Williams seminal insights into such concepts as culture and
structure of feeling can be extended further. Historically speaking,
first of all, it can be safely argued that a whole intellectual structure
of feeling emerged in the late 1950s and 1960s Britain, which has been
conventionally credited with pioneering British (qua English) Cultural
Studies. They were so credited because they offered a direct generational
contestation against the elitist views of the previous generation, best
epitomized in the works of Frank R. Leavis in the 1930s. This is why
Williams will always place emphasis on another dimension of culture
distinct from literature and the fine arts, namely education; recall also
Richard Hoggarts (1966, 1970 [1957]) concern with the low literacy
of the working classes at the time of a further rise of American mass
popular culture in the 1950s and 60s.
In such a context, adding to the key distinctions already alluded to
between the restricted notion of culture as artistic/aesthetic production
and the extended notion of culture understood as a whole way of life
(or alternatively as a whole way of struggle, according to Edward P.
Thompson1966 [1963]), other distinctions become operative with
Williams work, which aimed at breaking away from the rigidity of
the dichotomy between high / elitist vs mass / popular / consumer
culture. Furthermore, Williams must also be credited with another key
distinction he established between the dominant, the emergent and the
residual in culture, and which, in turn, opened the gates to what will
invariably be conceptualized as oppositional, subordinate and subaltern
cultures, countercultures and subcultures by the next generation of
cultural studies scholars.10
Certainly, Williams decisive inroads into the various notions of,
and distinctions regarding culture point to the emergence of yet another
new potent intellectual structure of feeling in the 1970s and 1980s; a new
generation of scholars (and activists) who will now reach out beyond


multicultural controversies

the properly British realm of Marxist-leaning cultural studies into

other realms in which cultural studies converge with other disciplines
and area studies: feminist, post-structuralist, post-colonial, subaltern
studies etc.11
While the processes (intellectual, academic, social . . . ) sketched
above will be discussed in the next chapter, it is now time to summarise
the main contents of this chapter.
The primary focus of this first chapter was to present the notions of
culture and community. The cultural critique of Raymond Williams
was of particular importance in this respect. Williams study of culture
and also of the notion of community is relevant to any discussion
on multicultural(ist) questions. In other words, Williams work is
instrumental for the understanding of culture beyond previous
definitions, which tended to define culture as homogeneous, organic
and/or territorially rooted. By privileging instead the idea of culture
as yet another heterogeneous, shifting and flexible site of contestation
and negotiation, he also opened the way to the question of how different
(alternative) cultural practices operate and compete among themselves.
Radical cultural critique was also able to address more effectively the
issue regarding the different approaches and ways through which
conceptual boundaries (e.g.: culture/nature; culture/nurture; history/
myth; authentic/artificial) are maintained (and/or broken) according to
specific strategic approaches of clear political intent.
Beyond Williams, the notions of culture and community also
constituted a specific source of intense critical scrutiny for an array
of well-known academics (and activists) such as Hall, Gilroy or Said
among others, who advocated their thesis from specific diasporic /
exile subject positions. Because these are considered central to the
overall multicultural debates, a critical bibliographic review has also
been included with summary accounts of scholarly books and essays
ordered according to a minimal narrative strategy further defining
the contours of a particular structure of feeling around some general
themes: border-crossing, diaspora, displacement, emigration, exile,
foreignness, hybridization, heterogeneity, nomadicism, re-location,
traveling cultures . . .

culture is (not) ordinary


This intellectual structure of feeling has finally been located in

the emergence and posterior development of cultural studies in the
Anglophone world. This must be understood not only as a key moment
in apprehending contemporary cultural and social history critically.
It is still central and of practical use nowadays for the purposes of
understanding multiculturalism and identity politics in ways that will
become clearer next.


multicultural controversies

Chapter 2

Hegemonic Articulations

In chapter 1, an initial conceptual framework was built around the

notions of culture and community upon some, now well-established,
theoretical premises given by Raymond Williams and cultural studies.
Simultaneously, a succinct literature review was presented on various
radical structures of feeling mostly understood through the narratives
of diaspora politics, nomadism and traveling cultures.1 The overall
idea conveyed was one that in order to undermine notions of fixity
and stability in culture human practices were better served by being
represented through the concepts of process and movement.
In chapter 2 mention is made first to the obvious risk that such mere
emphasis on process and movement may actually become ineffective
politically; and more so if a sense of infinite proliferation of unrestrained
pluralization and open-ended difference is added to the mix of identity
politics. This leads to an important theoretical point being discussed,
in which in order to tackle the risk of political agency being dispersed
ad infinitum the necessity of establishing contingent closures through
discursive and/or hegemonic articulations is advocated.
In order to further explain and clarify the meaning of these concepts,
the second part of this chapter continues with a theoretical discussion
on identity politics. This is mainly carried out through Ernesto Laclau
and Chantal Mouffes neo-Gramscian approach to the formation of
political identities and social subjectivities. Here the alluded-to notion
of discourse or discursive articulation is crucial in order to convey the
idea that nothing is fixed per se in any of the relations by social agents /
actors taking place in society.
The application of this theory of discourse takes more concrete
shape in the final section of this chapter where two different (and
opposed) meanings are studied of a legendary sentence: There is no
(such thing as) society. First There is no society refers to Laclau and
Mouffe speaking of hegemonic relations. This can be done only in so far
as society does not exist as an ultimately fixed or rational and intelligible


multicultural controversies

system. If such was the case that society exists in all its plenitude, say, it
would then be impossible to find ways of re-articulating the space of the
social in different ways.
Then we have the better-known notion of There is no society
in terms of its ideological value for neoliberal (cultural) politics as
particularly expressed by Thatcherism. The main purpose of this
exercise is to equate Thatcherism with the hegemonic politics of (neo)
liberalism by looking at the concrete problematic of race and ethnicity
in Britain through Stuart Halls Gramscian critique, among others; that
of the notoriously anti-multiculturalist moment of Thatcherism and
the simultaneous rise of anti-racist politics in Britain.
As to the historical background of this second chapter, it remains
within the main contextual confines as chapter 1. While it speaks of the
profound transformations that took place with the post-war provision of
the welfare state, it refers also to the later emergence and configuration
of what are known as post-industrial, post-revolutionary global network
societies (Bell, 1973; Tourain, 1990; Castells, 2000). In other words,
this chapter remains within the historical time-span prior to the fall of
the Berlin Wall in 1989. In this respect, the study continues its task by
both complementing some aspects left underdeveloped in the previous
chapter as well as progressively contributing new material to the overall
debate on multiculturalism, the key word of the whole exercise being:
Infinite Dispersal and Arbitrary closure
A main theme of chapter 1 revolved around how notions of fixity and
solidity in culture and identity may be challenged and re-channeled, as
it were, through more dynamic understandings of be(long)ing. From
this critical position regarding cultural and social agency, a theoretical
and practical point follows: the possibility of protecting oneself in the
security of a unique and unified form of social-political subjectivity and/
or cultural identity is rather limited. In this context, the very process of
identity formation must be understood as being shaped by historically
given conditions (of domination and subordination). Likewise the
formation of political subjectivity is the outcome of heterogeneous
engagements and often disruptive entanglements with, and between,
an array of dominant, subordinate, marginal, residual, emergent,

hegemonic articulations


subcultural (etc) representations of gender and sexuality, class, race and

ethnicity, culture and language . . .
The ensuing relationships between culture and identity, or political
subjectivity and agency, must thus be theorized as complex and
contradictory since different combinations come into play in different
moments and locations, and degrees of engagement also differ. Hence
the very impossibility also arises of giving unique universal answers to
multiple but concrete questions such as: which components of identity
are deep and which superficial? Which are central and which marginal?
Which are community based and which are individual, private or public?
How do these components of identity intersect, through antagonism
and tension or through dialogic combinations? How do struggles for
hegemony take place within the context of such diversified forms of
political, social and cultural agency? How are the relationships between
the concrete and the universal relevant to the particular of ones own
socially pluralized collective subjectivities or the singular of our own
individual identity?
At this moment in time, another major argument, particularly in
Europe, also revolved around the process of critical engagement that
a new intellectual and activist mood prompted in regards of Marxist
orthodoxy (historical determinism, economicist reductionism, class as
unique revolutionary subject). This critical engagement with Marxism
began much earlier (i.e., Frankfurt Schools claims in favour of the
autonomy of culture) and culminated with the deconstructing and
disrupting of both conventional notions built around (i) a unified,
homogeneous and universalized Subject and (ii) the de-centering of the
West and the challenging of dominant Eurocentric epistemologies (of
which Marxism was also seen, in post-structuralist and post-colonial
theory, as a mere radicalized counterculture).
Yet, simultaneously, it also became clear that, in the intellectual
and academic debates that took place within the wide terrain of critical
theory and cultural studies, certainly not all that glitters is gold. Before
engaging with the main political problematic stemming from an overly
celebratory approach to open-ended pluralist identity politics, let us
consider first a legitimate critical concern pitted against the travelling,
diaspora and nomadic motive studied earlier.
At the time, feminist scholar Janet Wolff (1992, 235) asked a very
relevant question to a problem that still remains:


multicultural controversies

How is it that metaphors of movement and mobility, often invoked

in the context of radical projects of destabilizing discourses of
power, can have conservative effects?

It seems only legitimate to think that, then as much as today, whatever

remains of a possibility to develop coherent projects of social change
could only benefit from participating in a critique of stasis. However, the
issue once was, and still remains nowadays, that for a political critique to
take place it must be also located somewhere. As Wolff continued:
I think that destabilizing has to be situated, if the critic is not to selfdestruct in the process. The problem with terms like nomad, maps
and travel is that they are not usually located, and hence (and
purposely) they suggest ungrounded and unbounded movement
since the whole point is to resist fixed selves / viewers / subjects.
But the consequent suggestion of free and equal mobility is itself a
deception, since we dont all have the same access to the road.2

The problem and shortcoming with the traveling motive that

became so fashionable at that time was this: it vastly contributed to
the proliferation and dispersal of identity politics. Obviously, this was
not only a problem inherent to discussions on traveling cultures and
diaspora politics. It affected all areas of political practice (recall the
legendary factionalism of the Left), and it was particularly acute also,
albeit simultaneously enriching, in the house of difference (Teresa de
Lauretis, 1987) of the global feminist movement.3
In regards to standard debates around the question of multicultural
engagement, therefore, this question highlights a specific theoretical
issue central to discussions on identity, culture and political agency.
As already alluded to, an unavoidable theoretical struggle and
argument within the specific context of identity politics was the
following: ones own subject position, cultural identity or social
subjectivity should be understood and located in a way more complex
than was habitual when politics around the notion of social class
and the centrality of class agency were paramount. The willingness
to foster theory and knowledge could not be underpinned any longer
by attitudes and discourses led by a uniquely privileged collective
social agent. To move forwards in any critical analysis the different
permutations stemming from class, gender, nationality, religion

hegemonic articulations


and other identity formations had to be explored in depth. To deal

with social and cultural conflict there was no unique main axis
(class, national . . . struggle) able to articulate the different strings of
domination and resistance taking place in contemporary fragmented
societies. In short, radical identity politics was based upon the premise
that social actors occupy a variety of subject positions all at the same
time. As Chantal Mouffe (1988, 8990) put it most clearly:
Within every society, each social agent is inscribed in a multiplicity
of social relationsnot only social relations of production but
also the social productions, among others, of sex, race, nationality,
and vicinity. All these social relations determine positionalities or
subject positions and every social agent is therefore the locus of
many subject positions and cannot be reduced to only one.

Within the context of such debates, identity became to be seen

as plural and changeable and hence what was understood to be the
homogeneous and centered Cartesian subject of Western Eurocentrism
came under a sustained attack. Simultaneously, the critique of any form
of totalization became the norm, including those of Marxism but also,
again, of feminism. For instance, Katharine A. MacKinnon (1988, 107)
expressed clearly where the terms of the difficulty for an entente cordiale
between feminism and Marxism had to be found:
Both Marxism and feminism are theories of power and of its
unequal distribution. They both provide accounts of how social
arrangements of systematic disparity . . . are internally coherent and
internally rational and pervasive yet unjust. Both theories are total
theories. That is, they are both theories of the totality, of the whole
thing. The problem of the relation between Marxism and feminism
then becomes how both can then be true at the same time.

MacKinnon thus speaks here of both Marxism and feminism

being total theories and the ensuing problematic arising also from both
claiming being true at the same time. However, this theoretical paradox
or contradiction, did (does) not prevent in practice that the totalizing
narratives of class or gender oppression and struggle against capitalism
and patriarchalism developed by Marxism and feminism end(ed) up
overlapping frequently. In fact, the critical vocabularies of feminism


multicultural controversies

and Marxism did not only intersect between themselves, albeit in very
problematic ways; simultaneously, feminism established the same kind
of problematic relationships with other areas of cultural and political
theory and practice.4
In short, (post-)Marxism and feminism could be accused of both
being total and essentialist theories and promoting the dispersal
of political agency at the same time. The debate, nevertheless, is
always relevant and remains acute in that a critique of totalizing (and
essentialist) paradigms also brings about the issue of how to contain the
opposite tendency towards the infinite dispersal of identity politics.
Likewise this also reverts us to the question Ernesto Laclau (1996,
48) formulated at the introduction of this book as to knowing whether
a pure culture of difference (is) possible, a pure particularism that
does away entirely with any kind of universal principle, which by its
own nature will tend toward establishing some form of totalizing and
essentialist principle.
Paul Gilroy also contributed to the debate. Whilst he was never a
friend of the well-policed borders of particularity and exceptionalism
anyway (1993, 6, 27), he also recognized elsewhere that some form of
totalizing procedure must ensue in order to pursue effective politics;
A political understanding of identity and identificationemphatically not a reified identity politicspoints to other more radical
possibilities in which we can begin to imagine ways of reconciling
the particular and the general. We can build upon the contribution of cultural studies to dispose of the idea that identity formation
[ . . . ] is a chaotic process and can have no end. In this way, we may
be able to make cultural identity a premise of political action rather
than a substitute for it (1996, 48).

Gilroys line of argument (ways of reconciling the particular and

the general, cultural identity as a premise for political action) followed
Stuart Halls steps (1987) regarding the ineffectiveness of political
activity stemming from cultural and social agency, theorized as
infinitely dispersed in a chaotic process of identity formation with no
end. According to Hall, the risks of constantly invoking identity politics
in terms of the obvious impossibility of (a full and fixed) identity (117)
may be philosophically insightful but it is not useful politicallythe

hegemonic articulations


politics of infinite dispersal is not politics at all. As a result, Hall called

elsewhere (1990) for a strategic cut, for a (temporary) acceptance, in other
words, of a more fixed (but only partial) identity that allowed political
alliances and political action. Hall pointed out that theoretically and
intellectually this is one way to go about the construction of politics
around unity-in-difference.
Put differently, the politics of unity-in-difference constitute a way to
go about identity politics in such a way that it requires not only to speak
of languages of dispersal, but also the language of contingent closures
of articulation. This can be achieved by establishing temporary and
partial arbitrary closures of meaning or by provisionally producing
temporary stabilizations of meaning. With the creative articulation
of the necessary arbitrary closures (S. Hall: 1987, 1992, Stuart Hall and
Paul du Gay 1996) political subjectivity can be constituted through
contingent yet stable communities of identification and articulation for
specific political objectives and reasons.
To sum up, the obvious risk that mere emphasis on pluralization and
diversity poses is that it leads to an infinite proliferation and dispersal
of identities, which then become ineffective politically. It is against
such background that notions of temporary stabilization, arbitrary,
contingent closure of articulation, unity in difference, etc, speak of the
necessity of overcoming through political practice what have become
philosophical contradictions of difficult, if not impossible theoretical
solution. Likewise, Teresa de Lauretis conceptualization above of the
house of difference of global feminism or Gayatri Spivaks use of the
notion strategic essentialism within the context of subaltern studies
to be revisited later, speak of the same concerns in regards of pursuing
effective politics in the various struggles for hegemony that different
actors may be engaged in.
Discourse and Constitutive Exteriors
In their new introduction to a new edition (2001) of the seminal work
Hegemony and Socialist Strategy [1985] Ernesto Laclau and Chantal
Mouffe indicated how their approach is grounded in privileging the
moment of political articulation through the central category of analysis
borrowed from Gramsci. This category, obviously, is that of hegemony.
They then (xi) also pointed to:


multicultural controversies

[P]ost-stuctruralism [as] the terrain where we have found our main

source of our theoretical reflection, and within the post-structuralist field, deconstruction and Lacanian theory have had a decisive
importance in the formulation of our approach to hegemony

Through the notion of hegemonic articulation, the works of Laclau

(alone, or together with Mouffe) further the possibility of placing an
important methodological emphasis on the idea of discourse (and/or
discursive articulation). As already pointed out, this notion of discourse
or discursive articulation is equally crucial to conveying the idea that
nothing is fixed in any of the relations by social actors that take place in
society. As Laclau and Mouffe (90) state:
The concept of discourse describes the ultimate non-fixity of anything existing in society and the social relations [and] is the terrain
on which a concept of hegemony can be constructed.

Or as Mouffe (1988, 90) emphasized further:

The subjectivity of a given social agent is always precariously and
provisionally fixed, or, to use the Lacanian term, sutured at the intersection of various discourses.

Laclau and Mouffes perspective displays how, in principle,

concepts are empty and open for anyone to fill them in with meaning
(i.e.: hegemony is never established conclusively). To explain this with
concrete examples Laclau and Mouffe speak of the genesis of the Western
liberal-democratic articulation and the discourse of universal human
rights that accompany the rise of modernity. Laclau and Mouffe explain
how the various democratic revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries emerged as the outcome of contingent historical articulations
between the values of democracy (rule of law, human rights), liberalism
(individualism, freedom) and socialism (equality, solidarity). As they
On the one side we have the liberal tradition constituted by the rule
of law, the defence of human rights and the respect of individual liberty; on the other the democratic tradition whose main ideas
are those of equality, identity between governing and governed and

hegemonic articulations


popular sovereignty. There is no necessary relation between those

two distinct traditions but only a contingent historical articulation
(Mouffe, 2000, 23).

The key moment of the beginnings of the democratic revolution can

be found in the French Revolution [because] this break with the ancien
rgime, symbolized by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, would
provide the discursive conditions which made it possible to propose the
different forms of inequality as illegitimate and anti-natural, and thus
make them equivalent as forms of oppression. Here lay the profound
subversive power of the democratic discourse, which would allow the
spread of equality and liberty into increasingly wider domains and
therefore act as a fermenting agent upon the different forms of struggle
against subordination. Many workers struggles in the nineteenth
century constructed their demands discursively on the basis of struggles
of political liberty [ . . . ] The socialist demands should therefore be
seen as a moment internal to the democratic revolution [ . . . ] and the
irradiation effects multiply in a growing variety of directions. (Laclau
and Mouffe, 1985, 155156)
Laclau and Mouffes own project of radical and plural democracy
[is] conceived as a new stage in the deepening of the democratic
revolution, as the extension of the democratic struggles for equality and
liberty to a wider range of social relations (1985, xv, see also Mouffe (ed)
1983). In this context, Mouffe (1988, 95) gives a good historical example
relevant to our overall debate in this chapter:
Consider the case of the suffragist movement, or, more generally the
question of why is it that, although womens subordination has existed for so long, only at the end of the nineteenth century and the
beginning of the twentieth century did subordination give rise to a
feminist movement. [ . . . ] With the democratic revolutions of the
nineteenth century the assertion that all men are equal appears
for the first time. Obviously, men is ambiguous because it refers to
both men and women, so women found themselves contradictorily
interpellated. As citizens women are equal, or at least interpellated as
equal, but that equality is negated by their being women. [ . . . ] So [it
is] the emergence of a section of equality [which then] allows women
to extend the democratic revolution ( . . . ) The same analysis could be
given for the emergence of the black liberation movement.


multicultural controversies

This quote, in passing, complicates French Marxist Louis Althussers

(1976 [1971], 1983) notion of interpellation5 and demonstrates a limit to
Alain Badious ethical position on human rights (which will discussed
in the next chapter).
According to Mouffe and Laclau, human rights should be
understood as yet another empty signifier or a political sign, the signifier
or container of which, as it were, is always open to be filled with new
meanings precisely as the outcome of the struggles that take place over
the meaning of such a political sign among different social actors. By
being contradictorily interpellated, social actors occupy different
subject positions while simultaneously trying to fix (albeit provisionally)
the meaning of human rights, in this case, as they are struggled over
through and around concrete issues and antagonisms.
In this context, Laclau develops his theory of the political by making
use of a linguistic ontology in which objectivities and identities are both
constituted and constructed through differential and equivalential
relations. The fact that objects and subjects are defined positionally within
a system of differences follows the general de-substantialization (Hegel,
1979) of the external reference, which takes place with the linguistic turn
in philosophy. Laclaus theoretical framework is based on sustaining
the simultaneous necessity and impossibility of the representation of
social totality. However sought for, a final closure of the symbolic order
(Lacan, 1956, 1993, 1997) operating in any society is impossible because
identities are defined as differential positionsfollowing here Saussures
definition of the signifier as obtaining meaning only through difference
with respect to other signifiers.
Laclau must postulate for a limit that avoids pure dispersion and
makes signification possible; very much like Stuart Hall did earlier
when speaking of arbitrary closures to avoid the infinite dispersal
of agencyalthough Laclau does so with a twist and a vengeance,
as it were, which are central to understand what and how standard
multicultural discourses often omit. According to Laclau, in order to
define a limit that makes signification possible it is necessary to establish
or to fix something (fictional), which is placed beyond the established
limit. This is what he understands as the constitutive outside / exterior
of the system. In Laclaus ontology there are only pure differences, there
are no positive/substantial identities. As a consequence, if the system is
made up of particular differences such constitutive outside or exterior

hegemonic articulations


to the system must once again be a difference, and in order not to be

confounded with internal differences, it must be an even more radical
difference (without particular features: generice.g., the Muslim threat;
the foreign migrant.
There is no Society
Following Laclau, political antagonism emerges from the tension
generated by the simultaneous necessity and impossibility of closure of
the social order: the impossibility of a fully constituted, fixed identity
and the necessity of constructing partial identities. It is in this manner
that the partiality of political identities configures the logic of the
hegemonic articulation.
The notions of hegemony and articulation highlighted here suggest
the process whereby the part (the French particular, for instance)
represents the whole (human universality, say). Likewise these notions
are instrumental in establishing that meaning is never pre-given and it
is precisely in this respect that not only the meaning of the word society
is shaky but also that society never actually exists because society
constitutes an unstable order of a system of differences in which no
meaning is fixed forever. For Laclau and Mouffe (1985, 254):
Society as a sutured space [ . . . ] does not exist because if it did
meaning would be fixed in a variety of ways. Society is an ultimate
impossibility, an impossible object: and it exists only as the attempt
to constitute that impossible order or object.

In the same vein as Laclau and Mouffe, Stuart Hall also shared the
basic approach to discourse, hegemony and articulation. For instance,
the case of Thatcherism in Britain that Hall analysed in depth offers
a good example to illustrate how this neo-Gramscian conceptual
framework can be put to work.
It has been pointed out previously that the emergence of social
movements and new forms of identity politics were the outcome of a
pluralization of political subjectivities through the engagement with
various post-WWII struggles and antagonisms. According to Mouffe
(1988, 9192) these arose in response to the increased state interventionist
bureaucratization of the Keynesian model, the standardization of labour


multicultural controversies

processes (Taylorism, Fordism) and the renewed commodification

and homogenization of (masspopular- mediated) culture. Most
particularly in Britain, this post-WWII space articulated around the
Keynesian social democratic consensus is challenged and ultimately
hegemonized by an altogether different way of understanding that
there is no society.
Stuart Hall corroborates this analysis when he claims that Thatchers
was an extensive work of ideological reconstruction (1988, 3941), which
functioned, obviously, as a synonym for a kind of ideological articulation
needing first to dismantle the underlying post-War II consensus or
settlement in British politics. According to Hall (36):
Basically, a new kind of unwritten social contract emerged [in
the 1940s] through which a bargain, a historic compromise, was
struck between the different conflicting interests in society. The
Rightmarginalizing their more reactionary and free-market elements- settled for the welfare state, comprehensive education, the
Keynesian management of economic policy, and the commitment
to full employment as the terms of peaceful compromise between
capital and labor. In return, the Left accepted to work broadly
within the terms of a modified capitalism and within the Western
bloc sphere of strategic influence.

According to Hall the historical sequence is as follows: first, in the

immediate post-war period of restoration the fundamental capitalist
coordinates are restored within the framework of US world hegemony.
This US hegemony Hall describes as both the days of the dark 50s (46) but
also as the affluent 50s (36) and is mainly led in Britain by Conservatism
e.g., Harold Macmillan); then the important transformations in the
British society of the 1960s take place, which occur mostly through
the working of Labours social democratic governments (notably Harold
Wilson); but then finally, as Hall (37) continues, in the early 1970s:
The social-democratic dominated consensus that had stabilized the
British political scene up to that point began to evaporate. Both in
the heartland of economic lifewages, production, strikes, industrial conflict, union militancy and so onand in the emergent arenas
of social lifecrime, permissiveness, race, moral and social values,
traditional social roles and moresthe society declined into crisis.

hegemonic articulations


As society declined into crisis it also entered into an era of contestations

and new alarms and moral panics, which as Hall recalls, often go hand
in hand with struggles for the formation of a new hegemonic moment;
and this was, according to Hall the moment of the New Right (37),
the moment, in other words, when Thatcherism finally emerged both
as either radically different from older versions of conservatism or as a
means to re-combine and rearticulate different elements of conservatism
in a radically distinctive and original way (39). For Hall, the most novel
aspect of Thatcherism was the very way in which it combined the new
neo-liberal doctrines of the free-market and the free individual with some
of the traditional Tory emphasis on the organic community in order to
reconstruct social life as a whole around the return of the old values:
philosophies of tradition and respectability, patriarchalism (traditional
role of women in the family), Englishness as the core of the nation (39).
In this sense, a main argument by Laclau and Mouffe is also
confirmed that, like anything else, adhesion to the nation as such does
not necessarily belong to one particular political side but rather, at
different moments and in different places, such adhesion is able to adapt
to, and be inflected towards different political traditions and forces.
Hence in the same way as Mouffe claims that The progressive character
of a struggle does not depend on its place of origin [ . . . ] but rather on its
links to other struggles (1988, 100), the very adhesion to the nation(al
idea) can turn itself into a framework that enacts the possibility for more
general emancipations (say: equality legislation etc); although the same
cannot be said of the general character as well as the links / relationships
with the idea of the nation around which the discourse of Thatcherism
is articulated.
It is indeed in this sense that the oft-repeated Thatcherite motto
There is no society not only goes together with yet another paradoxical
slogan (Free market and strong State6); but both these catchphrases also
capture the contradictory structure of ideas around which Thatcherism
organized, articulated and managed to cohere a semblance of ideological
unity around the idea of Britishness and British national identity.
As a consequence, following Laclau and Mouffe, a retrospective
look at the rise, and above all, legacy of Thatcherism can be read in
terms of a new contingent hegemonic articulation that takes place at a
particular time (1980s) between neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism
in the Anglophone world. This new historically contingent hegemonic


multicultural controversies

articulation stems principally from a mixture of three main factors

and processes: (a) a fundamental critique of, and challenge against the
Keynesian welfare state (corporatism); (b) an emphasis on traditional
values (family, nation) and (c) the promotion of individualism as the
source of prosperity.
Certainly, what is known as Thatcherism casts a long shadow
extending beyond the confines of British politics as well as the very
historic moment studied here.7 Yet through the main neo-Gramscian
theoretical and conceptual framework presented previously by Laclau
and Mouffes anti-foundationalist perspective (theory of empty
signifiers, discourse articulation), and particularly through the works
of Stuart Hall, the limits of Thatcherisms own hegemonic articulation
can be outlined also. In other words, the rise and dominance of neoliberalism as articulated mostly with traditionalist neo-conservatism
and based on the ideology of the free market economy, individualism
and the nation constitutes a source of various ambivalent effects.
For instance, the famous individual vs. society debate can also speak
of at least one resounding failure of Thatcherism since it is precisely
the inescapable social context within which the so-called autonomous
subject of liberalism evolves which must be clearly highlighted here.8 As
Laclau himself would certainly put it society does not exist as something
pre-given but it certainly does exist as a field of forces whereas at the
same time a symbolic order (Lacan) can also be theorized. A symbolic
order is something that may not be able to be grasped physically and
may even constitute an intangible structure or a kind of immaterial
social repository of collected and projected beliefs which may not be
fought over any longer (Gramscian common sense), but these beliefs
(and values etc) have a concrete impact on the lives of any individual in
any given society.9
In addition, the new logic of the marketand the emphasis
on deregulation, privatization, reduction of the welfare state and
decreased state intervention in the economyis matched with the neoconservative emphasis on dominant culture and the use of the state for
specific nationalist purposes (promotion of language, narrow sense of
Britishness, etc). This, in turn, also exposes the cultural underbelly of
neoliberalism, as it were, as the politics of nation, race and ethnicity also
speak of the difficulties arising from post-WWII and post-colonial race
relations in Britain.10 In this respect, British Conservative politics, in

hegemonic articulations


general, and Thatcherism, in particular, also serve, as a consequence, to

centre the debate, as Barnor Hesse, does on the ubiquitous [and] highly
dubious yet conventional race-relations narrative of governance [which
eclipses] Britains unresolved post-colonial condition (11).11
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffes but also Stuart Halls post-Marxist
reappraisal of Gramscis notion of hegemony contributes to giving
critical theory a distinctively idiosyncratic shape, particularly with the
notion of the social conceived as a discursive space open to a whole
variety of potential articulations. Likewise, Laclau and Mouffes overall
approach is also the product of debates that emerge within the Western
political and intellectual Left in certain historical conditions:
[Since] the early 80s [and then] the end of the Cold War and the
disintegration of the Soviet system [ . . . ] the major debates which
have absorbed the intellectual reflection of the Left have been those
around the new social movements, multiculturalism, the globalization and deterritorialization of the economy and the ensemble of
issues linked to the question of post-modernity (2001, vii).

Part II of this book engages with the debates on multiculturalism

that arise after the fall of the Berlin wall.


multicultural controversies

Part II
Multiculturalism as Consumption
The Market


| multicultural controversies

part 1 multiculturalism as struggle: society

| 39

In Slavoj ieks Introduction: Lessons of the First Decade explicit

mention is made of the two main epochal markers, which are to
determine much of what is discussed in the remaining of this book:
Twelve years prior to 9/11, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin wall fell.
This event seemed to announce the beginning of the happy 90s:
Francis Fukuyamas utopia of the end of history, the belief that liberal democracy had, in principle, won out, that the advent of a global liberal community was hovering just around the corner, and that
the obstacles to this Hollywood-style ending were merely empirical
and contingent (local pockets of resistance whose leaders had not yet
grasped that their time was up). September 11, in contrast, symbolized the end of the Clintonite period, and heralded an era in which
new walls were seen emerging everywhere: between Israel and the
West Bank, around the European Union, along the US-Mexico border, but also within nation states themselves (2009, 3).

While in historical terms the fall of the Berlin wall comes to

announce the end of the previous Cold War era, this in-between 9/11
and 11/9 moment, as it were, which is to remain the main epochal
reference for this Part II, is also linked to the ever growing process and
unprecedented geographical spread of mass and consumer culture on a
global scale (East Europe, China . . . ). As a result, an argument is put
forward in this Part II that a clear link can be found between market
capitalism and multiculturalism.
This does not go unnoticed among acute cultural theorists and radical
philosophers such as Alain Badiou and Slavoj iek, among others.
In chapter 3, Badious universal ethics of indifference to difference is
presented first; then we continue with ieks view that multiculturalism
is the ideal ideological form of global multinational capitalist; then,
finally, Stanley Fishs notion of boutique multiculturalism is confronted
with the division Will Kymlicka establishes between social movement
vs. corporate multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism as consumption is thus linked as well to the wellknown slogan by Clinton himself Its the economy, stupid! This slogan
is instrumental to chapter 4: it paradoxically serves to place emphasis
again on the post-Marxist critique of economic determinism contesting
the idea that the logic of the economy is absolutely independent and
determinant of all other domains (society/culture, state . . . ). Laclaus


| multicultural controversies

critique (the economy is also a discursive construct) of ieks position

(in favour of a return to political economy) is introduced within this
context. In addition, the market is understood as both an abstract
configuration (financial speculation, free/fair trade) as well as a concrete
location (from the labour market and on to the marketplace, shopping
malls, high streets). In regards of the market, therefore, multiculturalism
acts on labour relations (equal opportunity, positive discrimination) and
patterns of multicultural consumption also inform the interaction and
exchange between crowds and goods (ethnic food/fusion music, etc).
Illustrative to understand the logic of this entire section on market
multiculturalism is the case of Thales of Miletus (around 624 BC). The
story goes that he was first a merchant before being a philosopher. This
would explain the double-edged meaning of the word to speculate:
financially and philosophically, which is exactly how this Part II of the
book is organized that now proceeds.

Chapter 3

Others For Sale

Multiculturalism means business! A central argument that runs

through and is developed in this chapter accounts for a fundamental
shift in emphasis from the pluralization of radical identity politics
theorized earlier into a rather depoliticized normalization and
commodification of multiculturalism. It is argued that the hegemonic
idea of multiculturalism after the fall of the Berlin wall fits perfectly
well within a market-led approach to the hedonistic consumption of the
others culture.
The notion of market multiculturalism relates to a specific moment
whereby together with the celebratory discourses of the postmodern
global village, the simultaneous loss of political urgency within the
ranks of the Western intellectual and militant left is paramount. By
refocusing the question of cultural autonomy and diversity through the
understanding of multiculturalism as consumption, the consumption of
cultural diversity is related both to the widening process of globalization
as well as the decreasing urgency of political activism, which results
from the collapse of really existing socialism.
In the previous chapter, the theoretical tools provided by Ernesto
Laclau, among others, have shown that the analysis of discourse and
ideological critique originate from a position that is neither neutral nor
located in a transcendent outside or exteriority but is rather intrinsic
to the very symbolic order that structures society discursively. Slavoj
iek and Alain Badiou also share with Laclau this sense of contingent
undecidability (Jacques Derrida) against any idea of structural
determination (or indeed any notion of end of history, politics,
ideology etc or inevitable civilizational wars as claimed by liberal
and/or conservative thinkers such as Francis Fukuyama or Samuel P.
In addition, with his theory of hegemony and discursive articulation,
Laclau has also enriched conceptually this enquiry on multiculturalism,
which he embraced in its radical, struggling forms. Just as much as


multicultural controversies

the work of Laclau was central in the previous chapter, both Badious
and ieks insights are central to this chapter on at least one shared
account: they both address the question of multiculturalism directly and
capture the tight relationship existing between the ethical and political
dimension informing the discourses of the other and the globalized,
consumerist, market-driven dimension of multiculturalism.
From a slightly different angle, Stanley Fishs notion of boutique
multiculturalism offers yet another compelling critique of the politics of
difference, which is two-fold: On the one hand he looks at the, so to speak,
selling difference orientation of market multiculturalism; on the other
hand he speaks of the ultimate impossibility of multiculturalism keeping
its inherent promise of respecting and/or tolerating the others difference.
Indifference to diffrance
To better frame Badious position on multiculturalism the following
bibliographic point ought to be made: despite the huge amount of
critical studies and the obvious relevance they retained (and still retain)
at the time of the fall of communism in wide sections of academia, if
anything the two major global intellectual bestsellers of this postBerlin wall period stemmed from the liberal and conservative end of
the political spectrum. The first was Francis Fukuyamas End of History
(1989, 1991), the main thesis of which is based on a then re-invigorated
belief that there was no viable alternative to the liberal model of open
parliamentary democracy and the free market economy; the second
was Samuel P. Huntingtons direct response to Fukuyama in The Clash
of Civilizations (1996) where Huntington advances a key argument for
posterior accounts about globalization and multiculturalism; namely
that he foresaw cultural qua religious identities to be the main source of
global conflict in the post-Cold War world.2
Fukuyamas work was further criticized from another angle by
Jacques Derridas hauntology. Derridas response to Fukuyamas end
of history thesis was his own theory of specters that haunt history. By
this he meant that the death of a particular social and political system
(really existing socialism) does not entail the death of the thinker(s)
and thought(s) that inspired it (Specters of Marx, 1994). Yet beyond his
hauntology, it is rather Derridas ethical turn through his readings of
Emmanuel Lvinas alterity of the other, which becomes relevant to

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the multicultural controversies, particularly in regards of Badious own

critical position on such ethics.
Peter Dews (2004, 107) frames well this ethical turn within
the temporal and spatial coordinates but also intellectual and/or
epistemological structures of feeling, which coincide with the one
elaborated in this enquiry:
The recent history of cultural theory in the Anglophone world offers a salient example [of the new attitudes towards the value of ethics]. If one recalls the take-off of post-modern theory, back in the
1970s, there was an unmistakable sense of exhilaration in the air.
The decentering of subjectivity, the unleashing of the forces textuality, corporeality and desire, the jettisoning of the critics role as
guardian of values, were experienced as a liberation. Fashionable
thinkers were thrilled to lose themselves in a maze of proliferating
rhizomes, to ride the rollercoaster of the will-to-power. ( . . . ) The
mood of the moment was jouissance now, pay later. Yet a decade
or so later, questions of conscience and obligation, of recognition
and respect, of justice and the law, once dismissed as the residue
of an outdated humanism, have returned to occupy, if not center
stage, then something pretty close to it. The so-called ethical turn
of deconstruction, the popularity of Emmanuel Levinass thought,
the surge of interest amongst Lacanian theorists in such matters as
radical evil Pauline agap and Kierkegaardian faith, are only the
most obvious manifestations of this trend.3

According to Badiou, noticeable in this ethical turn is not only how

it manifests itself in the discourses privileging the idea of the alterity of
the other; but how it works on the standard discourse of human rights
where, as it were, Evil always runs the show.4 In addition Badious attack
on the contemporary discourse of human rights is based on his belief
that the abstract universalism of such discourse only offers well-meaning
asseverations, which are powerless to alter the actual state of the world
(Dews, 108). More importantly, it is the unambiguously ideological
function of the discourse of human rights (and multiculturalism) that
Badiou despises most. As Dews states (109):
In the opening pages of Ethics Badiou expatiates vehemently on his
conviction that the language of human rights, multiculturalism and
respect for the alterity of the other are merely the means by which


multicultural controversies

the white, affluent, West seeks to assure its own good conscience,
whilst continuing to ravage and exploit the rest of the world. The
discourse of human rights, Badiou asserts, not only debases human
beings, treating them primarily as subjects of corporeal need. It
splits the supposedly universal Subject of rights between the haggard animal exposed on our television screens, on the one hand,
and the sordid self-satisfaction of the good-Man, the white-Man
on the other (E 14/13).

As a counterpoint, Dew himself is to call for a slight correction of

Badious position on human rights, which is open to an obvious criticism.
Dew points to the fact that Badiou is not mistaken in suggesting that the
discourse of human rights has ended up providing crucial ideological
cover for economic and cultural imperialism, not to mention outright
military intervention. In this respect no one doubts the murderous
hypocrisy with which the Western powers, led by the US, have invoked
the language of human rights in recent years. But, and this is an
important but, according to Dew (109):
Human rights have also been a rallying call for many activists
around the globe. In the form of the Helsinki Accords, they were a
major focus for the East European opposition in the years leading
to 1989. They were equally important tactically for Latin Americas
struggle against the dictatorships, and continue to provide a vital
political point of leverage for many indigenous populations, not to
mention the Tibetans, the Burmese, the Palestinians. [Moreover]
The United States, as is well known, continues to refuse recognition
to the recently established International Criminal Court, fearful, no
doubt, that members of its own armed forces, and perhaps of former
administrations, could be amongst those arraigned before it.

Dew is quick to acknowledge that behind this approach hides a

defense of human rights discourse primarily in terms of its political
utility (109). That is to say, following Laclaus and Mouffes earlier
arguments, human rights constitute an empty signifier worth fighting
for in order to avoid the original emancipatory meanings of universal
human rights to be fully co-opted by dominant Western powers rather
than by subordinate/subaltern peoples.
In any case, Badious critique against multiculturalism and/or the
bogus humanitarian ideology of victimage, otherness and human

others for sale


rights rests on the fact that they refer to notions of ethics (and culture)
that ultimately displace, if not dispose of politics as such, let alone of
emancipatory politics; that is to say, of collective political projects
articulated around recognized antagonisms.
For Badiou, the blackmailing effect of this very moral terrorism
shows itself at its best, precisely when the universal reality of the market
economy meets with the ethics of alterity and the relativistic fantasies
of both post-modern and liberal multiculturalism already alluded to.5
In short, if Badious ethics leave no room for any innocent or pious
approach to the discourses of good old human rights, likewise the
aesthetics of multiculturalist difference do not find a better fortune.
For Badiou multiculturalism wants to respond to the apparent
complexity and multiplicity of being and its great ideal is the peaceful
coexistence of cultural, religious and national communities, the refusal
of exclusion (2001, 26) but, all in all, the world is not as complex as
we are often made to believe. If fact (2003, 913) our world is perfectly
simple: On the one side, the rule of abstract homogenization imposed
by capital has finally configured the world as a vast, extended market
(world-market). On the other side, a culturalist and relativist ideology
accompanies the ongoing process of fragmentation into myriad-closed
For Badiou, this affirmation of identity always refers back to
language, race, religion or gender, and demands the respect and
recognition of ones own communitarian-cultural singularities. Yet
the false universality of monetary abstraction and homogeneity
has absolutely no difficulty in accommodating the kaleidoscope of
communitarianismsof women, homosexuals, the disabled, Arabs!
In other words, both processes, i.e.: financial globalization, or the
absolute sovereignty of capitals empty universality and identitarian
celebration of particularist differences, are perfectly intertwined: The
two components of this articulated whole are in a relation of reciprocal
maintenance and mirroring.
According to Badiou, through the infinite combinations of
predicative traits, communitarian identities are turned into advertising
selling pointsBlack homosexuals, disabled Serbs, moderate Muslims,
ecologist yuppies . . . It is in this way that, certainly, the empirical
existence of differences cannot be denied as such: there are differences.
One can even maintain that there is nothing else (2003, 98). In fact:


multicultural controversies

Infinite alterity is quite simply what there is. Any experience at all
is the infinite deployment of infinite differences. Even the apparently reflexive experience of myself is by no means the intuition of
a unity but a labyrinth of differentiations, and Rimbaud was certainly not wrong when he said: I am another. There are as many
differences, say, between a Chinese peasant and a young Norwegian professional as between myself and anybody at all, including
myself (2001, 2526).

Hence, when according to Badiou (26) Contemporary ethics kicks up a

big fuss about cultural differences:
[W]hat we must recognize is that these differences hold no interest
for thought, that they amount to nothing more than the infinite and
self-evident multiplicity of humankind, [as obvious in the difference between me and my cousin from Lyon as it is between the
Shiite community of Irak and the fat cowboys of Texas].6

Badious provocation here resides in his claim that what is required

in this debate is indifference to difference:
Only a truth is, as such, indifferent to differences. This is
something we have always known, even if sophists of every age
have always attempted to obscure its certainty: a truth is the
same for all (2001, 27).
Yet, simultaneously, in this argument difference is not dispensed
with altogether. Instead for the universal of truth itself to verify its own
reality, universality must expose itself to all differences. Universality
must show that differences are capable of welcoming the truth that
traverses and transcends them (2003, 106).
Ideological form of global capitalism
Terry Eagleton (2003a, 248) summarized neatly the themes and
tensions explored so far with regard to Alain Badiou:
Denouncing the ideology of Man in deliberately old-fashioned,
theoretically anti-humanist terms, [ . . . ] Badiou characterises the

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political situation today as the unrestrained pursuit of self-interest,

the disappearance or extreme fragility of emancipatory politics, the
multiplication of ethnic conflicts, and the universality of unbridled
competition. If this is scarcely an original portrait, his assault on the
conventional ethical response to this dispiriting condition is more
striking. The ideology of human rights divides the world between
helpless victims and self-satisfied benefactors, and implies a contempt for those on whose behalf it intervenes. The idiom of difference and otherness that accompanies it reflects a tourists fascination for moral and cultural diversity; it accepts only those others
who are good otherswhich is to say, those like myself; which is
to say, no other at all.

ieks discourse on multiculturalism tends to agree almost entirely

with Badious critique of the idiom of difference and otherness. The
task now is to bring forward this critique. According to iek (2006,
1701) multiculturalism constitutes a form of identity politics defining
a specific postmodernist cultural logic, which all too simply designates
the form of subjectivity that corresponds to late capitalism.7 In ieks
The ideal form of ideology of global capitalism is multiculturalism,
the attitude which, from a kind of empty global position, treats
each local culture as the colonizer treats colonized peopleas
natives whose mores are to be carefully studied and respected.
[ . . . ] In other words, multiculturalism is a disavowed, inverted,
self-referential form of racism, a racism with a distanceit
respects the Others identity, conceiving of the other as a selfenclosed authentic community towards which the multiculturalist
maintains a distance made possible by his/her privileged universal
position. Multiculturalism is a racism which empties its own
position of all positive content [while] retain[ing] this position as
the privileged empty point of universalism from which one is able
to appreciate (and depreciate) other particular cultures properly
multiculturalist respect for the Others specificity is the very form of
asserting ones own superiority.

Following on from ieks argument above, 8 multiculturalism does

not conform to a recipe containing any kind of subversive potential
for progressive, let alone radical identity politics. In other words, the


multicultural controversies

ongoing and largely self-serving celebration of dispersed, fragmented,

plural and hybrid or hyphenated identities does not conform with
effective forms to challenge fundamentalism, to contest essentialism or
to disrupt fixed identities.
To add insult to injury, for iek the question is not only that the
celebratory dimension of un-fixed diversity as predicated in (radical)
multiculturalist identity politics is ineffective. It is rather the reasons for
such lack of efficiency which are more damaging. ieks position is set
against the entire project of cultural studies which, with the celebrated
ascendancy of contemporary post-structuralist, post-colonial, postMarxist and post-national discourses, rests, as shown in Part I, on the
radical pluralization of cultural identities. For iek, this form of identity
politics amounts ultimately (to) fight(ing) a straw-man (27). It amounts
to fighting a straw-man because the empty point of universality to which
iek alludes in clear reference to Laclau and Mouffes work (1985) is
already occupied or filled by a particular content, which functions as a
disavowed absent center (S. iek, 1999), as the unmarked political sign
of a particular identity, as the empty signifier, the norm, against which
difference (ethnicity) is measured (S. Hall, 2000, 221).9
Most importantly, there is another reason why, according to iek,
challenging, contesting or disrupting whatever forms of essentialist
fundamentalism also amounts to fighting a straw-man; namely, the
widespread claim on, and belief in multiculturalisms ability to combat
prejudice and intolerance rests ultimately on forms of engagement
that fall under the rubric of what iek describes as politics without
politicsa form of politics, that is to say, whose main purpose is to
avoid confrontation and to dispense with the very central notion of
antagonism. A form of politics, in short, that rests on the hope (and
fantasy) of a frictionless, harmonious society based on negotiation and
In this context not only liberal multiculturalism but even the
alternative and participatory engagement of post-modern cultural
critique and identity politics constitutes another variation of politics
without politics (coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, sweeteners
without sugar or milk without fat). As celebratory resistances are reduced
to the pursuit of particularethnic, sexual, etclifestyles, the prospect
of a truly radical politics is deprived of its malignant supplement. In other
words, the sting of antagonism is substituted with a politics of identity

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pluralisation not involving a logic of struggle but a logic of resentment:

the logic of acknowledged victimhood, of proclaiming oneself a victim
and expecting the dominant social Other to pay for the damage (203).
For iek, neither the calls for consensual, pragmatic and reformist
improvements within the liberal-democratic framework, nor those
(theoretical) positions that lean towards taking steps to favor an
alternative participatory democracy from a more radical multicultural
perspective, offer an appropriate account of the fundamental(ist) threat
(racial, religious, national) that is to be warned against. According to
iek, addressing the issue in terms of:
[M]ulticulturalist openness versus a new fundamentalism is a false
dilemma: they are the two faces of todays post-political universe:
( . . . ) the consensual form of politics of our time, that is, which offers the appearance of a choice where essentially there is none (28).

Accordingly, the hope, first of all, that in such a fundamentally

choice-less frame of reference, the true liberal-democratic society will
arise out of gradual reforms, which will eventually do away with all
forms of intolerance and fundamentalism:
[F]ails to account for their interconnection. It fails to account for
the way the supposedly neutral (and normal) liberal-democratic
framework produces fundamentalist closure as its inherent opposite (205).

In this context, which echoes Badious predicament (recall how the

two components of this articulated whole are in a relation of reciprocal
maintenance and mirroring,) so-called post-modern cultural critique
and identity politics also fit the bill of the current depoliticized notion
of society: a post-ideological notion of society whereby every particular
group is accounted for and has its specific status acknowledged through
affirmative action or other measures destined to guarantee freedom
from strife and avoid social unrest (for which, iek also points out, an
intricate police apparatus is required (203).
Effectively, post-modern identity politics is the end of politics
proper. Likewise it is the product and outcome of globalization without
universalism (204): a product, in other words, where the uncontested
realm of the contemporary global market and new world orders smooth


multicultural controversies

transnational circulation and functioning of Capital can do without

the properly political domain of universalizing ones particular fate as
representative of global injustice.
What arises thus from the permissive coexistence of a multitude
of ways of life within the global capitalist framework is de-politization,
and it is pitted against such an end-of-ideology post-politics that iek
insists on the necessity of overcoming the procedural framework of
pluralist negotiation and consensual regulation, which remain at the
base of such multicultural notions as understanding and respecting
the Other. Instead, we should strive to:
[O]pen the way for a return of the political proper, that is, the reassertion of the dimension of antagonism that, far from denying
universality, is consubstantial with it (198).

In short, according to iek, what is required is to invent a new

mode of re-politization that questions the undisputed reign of global
Capital; to invent forms of political practice that contain a dimension of
universality beyond Capital (27). Although, to reiterate, these forms of
political practice do not imply that one should place too much emphasis
on transformative forms of radical, participatory and alternative
democracy as we understand them today; on forms of engaged political
practice, that is to say, in which we are active in order to make sure that
nothing will happen, that nothing will really change (212).
Actual change, if anything, can only stem not from proposing
radical alternatives in an attempt at keeping the dream alive through
standard modes of committed participation in socio-ideological life.
iek defines this form of participation as agonic antagonism, probably
drawing from Chantal Mouffe (2002) who establishes a clear distinction
between antagonism (struggle between enemies) and agonism (struggle
between adversaries) and sides with the later conception of agonistic
struggle in order to develop a strong sense of participative democracy. In
contrast to such a position, for iek, the proper political gesture is not
giving in to the urge to act, to avoid, in other words, the compulsion to
do something in the times where the function of all imaginable forms of
active and localized resistance and subversion is to make the system
run more smoothly.

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Boutique Multiculturalism
ieks provocative thoughts constitute a full-scale attack on the
waterline of the multicultural ship (dialogism, community engagement,
critical participation . . . ). For iek, in fact, the truly difficult thing to
do today is just the opposite, that is, to withdraw from activity.11 Another
staunch critic of multiculturalism is Stanley Fish who, as it will be now
shown enters into robust polemics with those who defend it, including
Will Kymlicka (in this chapter) or Jrgen Habermas (in the next).
In the influential article Boutique multiculturalism, or why liberals
are incapable of thinking about hate speech, Stanley Fish (1997, 1)
spoke of multiculturalism coming in at least two versions, boutique
multiculturalism and strong multiculturalism. First of all,
Boutique multiculturalism is the multiculturalism of ethnic restaurants, weekend festivals, and high profile flirtations with the other
in the manner satirized by Tom Wolfe under the rubric of radical chic [1970]. Boutique multiculturalism is characterized by its
superficial or cosmetic relationship to the objects of its affection.
Boutique multiculturalists admire or appreciate or enjoy or sympathize with or (at the very least) recognize the legitimacy of the
traditions of cultures other than their own; but boutique multiculturalists will always stop short of approving other cultures at a
point where some value at their center generates an act that offends
against the canons of civilized decency as they have been either declared or assumed.

Unlike boutique multiculturalism, which ultimately places emphasis

on a vacuous universalism over insisting on the tolerance of diversity
proper, what Fish means by strong multiculturalism is the politics of
difference, which is strong because it values difference in and for itself
rather than as a manifestation of something more basically constitutive.
In this respect,
A strong multiculturalist will want to accord a deep respect to all
cultures at their core, for he believes that each has the right to form
its own identity and nourish its own sense of what is rational and
humane. For the strong multiculturalist the first principle is not rationality or some other supracultural universal, but tolerance (3).


multicultural controversies

The trouble with tolerance becoming the central principle is that a

strong multiculturalist cannot be faithful to it. According to Fish this is
[B]ecause sooner or later the culture whose core values you are
tolerating will reveal itself to be intolerant at that same core; that
is, the distinctiveness that marks it as unique and self-defining
will resist the appeal of moderation or incorporation into a larger
whole. Confronted with a demand that it surrender its viewpoint
or enlarge it to include the practices of its natural enemiesother
religions, other races, other genders, other classesa beleaguered
culture will fight back with everything from discriminatory legislation to violence (3).

First of all, therefore, the boutique multiculturalist does not take

difference seriously because the signs of this difference (quaint clothing,
ethnic music, curious table manners) while enigmatic and picturesque,
belong nevertheless to the realm of a particular(ist) lifestylesomething,
which should not be allowed to overwhelm the substratum of rationality
that makes us all brothers under the skin (4).
Secondly, beyond this fragile if not false universalism (Badiou,
2003) of liberal multiculturalism writ large, the problem with strong
multiculturalism is that the general principle in favor of difference is
taken so seriously that it then fails to do so when coming to the real nittygritty of allowing particular differences the possibility, even imperative
of their full realization in a political program.12
In this context, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the
boutique multiculturalism Fish alludes to is not only related to open
and often unsolvable ethical-political questions; at the same time,
another fundamental factor of multiculturalism as a whole, strong
multiculturalism included, is this; namely that it is intimately related,
both in the West and elsewhere in the world, to the global dimension of
capitalism (or the universalism of capital as both Badiou and iek have
already pointed out) as well as the hegemonic rise of neo-liberal political
With regard to the consumerist, market dimension of
multiculturalism, another critic who is well aware of both Stanley Fishs
as well as Badiou or ieks rather derogatory approaches to the idea of
cultural difference is Will Kymlicka. Kymlickas aim, in this context, is to

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broaden the meaning of multiculturalism away from its understanding

as economic phenomenon mainly, or merely, linked to the consumption
of cultural diversity:
A number of terms have been developed to capture this
phenomenon: critics have talked about corporate multiculturalism,
consumerist multiculturalism boutique multiculturalism, neoliberal
multiculturalism or Benetton multiculturalism (after one of the
multinational corporations that most successfully branded itself as a
purveyor of commodified cultural diversity) (2009, 131)
Kymlicka explicitly refuses to buy, so to speak rather appropriately,
the argument exposed earlier by the likes of Badiou and iek for
whom these two domains are related in such an intimate way that
indeed, according to iek, the ideal form of this global capitalism
is multiculturalism (129). According to Kymlicka, on the contrary,
it is true that, on the one hand, the emergence of multiculturalism
in the past thirty to forty years more or less corresponds in time with
the era of intense economic globalization, welfare state retrenchment,
the privatization of public-owned companies and resources and the
deregulation of the markets (128). Yet, on the other hand, this view that
sees multiculturalism as serving the purposes of global capitalism rests
on a mistaken analysis. Although it is true that multiculturalism has
been affected by these larger changes in the global political economy, it
is no less true, that according to Kymlicka, multiculturalism has quite
different origins from neo-liberal economics. In fact,
The idea that multiculturalism emerged as a tool of global capitalism is simply not born out by the facts. [ . . . ] Multiculturalism was
first introduced by left-liberal or social-democratic political parties,
in response to popular mobilization by non-dominant groups. It
was in short social movement multiculturalism (129).

As Kymlicka continues, at the beginning the corporate and political

forces that supported the re-structuring of the economy proposed by
neo-liberal orthodoxy (Reagan / Thatcher . . . ) opposed multiculturalism
in ways also explained at the end of the part I (no society, non-state
intervention on the cultural marketplace, no subsidizing special
interests, no supporting minority languages, etc). So in ways that have
also been explained already, multiculturalism first emerged, according


multicultural controversies

to Kymlicka, from popular mobilization in the face of resistance from

business elites and neo-liberal ideologies (129); although as Kymlicka is
keen to acknowledge,
Over time, it is fair to say that the corporate world has made its
peace with multiculturalism, and indeed that a distinct form of corporate multiculturalism has emerged which interacts in complex
ways with the earlier social movement multiculturalism. (129)

All in all, it is worth remembering that Kymlicka further corroborates,

indeed together with Fish, the broad areas of intervention under which
this book is being organized (1/ Militant qua social movement /
activist / radical / strong multiculturalism; 2/ Market qua corporate /
consumerist / boutique multiculturalism; 3/ Management qua liberal,
mosaic multiculturalism). In addition, Kymlicka further explains how,
over time, social movement and corporate multiculturalism have come
to draw on each other in ways, it must be reasserted, not unlike those
explicitly criticized earlier by iek and Badiou; notably when they
established a straightforward relationship of both dependency and
commonality between corporate transnational globalization and postmodern relativist identity politics.
On the one hand, from the point of view of abstract neo-liberal
economics put into concrete practice, so to speak, Kymlicka confirms
that the neo-liberal push for decentralization, for example, originally
done in the name of economic efficiency, became more popular when
it was linked to multiculturalist arguments about accommodating
diversity (129.) On the other hand, from the point of view of social
movement multiculturalism, Kymlicka also confirms that one of the
main tasks of pro-multiculturalist activism was always to try to convince
the corporate world that, among other things, multiculturalism means
business, a phrase purported to be popular in Canada and Australia in
the 1980s and 90s (130)
In other words, the point here is that in order to reaffirm the
underlying moral argument that multiculturalism extends and furthers
the logic of human rights, one should also prove, at the same time, that
multiculturalism pays. In this respect the most common strategy would
be to highlight the economic spin-offs from multiculturalism; and these
would range from companies placing emphasis on productive diversity

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(which reaffirms the strong value of inter-cultural and linguistic skills

in innovative corporate practices seeking to succeed in an increasingly
globalized economy) to nations and cities branding themselves as
multicultural (ethnic cuisine, music, etc) in order to attract tourists, elite
highly-skilled immigrants and foreign investment (130).
Kymlicka faces here the obvious political impasse, and perhaps
also moral dilemma, deriving from social movement multiculturalism
being devoured, as it were, by corporate multiculturalism. It is then
not surprising that he reacts against the ultimate validity of, and
intentions behind the marketing ploys carried out by (transnational)
corporate organizations seeking to market commodified forms of
cultural difference as a consumer good. Himself a self-defined liberal
multiculturalist,13 Kymlicka opts for taking a dignified position in
favour of the original aims of multiculturalism. For, in fact,
This [process of co-option] is hardly unique to multiculturalism.
We see a similar dynamic with other movements for progressive
social reform, including feminism and environmentalism. These
movements initially emerged in the face of resistance from corporate elites and neo-liberal ideologues, but capitalism has attempted
to recuperate these movements, and find ways to repackage them
as brands and commodities. And so we see ongoing struggles by
social movement activists to retain control over the agenda of these
movements, to preserve their original reformist goals (131)

As can be noticed, it is worth remembering here that Kymlicka regards

social movements such as feminism, or indeed environmentalism, as
constituting separate realms from the multiculturalist struggles. This is
a point he reinforces throughout his works since for Kymlicka the locus
(and ultimate arbiter) of multicultural polity and citizenship is first the
(liberal) state (1989, 1995) and then of late (2009), the institutions of
the international community at a supra-state level. As a consequence,
the aim of all multicultural leaning, as it were, liberal states and suprastate international institutions should be to secure the enforcement
of universalindividual and collective, civic and politicalhuman
rights, albeit with a rather pronounced cultural twist. In this context,
the realm of multicultural intervention proper, about which national
states and international institutions (legal, political etc) should take
(integrated) decisions, is three-fold: a/ minority, sub-state ethno-


multicultural controversies

cultural linguistic groups/nations; b/ indigenous populations or first

peoples/nations; and c/ migrants.

To summarize: The notion of market multiculturalism accounts
for the evidence of a clear shift from the moment of multiculturalisms
irruption as a political transformative tool to this new moment during
which multiculturalism becomes normalized and cultural difference
is depoliticized into consumerist patterns of hedonist and corporate
In this chapter Badiou and iek have converged in their critique of
both post-modern identity politics and liberal multiculturalism while
they simultaneously articulate fundamental questions on the subject,
truth and the sense of politics proper. The aim of Fish was to show
the limits of multiculturalism writ large. Kymlickas on the contrary,
to place emphasis on the virtues, regardless of multiculturalisms
obvious shortcomings. The aim of chapter 4 is to continue to speculate
both philosophically and in terms of the economic determinations of
multiculturalism. In doing so the relations between universalism and
particularism will be explored further and so will the discussion on the
notion of the market pursued further.

Chapter 4

Its the Economy, Stupid!

Through the study of the notion of market multiculturalism, the entire

part II of this book accounts for the modes by which multiculturalism
is irretrievably linked to cultural consumption and the practice of
monetary and financial speculation in various realms of the market
economy, including the realms of ethnic businesses. Also at the center
of chapter 3 was the idea that philosophical and critical speculation
can help unveiling this link. This was shown through the positions
on multiculturalism of Alain Badiou, (false abstract universalism
of capital, indifference to difference, politics of truth,), Slavoj iek
(multiculturalism as ideological form of global and multinational
capitalism, logic of resentment) and Stanley Fish (boutique and strong
multiculturalism). Fish, in particular, dismissed all strong progressive
multiculturalist claims such as Will Kymlickas liberal approach.
As will be shown in this chapter, Fish also directs his critique
against Jrgen Habermas own mark of dialogic, universalist and
rationalist approach to dealing with the Other, particularly in regards
of such key notions as tolerance and respect. Habermas views and
motivations behind his own post-national predicament (of which more
in part III) serve then to extend his compensatory universalizing vision
on intercultural relations to the domain of the political economy. Here
the engagement with the universalism/particularism issue is placed at
the center of our attention again, which leads, in turn to a discussion
between Laclau and iek on the status of the economy, both as a
concept and a reality.
Finally, it is also argued that although notions of the market are
usually understood through its narrow, abstract configuration (i.e.,
financial speculation, free / fair trade, etc), patterns of mass consumption
also encompass notions of the market in concrete locations (marketplace,
shopping mall, high streets, etc). The concept of the market is thus


multicultural controversies

apprehended through both these standard (narrow) as well as extended

(and wider) meanings.
Tolerance and respect
Stanley Fishs highly unfavorable evaluation of boutique multiculturalism
is linked to the notion of market multiculturalism, which also
accounts for the evidence of a new mood and moment in the study of
multiculturalism as consumption.1 Yet, Terry Eagleton, for instance,
refuses to accord Fish the status as a critical intellectual and indeed loses
any sense of decorum as he embarks in the following angry tirade:
That Stanley Fish is thought to be of the Left is, one of the minor
symptoms of the mental decline of the United States [which] is perhaps
not wholly unpredictable ( . . . ) in a nation so politically addled that
liberal can mean state interventionist and libertarianism letting the
poor die in the streets.
Eagleton goes on to say that what Fish has in fact done is to hijack
an apparently radical epistemology for tamely conservative ends. Then
Eagleton claims that Fish remains an old-style, free-booting captain of
industry [ . . . ] a brash, noisy entrepreneur of the intellect who pushes his
ideas in the conceptual marketplace with all the fervor [required to] fanc[y]
himself as an intellectual boot-boy, the scourge of wimpish pluralists and
Nancy-boy liberals. In this sense, Fish the entrepreneurial academic
remains much unlike todays corporate executive who has scrupulously
acquired the rhetoric of consensus and multiculturalism (2003a, 171).2
Yet, it is still worth reminding that Fishs point regarding the question
of multicultural difference was once at the center of a heated debate. Very
much along the lines Slavoj iek adopts (as seen in the last chapter)
Fishs critique to the all-fitting multicultural process of respecting the
different Other is that it only reverts to a kind of benign tolerance. As
this tolerance is only addressed to external difference, ultimately it only
accords a superficial respect to cultures other than ones own. In other
words, ones own dominant culture is read as being not only the culture
of civilized universalism, humans rights and rationality; as a direct and
logical consequence, ones own dominant culture is the very culture
from which to decide when respect and tolerance can be accorded or
otherwise withdrawn when the practices of the Others culture are
found to be irrational or inhumane.

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This is why Fish was particularly sceptic with Amy Gutmann

and Jrgen Habermass approaches (1994) to this precise question. In
reference to Gutmann the question for her was how can we speak of
mutually respectful cultures when the propensity is well known for
members of one culture to vilify members of others? (14). Gutmann
seemed to find a solution for what usually appears to be a thorny issue and
indeed an intractable problem. She did so by establishing a distinction
between differences one merely tolerates and differences one respects. A
difference is respected when one can appreciate that such difference can
be a candidate for serious moral debate; that is to say, when there is a
relevant and serious point in the argument even though it does not agree
with ones own point or position. Yet for Gutmann some differences are
asserted in such an irrational manner that debate is foreclosed. In these
cases, while those differences must be tolerated in a free society, they
also have to be denounced by all right-thinking persons.
Here Gutmann was joined by Habermas who also declined to
admit religious fundamentalists into his postnational constitutional
state because they claim exclusiveness for a privileged way of life and
are therefore unfit for entry into a civilized debate . . . in which one
party can recognize the other parties as co-combatants in the search for
authentic truths(16). The point Fish makes here against such positions
is that . . .
[O]f course, religious fundamentalists begin with the conclusion
that the truths they hold are already authentic, but that is precisely
why they will be denied entry to the ideal-speech seminar when it
is convened. (I hear you knocking but you cant come in.) Fundamentalists and hate speakers might seem an odd couple; what links
them and makes them candidates for peremptory exclusion is a refusal to respect the boundaries between what one can and cannot
say in the liberal public forum. (You cant say kike and you cant say
God.) Although the enemies named by Gutmann and Habermas
are different, they are dispatched in the same way, not by being defeated in combat, but by being declared ineligible before the fight
begins. (8).

In Liberalism, Religion and the Unity of Epistemology Larry

Alexander (1993, 782) adds to Fishs argument by pointing out that an
actual dialogue test is, in effect, a requirement of unanimity. That is,


multicultural controversies

participants must already agree as to what is appropriate and what is not;

but if agreement is supposedly the goal of the dialogue and if it is made
a requirement for entry (in the manner of Gutmann and Habermas)
the goal has been reached in advance by rigging the contest. Success is
then assured, but it is empty because impediments to it have been exiled
in advance, even though they surely exist in the world. In other words,
the key notion to sustain this western, scientist, universalist, rational
approach to dialogue between the different (which are ultimately
the sameBadiou) is precisely reason. For Gutmann, Habermas
and also for Kymlicka earlier, reason works as a valid context-free
standardabstract, universal, transhistoricalable to cross cultural
boundaries and being recognized by all sections of the population in
all cultures (except, one should conclude, those who are irrational and
According to Fish, reasons of the kind liberals recognize are
precisely what the members of many so-called illiberal cultures reject.
The application of reason in an effort to persuade is not the opposite of
imposition but a version of it (4).
In this respect, it could also be that the very notion of tolerance
that strong multiculturalism adheres to is vitiated right from the start.
For tolerance not only constitutes itself as a tokenistic gesture of good
will, at best3; in addition, while respect, for instance, could be said to be
established between equals, tolerance remains a vertical concept, typical
of a stance that believes itself to be superiora stance entitled to mark
out the boundaries of what is tolerable and thus impose its views of what
is permissible on the tolerated. Although according to Fish, not even this
distinction between vertical tolerance and horizontal respect, as it were,
does the trick:
In the end, the distinction between what is to be respected and what
is tolerated turns out to be a device for elevating the decorum of
academic dinner parties to the status of discourse universals while
consigning alternate decorums to the dustbin of the hopelessly vulgar (6).

To sum up, for Stanley Fish, civilized boutique multiculturalists

must necessarily confront the limits of their ornamental tolerance of,
and shallow affiliation with, the ethnic recipient of their fondness. This

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is how, out of this confrontation/realization, in the face of the particular

other it is universalism, which also becomes their last line of defence; a
universal identity, in other words, that ultimately prevents a boutique
multiculturalist taking the core values of the cultures he tolerates
Universal, particular, singular
Habermas communicative theory is key to debates around liberal
multiculturalisms calls to the dialogic understanding of the Other,
etc. The limits of Habermass overall positions on multiculturalism
are twofold. These limits are not only related to the already alluded-to
predicament for consensus-seeking dialogic negotiation. In addition
Habermass position on national identity and how his notion of
Constitutional Patriotism impinges upon the respective roles assigned
to civil society and the State will also come under attackas it will be
shown in the next section.5
For the time being, a main criticism that Habermas must face
has to do with his overall philosophy of language. Habermas dialogic
approach is considered to be far too angelically metaphysical as it
were, since his central objective is to discern how to establish forms
of mutual understanding between opposite parts via non-forced and
hence voluntary agreement and consensus. In the opposite side, it is
worth mentioning here the diabolic nature of Hans-Georg Gadamers
hermeneutics. Gadamer points out how Habermas approach relies on
a vision of reality that is external to language. Recall his approach to
universalism, which also relies on an external quasi-transcendental
view of an abstract entity devoid of any particular content. Yet against
Habermas, in the same way that universalism can only be if and when
appropriated by some particular content, so does Gadamer contend that
there is no way of addressing any social problematic as if it was external
to, or could exist outside language itself: Reality does not occur on the
back of language [ . . . ] reality occurs within language (1976, 35).
In regards to Habermas and the relationships between universalism
and particularism, it is worth recalling the concrete terms of this key
debate as they were framed in the introduction of this book. There
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe positioned themselves between
and against both Habermas modernist defense of universalism and


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Lyotards postmodernist leaning towards relativistic particularism.

On the one hand, Habermas conception was refuted because the
hermeneutical claim to universality he proposed (1983) was seen to
possess an independent content of its own, free of any contingent
hegemonic articulation. On the other hand, the particularism of
Lyotards (1979, 1984, 1992) conception of society as consisting in a
plurality of incommensurable language games was also avoided.
The relevance of this debate between those proposing to perfect the
ideals of the Enlightenment project through rational communicative
action and those adhering to the relativist post-modern condition of
pure heterogeneity and difference spills over our specific concerns
regarding multiculturalism. This became apparent through a final
question Laclau formulated in the following terms: is a pure culture of
difference possible, is it possible to claim a pure particularism that does
not rely on some universal principle?
To this question not only Laclau and Mouffe but also Alain Badiou
and Slavoj iek responded in one degree or another. Indeed albeit they
were all too aware of the inherent impossibility of universalism they all
agree, nevertheless, in the necessity of articulating a coherent discourse
around the question of universalism.
For Laclau, to begin with, instead of operating at the rather futile yet
never innocent level of searching for blissfully context-free universals
privileged by Habermas, such universal-particular pairing comes
into being through concrete antagonistic qua hegemonic operations
/ struggles of all sorts. According to Laclau ([1996] 2007, 14): In an
antagonistic relation, that which operates as a negative pole of a certain
identity is constitutively split. In other words, it is the constitutive
split of any identity, which displays the emergence of the universal
within the particular. Yet, at the same time, this shows as well that
the relation between particularity and universality is an essentially
unstable and undecidable one. For Laclau (1415) the universal results
from a constitutive split in which the negation of a particular identity
transforms this identity in the symbol of identity and fullness as such.
As a consequence, with Laclaus (and Mouffes) evocative notion of
contaminated universalism:
the universal has no content of its own; but is an absent fullness or,
rather, the signifier of fullness as such, of the very idea of fullness;

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the universal can only emerge out of the particular, because it is

only the negation of a particular content that transforms that content in the symbol of a universality transcending it;
since the universaltaken by itselfis an empty signifier, what
particular content is going to symbolize the latter is something
which cannot be determined either by analysis of the particular in
itself or of the universal.

In other words, the relation between the universal and the particular
depends on the context of the antagonism and, it is, in the strict sense of
the term, an hegemonic operation in which a struggle over the meaning
of key terms takes place. In this sense, universalism will always be
contaminated with some specific particularism (Laclau, iek, Butler,
Laclaus own brand of contaminated universalism is thus relevant
to discussions on multiculturalism since he seeks the impossible of
universalism (from) within the struggles carried out by concrete and
particular cultural identities and / or political subjectivities.
As to Alain Badiou, while his reliance on Saint Pauls call for
struggling universalism (in the last chapter) speaks of a bold and
staunch anti-relativist approach, his apparently unequivocal siding with
universalism is more nuanced than it appears at first. In other words, for
Badiou universality only arises once a truth has emerged through our
fidelity to this singular process, the claim of which makes this singular
process part of the universal. By calling upon the universality of a
concrete faithfulness to a specific truth-event, Badious position opens the
way for a critique of false universality, that is, the abstract universalism of
capital. As discussed in chapter 3, Badious critique of multiculturalism
stems from his struggling universalism which can also link up with Fishs
critique of liberal multicultualism. In this sense it is worth recalling
Terry Eagletons summary of Badious position according to which, the
language of difference and otherness (particularism) only reflects a sort
of tourists fascination for moral and cultural diversitya fascination for
a kind of superficially picturesque mosaic multiculturalism that accepts,
nevertheless, only those others who are good others, who are ultimately
like myself, that is, not other at all.
Less paradoxically that it seems again, Slavoj iek also appeals
to the Kantian call in his classic An Answer to the Question: What is


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Enlightenment? [1784] for the public use of reason (universal dimension)

as opposed to the private use of reason (our particular, personal and
cultural idiosyncrasies). This is why, in addition, iek (2011, 109) calls
for the articulation of the Hegelian triad of the Universal, the Particular
and the Singulara triad in which each element can both be kept in
touch with but also separated from the other two: the universal thought
prevents individual / singular idiosyncrasies from remaining trapped
in the social substance (to each ones hobbies: you can, if you want, mix
red wine with Coke, you might prefer Virginia Woolf to Daphne du
Maurier, choose which you want); personal idiosyncrasies prevent social
substance from colonizing the universal thought; and social substance
prevents the universal thought from becoming an abstract expression of
personal idiosyncrasy.
Likewise, iek (2008, 132) brings both Laclau and Badiou together
as he provides a telling background in regards of the relationships
between universal capitalism and particular cultures as follows:
It is not only that every universality is haunted by a particular content that taints it; it is that every particular position is haunted by
its implicit universality, which undermines it. Capitalism is not just
universal in itself, it is universal for itself, as the tremendous actual
corrosive power which undermines all particular lifeworld, cultures
and traditions, cutting across them, catching them at its vortex.

In other words, for iek, the universalizing impetus of capitalist

liberalism and the extensive emphasis placed on the economy and
hence the market manages to devour, as it were, all sense of cultural
particularity. In this sense the proper slogan would be: It is not
particular cultures stupid, it is universal capitalism! And yet it is
worth recalling that for both iek and Badiou the current trends of
global homogenization and the corollary universality of capital do not
necessarily impinge negatively upon the diversity and heterogeneity of
cultures, but instead complement one another.
To sum up, in one way or another, the views of iek, Badiou and
Laclau rely on a position in regards of the relations between the universal
and the particular stemming from contingent articulations. Hence all
three are opposed to Habermas, for whom the values of universalism
and particularism are allocated beforehand.

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The market (and the) economy

Let us now consider the phrase the economy. It is worth recalling
that Bill Clintons famous slogan Its the economy, stupid! came to
epitomize last centurys (happy, saxophone-playing) 1990s victory of
the market economy-led, liberal democratic political proposition of the
Western First World over the communist emphasis on the centralist
state planning of the economy in the Second (Eastern Europes) World.
Ironically, this Clintonian emphasis on the economy ran against the grain
of the very post-Marxist critique developed to counteract the economic
determinism of classical Marxism. Against the characteristic it is the
economic base you silly idealist of classical Marxism, the post-Marxist
critique of such economic reductionism contested precisely the idea that
the logic of the economy is absolutely independent and determinant
of other domains (society / culture, state), which would then be quasidismissively located at the level of the ideological superstructure.
Laclau and Mouffes (1985, 7585) position is paradigmatic of such a
critique of the economy, understood as the last redoubt of essentialism
in classical Marxism, for all in all, It is not the case that the field of the
economy is a self-regulated space subject to endogenous laws (86).
It has already been duly pointed out that for Laclau and Mouffes antifoundationalist perspective, in addition to some key concepts (metaphor,
rhetoric, discourse, hegemony, chains of equivalence/difference), a main
point of their overall argument rests on the following idea: concepts are
always empty and are as a result open to different processes of meaning
construction through various hegemonic articulations and struggles.
This explains why hegemony is never established forever. Following this
thread also leads to the argument that the economy is yet another such
empty signifier. In other words, the economy is also an empty notion,
which is open to the hegemonic struggle over its meanings through the
various modes of discursive articulation which constitute the economy
(or society, or the state) within the various fields of conservative, liberal,
Marxist . . . feminist . . . discursivity.
Highly informative, in this respect, is a debate Laclau engages in
with iek on this specific subject. Laclau presents iek as a desperate
defender (2005, 236) of the classical Marxist tenet regarding the
determination of the economy in the last instance, as Engels legendary
quip stipulated. Laclaus further point is that iek puts together two


multicultural controversies

incompatible ontologies (deriving from Marx and Freud) to defend his

position on the primacy of the economya claim, Laclaus, it must be
said, which is most surprising when coming from the very theorizer who
emphasizes the arbitrary nature of discursive articulations. Regardless,
Laclaus position (2367) on the centrality of the economy is this:
The irony is that iek did not need this clumsy eclectic discourse
to show the centrality of economic processes in capitalist societies.
Nobody seriously denies this centrality. The difficulties arise when he
transforms the economy into a self-defined homogeneous instance
operating as the ground of society [ . . . ] The truth is that the economy
is, like anything else in society, the locus of an overdetermination of
social logics, and its centrality is the result of the obvious fact that the
material reproduction of society has more repercussions for social
processes than do other instances. This does not mean that capitalist
reproduction can be reduced to a single, self-defining mechanism.

Hence, not only iek but also Clinton is/are both wrong and right.
As iek (2009, 78) puts it, The symbolic efficiency [efficacy] of illusions
regulates activity which generates social reality. In this sense, while
it is true that all instances (cultural, political, etc) have more or fewer
repercussions for social processes, it is no less true that the symbolic
efficiency of such an illusion as believing the economy to be the center
of it all works also in ways of producing such social reality. In fact, if we
go back to Thatcherism for a second, it is worth remembering that the
utopian core of neoliberal economy rested and relied on the symbolic
efficiency of a central beliefthe staunch, ultra-extreme belief and quasireligious faith, that is, that unregulated markets would somehow always
produce the best possible results. This was the case regardless of two
contiguous facts: one is that the other half of the Thatcherite discourse
was based on the neo-conservative defence of a strong State to promote
the sense of national belonging and traditional cultural values, family,
etc.; and the second is that this very state, denigrated as too interfering, is
the institution legislating accordingly in order to promote the neo-liberal
policies, which seek the de-regulation of markets- more on this shortly.
In the meantime, it is clear that the field of the discussion between
Laclau and iek is also open for a discursive competition on the various
narratives surrounding the issue of the economy and the question of the
relationships between the market, the state and society. But is ieks

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call for a return to political economy as economo-centric as it appears

to Laclau? Or is it instead that the debate between Laclau and iek
remains yet another symptom accounting for a specific intellectual
process; one whereby the ground of analysis is shifting from identity
and cultural politics back again to political culture, including a newly
re-invigorated critique of political economy? And then, therefore: is it
the economy or is it ideology, stupid? What is the market, really? Are
consumer and labor markets only part of the economy or are they all
too simply ideology?
These questions lead to the following point: the theme and critique of
consumerism and consumer culture was always central in the tradition
of Marxism and critical theory. This is why we now turn again to this
theme in order to conclude with a further discussion on the very concept
of the market.
When discussing the market, there is this almost ingrained tendency
to consider it as the locus of a bodiless and abstractindeed nebulous
entity, where ghost-like unscrupulous financial speculators feel at home.
This vision forgets that the market is also a concrete place/space in a way
that Marxist critical theory understood only too well!6
Marxist critical theory stemming from the tradition of the Frankfurt
School offers two main opposing views on this issue: There is the rather
devastating critique by Theodor Adorno and Horkheimer (1972) of
culture industries understood as mass deception; and there is the rather
more lenient, as it were, but certainly more nuanced approach to the
dream-like effects of early mass consumer culture, such as that explored
by Walter Benjamin in the Arcades project (1999, 2002). Arguably, the
style and contents of the latter will win over the former in contemporary
critical and cultural studies as, in addition, this particular theme of the
market will become central, predominantly in the 1990s. This is how the
market will even come to be invoked as a potential locus and space of
resistant and liberatory politics. Recall, for instance, Jon Fiskes (1989,
1992) description of youth (radical, punk) subcultures (Dick Hebdige,
1981 [1977], 1988) hanging around in shopping malls constituting acts
of defiance and resistance to authority, etc. In this debate, the point of
departure of the cultural and critical studies approach to consumerism
and consumer culture will still mostly take an overall critical and sceptic
view. For instance, Mike Featherstone (1990) situated consumption at
the individual level of narcissistic performance:


multicultural controversies

Within consumer culture, which approximately coincides with

the culture of narcissism, the new conception of self which has
emerged, which we shall refer to as the performing self places
greater emphasis upon appearance, display and the management of

From a feminist position, Meaghan Morris (1988; 1992, 469) accepted an incommensurable level of ambiguity with regard to the shopping
centers themselves:
Shopping centers are overwhelmingly and constitutively paradoxical. On the one hand, they seem so monolithically presentsolid, monumental, rigidly and indisputably on the landscape, and in
our lives. On the other hand, when you try to dispute with them,
they dissolve at any one point into a fluidity and indeterminacy that
might suit any philosophers delirium of an abstract deminity.

Yet, paradoxically, Don Slater (1993) moved the debate from the
notion of individual consumption to that of the crowds resulting from
anonymous individuals coming voluntarily together in the market.
Hence Slater understood the market as a space of consumption and
hedonist distraction:
By considering the market as a specific kind of experience
that of being a place where crowds of desiring individuals are
presented with the most diverse objects of stimulationwith a
long cultural history and dynamics, we can see that this rebellious
and creative subject can be found not only at the moment of
consumption, but prior to that it the market itself. In going to
the market for the material means to sustain and develop ways of
life, we become embroiled in the game of distracted and playful
hedonism. Indeed, and ironically, the market as a place of desire
without obligation, of intimate fantasy in the minds of impersonal
anonymity, of spectacle, entertainment and play, as a place where
dreams can flow across a multitude of objects without yet being
faced permanently on any one probably still provides the single
most potent space in Western societies in which one dreams
alternative futures and is related (utopicly) from the unthinking
reproduction of cultural life.

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On these accounts, the study of the market as a physical space

seems to be squeezed between two positions: on the one hand, the
manipulation thesis privileged in critical theory, and on the other hand,
the over-celebratory views of the market understood not only as the
locus for hedonistic consumer transactions but also for potential cultural
resistance even. Beyond such celebrations and away from conspiratorial
views of the market, Mary Douglas (1996, 106125) offered, from the
point of view of structuralist anthropology, a more nuanced and indeed
pragmatic approach to consumption. Douglas spoke of a consumer
revolt and claimed that she was not defending consumerism but rather
putting the question of conscience in context. In this way, together with
the idea of consumer rationality she argued that the association of the
consumer society with capitalist production should be questioned (109).
In this context, Douglas certainly took the anti-consumerist approach of
critical theory into account:
Mindless consumerism is part of a trend that has made our culture
victim of commodification and exposed us to predatory advertisers
and the media (108)

Yet, beyond some consumers accusing others of practicing mindless

consumerism, or worse than mindless, of morally wrong consumerism
(106) for Douglas there must be some other ways than opting out (109)
for if consumerism is bad, do we have no responsibility as consumers?
(108) Hence, it is within this framework that her theory of the rational
consumer must be understood, not least because the idea of the consumer
as weak-minded and easily prevailed upon is absurd (86). For Douglas,
to the contrary, protest is the aspect of consumption which reveals the
consumer as a coherent, rational being (81), for which reason:
We have to make a radical shift away from thinking about consumption as a manifestation of individual choices. Culture itself is
the result of myriads of individual choices, not primarily between
commodities but between kinds of relationships. The basic choice
that a rational individual has to make is the choice about what kind
of society to live in. According to that choice the rest follows. Artefacts are selected to demonstrate the choice. Food is eaten, clothes
are worn, cinema, books, music, holydays, all the rest are choices
that conform with the initial choice for a form of society (82).


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Notions of multiculturalism and multicultural consumption are

part and parcel of these choices. This is very much the case as consumers
are often called to perform the role of good multiculturalist subjects in a
commercialized world. Yet when Douglas locates consumer power, as it
were, as the source of individuals making a choice of society her position
also seems to be, as a consequence, guilty of wishful thinkingher
position, in other words, is clearly the outcome and product of mauvais
conscience in the face of post-modern societies invitation to an all-out

By looking into the ambivalent notion of the market this chapter
has further reflected on the multiculturalism means business
motive. Together with a critique of this consumerist dimension of
multiculturalism, an in-depth discussion has extended to the ethical
and political domain through questions surrounding the universalism/
rationality vs. particularism/relativism debate; one that eventually
advocates for some concrete ethics of truth and is complicated through
contingent articulations taking place between the singular (individual
identity), the particular (cultural identity) and the universal (political
On this account, the universalist approach of Habermas was pivotal
to certain debates around liberal multiculturalisms calls to the dialogic
engagement with the other, etc. However, the limits of such theory were
also considered via Fishs (and also Laclau, iek and Badious) critique.
Habermas approach to multiculturalism is this chapter was addressed
through his predicament for consensus-seeking dialogic negotiation.
In section III Habermas relation with multiculturalism is to be dealt
with through the question of national identity (post-nationalism) and
how his key notion of Constitutional Patriotism impinges upon the
respective roles assigned to civil society and the State, which becomes
now the center of analytic attention.

Part III
Multiculturalism as Management
The State


| multicultural controversies

part 1 multiculturalism as struggle: society

| 73

This is what, in the heat of the debate around the 9/11 attacks iek
(2002, 4647) had to say:
So what about the phrase that reverberates everywhere: Nothing
will ever be the same after September 11? Significantly, this phrase
is never further elaboratedit is just an empty gesture of saying
something deep without really knowing what we want to say. So
our first reaction to it should be: Really? What if, precisely, nothing
epochal happened on September 11?

iek (2009, 4546) further illustrated some of the pitfalls inherent

in the present global conjuncture with the following example:
As if in an ironic nod to Giorgio Agambens theory of the state of
exception, in July 2008 the Italian government proclaimed a state
of emergency throughout Italy in order to cope with the problem
of the Neighbor in its paradigmatic contemporary form: the illegal
entry of immigrants from North Africa and Eastern Europe. Taking
a demonstrative step further in this direction, at the beginning of
August, it deployed 4,000 armed soldiers to control sensitive points
in big cities (train stations, commercial centers . . .) and thus raise the
level of public security. There are also now plans to use the military
to protect women from rapists. What is important to note here is
that the emergency state was introduced without any great fuss: life
goes on as normal . . . Is this not the state we are approaching in
developed countries around the globe, where this or that form of
the emergency state (deployed against the terrorist threat, against
immigrants, and so on) is simply accepted as a measure necessary
to guarantee the normal run of things?

In light of the above passages, it can be added that the fall of one
particular wall (Berlin) has also contributed to the building of many
others (Fortress Europe, American-Mexican border, Israel-Palestine).
Likewise, following Agambens theories of the state of exception (2005)
and most notably of the homo sacer (1998), it could be said that this
process brings about the formation of a collective subject corresponding
with that constitutive outsider Laclau considered necessary for the
functioning of the State.
The aim of Part III is to reflect on these issues of migration,
national identity and the role of the State, and to do so dialectically.


| multicultural controversies

The notion of multiculturalism as management refers to this state of

affairs whereby the more it is said that the state is dead the more it
remains alive and kicking, as it were. In this sense, despite explicit
statements to the contrary (cosmopolitanism, openness . . . ), the
main implicit assumption remains that the State, as the epitome
of defensive Western dominant grand-national identity, is still the
most powerful mediating structure for the integration of subordinate
difference. This is the main theme of chapter 5, where the well-known
category of post-nationalism is read through post-colonialism and
border theory. In chapter 6 the meaning of post-nationalism varies,
as the link (or articulation) is no longer with forms of radical and
confrontational identity politics. Instead, what are privileged are
forms of sophisticated multiculturalism (Giddens, 2008) and calls
to dialogic negotiation (Habermas, 2001) both contained within the
framework of the liberal-democratic Nation-state.

Chapter 5

Nation and Migration

The liberal-democratic sense of a victorious, celebratory, optimistic

(happy 90s) and consumerist laissez faire attitude presented in the
previous section is dramatically transformed following the 9/11 Al
Qaeda attacks against the highest (symbolic) institutions of the United
States. These attacks came also to symbolize the moment after which
cultural and political perceptions were almost universally said to have
shifted dramatically forever. One effect of the new geo-political and
symbolic frontier built around the anti-terror war against the global
Muslim threat is clearly that a substantial shift does indeed take place
regarding the ways of understanding multiculturalism.
In such a context, the main celebratory post-national discourses,
which emerged in the 1990s are in need of being reviewed and readjusted
to a new situation. This is the case as globalization does not bring about
the waning let alone weakening of nation-states as was widely announced
and predicted in that decade. Far from disappearing, on the contrary,
nation-states take directly on the renewed task of building ever so taller
and secure walls against the threat posed by increasing migratory flows.
The notion of management multiculturalism is thus linked here to the
re-nationalization of multicultural politics and the reduction of statepolitics to the administration and supervision (governance, policy
making and legislation, criminal justice system) of the ways of life of
minority ethnic cultures.
In short, following 9/11 global geopolitics are reduced to a new
international logic structured around the War on Terror and the
construction of a new demonized subject of hate (the Muslim question).
This key geopolitical shift accounts for the ensuing management of
difference under the auspices of a permanent State of exception and
emergency whereby the very sovereign state (Schmitt [1922] 2004 [1933]
2001)reinforces notions of the Other as a source of fear, (Sayyid [1997}
2003). In this context, celebratory approaches to multicultural diversity
and difference presented previously in this book seem now too benevolent


multicultural controversies

and a reassessment is needed of multiculturalism in the age of postnationalismitself a highly ambiguous terms if ever there was one.
In this chapter post-nationalism is read through post-colonial
theory, and particularly though what is known as border theory.
Therefore, post-colonial theory becomes again the point of departure
and the perspective from which the topic of multicultural otherness is
viewed as located in the margins (homo sacer, migrants). The presentation
of border theory leads then to discussions of the scholarly literature on
nationalism where the limits of imagined communities (Anderson,
1983/9) are shown through an understanding of the nation as narration
(Homi Bhabha, 1990). Finally, border theory is applied to explain the
different borders (local, European, global) within which dominant
national imagined communities are narrated as unmarked (Hall, 2000,
2003) and through forms of banal (state)-nationalism (Billig, 1995) in
the main European nation-states, notably, France, Germany and Britain.
In Britain, particularly, following the 20019/11 Al Qaida attacks on the
United States and particularly after the 20057/7 London bombings,
a perceived crisis of multiculturalism is believed to be prevalent. This
sense of crisis of multiculturalism is discussed within the context of both
border theory as well as the theories of nationalism and globalization. In
short, border theory serves here to challenge the legitimacy based on the
perceived historical stability and durability of now, often, neo-imperial
Western nation-states.
Border theory
Globalization speaks of a re-organization and adaptation of
Western (imperial/colonial) nation-states into the present and pressing
requirements of transnational cultural and economic flows. In a context
of liquid modernity (Bauman, 2000) a variegated array of hybrid cultures
(Garcia Canclini, 1995, 2000; Werbner & Modood (eds) 1997) must
proceed under the disjunctive conditions (Appadurai, 1990, 1996) of
a global transnational culture, which must certainly be apprehended
within the overarching coordinates of an all-embracing world system qua
capitalist-world economy (Wallerstein, 1974, 1979; Featherstone, 1990).
Simultaneously, post-colonialism speaks of a transnational
intellectual structure of feeling, which aims at developing a critique
of a period posterior to centuries-long material domination of the

nation and migration


West over the Rest, and its corollary: a more notoriously (in)famous
symbolic structure or discursive master narrative of domination based
on establishing, as Edward Said put it, the difference between the
familiar (Europe, the West, us) and the strange (The Orient, the East,
them) (1978, 43).1 In such a context, just as critical multiculturalism
cannot escape the grasp of radical identity politics, so it is impossible
for multiculturalism to escape the effects deriving from this distinction
between the West and the Rest. This, according to Salman Sayyid ([1997]
2003, 47) is most fundamental because:
[I]t is this distinction that underpins the post-colonial world. Attempts to overcome the West / Rest distinction by pointing to empirical multiculturalism (that is, the existence of many cultures and
the impossibility of thinking of one culture) and valorizing hybridity (the normative celebration of multiculturalism) fail because they
ignore the way in which the West / Rest distinction is played out
as the distinction between the hegemonic and the subaltern and
between the culturally unmarked and culturally marked.

Likewise, talking of Western hegemonic powers means seeing the

West as one entity but also understanding that European forms of both
neo-imperialism and neo-nationalism constitute an attempt to compete
with a powerful US not hiding its thrust for global hegemony. What
remains clear altogether is that these two separate but complementary
Western geo-political realities are built upon the re-enforcement of
gates, both symbolic and physical, of a new global divide, a barbarian
divide, which merits examination. In this way, iek (in Butler, Laclau,
and iek (ed.), 2000, 313) directs us to look at the fate of migrants in the
first person while he also mobilizes the notion of the universal:
I perceive the shadowy existence of those who are condemned
to lead a spectral life outside the domain of the global order,
blurred in the background, unmentionable, submerged in the
formless mass of population [ . . . ] I am tempted to claim that
this shadowy existence is the very site of political universality;
in politics, universality is asserted when such an agent with no
proper place, out of joint, posits itself as the direct embodiment
of universality against all those who do have a place within the
global order.


multicultural controversies

As Western European and North American gates keep global

immigrants from other (sub)continents and fundamentalist Muslim
terrorists out of the eternal (city-)states, a geopolitical way to look at
this whole new globalized state of affairs is by mobilizing the old biopolitical trope of the barbarians vs. the civilized. It is here that against
themthe barbarians, wethe civilized are alwaysalready claiming
for ourselves an enlightened humanist history of cosmopolitanism
dating back to the very ancient beginnings of Western civilization.2
At this juncture one should be aware that the new divide between
global barbarians and Western civilized citizens can only be sustained
by a process of overlooking and indeed forgetting a distinctly modern
colonial and grand-nationalist history. In addition to a convenient
forgetting of the past, what is also required is a re-organizing of the
present along clear narrative strategies. This discursive re-organization
takes place by aiming both outside and inside: not only, hence, by hiding
the necessity felt of expanding in a neo-imperialist fashion over their
former areas of influence (colonies, protectorates, neighboring states,
etc) under the veil of humanitarian intervention; but also exhibiting
an equally misleading predisposition to deny the fundamentally neonational(ist) character of the universalist discourses mobilizedthis
being the case more particularly in regards of Western Europes main
established nation-states also mobilized against the particularistic
national minorities sitting within their borders.
This is why the new reorganization of both culture and the economy
in globalization requires that the dominant narratives inherited from
Western hegemonic powers be re-examined. For more often than not,
both state-nationalism and empire are presented to us as a long foregone
events, as something that took place in the far-off nineteenth century
and no longer have any bearing on the twenty first.3
Still relevant to the purposes of this re-examination is, without a
doubt, Gloria Anzalduas border theory (1987). Anzaldua reflected
particularly on the border between Mexico and the USA, and focused
on the Reagan era, from which neo-liberalism emerged. In that context,
Anzaldua clearly stated that the formation of border culture and
economy becomes a reality, a country of its own:
Barefoot and uneducated, Mexicans with hands like boot soles
gather at night by the river where two worlds merge creating what

nation and migration


Reagan calls a frontline, a war zone. The convergence has created

a shock culture, a border culture, a third country, a closed country

As Anzaldua concluded, the workings of double consciousness in border

history also alter human reality and thinking:
Not only was the brain split into two functions but so was reality.
Thus people who inhabit both realities are forced to live in the
interface between the two, forced to become adept at switching
modes (37).

Although initially operative within the concrete American / Mexican

context of feminist qua lesbian chicana studies in the Reagan era, border
theory can be extended, incorporated and reworked to account for other
divides and frontiers (both internal and external) between the West and
the Rest. In this way, border theory can be instrumental to de-construct
narratives of a Western/European history that at best forget and at worst
re-write its violent colonial / imperialist past while hiding, at the same
time, the current neo-imperialist impulses to dominate over former
Border theory also allows showing in the European context how
borders work as limits defining and structuring standard European
qua metropolitan-civilized discourses on the Other. Yet the Other
here is not solely understood as external and non-European; at the
same time, the Other is also internal to Europe yet externalized as a
not-sophisticated-enough Other such as is the case with small sub-state
national formations.4
In short, border theory5 challenges discourses based on the construction of new walls between the dominant West/Europe and all kind
of global but also local barbarians. Border theory works at the interstices
of established nation states and speaks of the fact that as much as
borders are gates that divide and separate people, they are also zones of
interaction and hybridization.
Border theory serves thus to set a certain counterpoint to rigid
narratives of national belonging; although, at the same time, theories
of nations and nationalism also speak of political, social and cultural
realities, which are themselves complex. In this context, opposing


multicultural controversies

questions of national identity and nationalism to ones self-belief in

the idea of universal citizenship within the context of multiculturalist
controversies may often constitute a distraction to critical analysis also.
Like border theory, theories of nationalism also agree in the complex
nature and also fluidity of the object under study. Although often
understood as stable and rigid structures, when discussing nations
scholars agree that nationalism is a complex object of study. Nationalism
is complex because, as both Benedict Anderson (1983/9) and Peter Alter
(1989) emphasize respectively, the very concept of nation is a fluid notion
that has proved notoriously and extremely difficult to define.
Peter Alter says that nationalism is ambiguous because it is
polymorphic and multiform, and conceals within itself extreme
opposites and contradictions: it can mean emancipation and it can
mean oppression. Nationalism is then a controversial object because,
as a conclusion of the aforesaid ambivalence, it can be considered as an
anomalous historical development or even as a political aberration, which
becomes, he continues, synonymous with intolerance, inhumanity and
violence; ( . . . ) and yet at the same time, it could just as often engender
hopes for a free and just social order (25). This is why, Alters main
proposal remains that only with reference to a concrete historical
context can we say what the term actually does or should signify; and
this is indeed also why, Anderson adds to Alters suggestive invitation
for individualized inquiry the following supportive appeal; namely to
do our best to learn the real, and imagined, experience of the past (146,
emphasis added).
In other words: the real or indeed the imagined nation (as Benedict
Andersons felicitous adjective goes) is both ambivalent and ambiguous.
From this it also follows that national claims do not necessarily mean
claims to superiority as the standard clich goes. Hence, following the
methodology again of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe with regard
to how political articulations operate, national claims can be articulated
in conservative ways (recall remarks on Thatcherism and Britishness
on an earlier chapter) but also become the possibility for more general
emancipations (Laclau, 2007). This is so in the sense that, and extent to
which, adhesion to the national idea as such does not necessarily belong

nation and migration


to one particular political side or another. According to either different

moments in history or the variety of forms, a national idea can take in
the same conjuncture, such adhesion is able to adapt to, and be inflected
towards different political positions, traditions, discourses and forces.6
No matter what the status of the nation was as either / both liberatory
and / or oppressive, approaches to nations and nationalism shifted in the
1990s. At that time, within the context of a (post)modern globalization
perceived as an increasing and unstoppable phenomenon, an intellectual
belief in the bleak future of nation-states became ever so widespread.
For instance, Arjun Appadurai (1996, 7) claimed the following:
The nation-state has entered a terminal crisis and an important new feature of global cultural politics . . . is that state and
nation are at each others throats, and the hyphen that links them
is now less an icon of conjuncture than an index of disjuncture.7
Appadurais work was also particularly instrumental not only
in the understanding of how diaspora, migrant and exile ethnoscapes
re-position themselves in and around the world; but also because it
articulated a view of cultural processes understood as the outcome
and product of the imaginarya notion which encompasses both the
image (say, of mediascapes) and the imagined (of ideoscapes), and which
according to Appadurai (31, 29) constituted terms that direct us to
something critical and new in global cultural processes: the imagination
as a social practice. In other words, in order to understand the cultural
and historic development of exilic and diaspora communities Appadurai
built on Benedict Andersons idea that national formations constitute
imagined communities.
Andersons central argument is that the nation is an imagined
community.8 The nation or for that matter nationality, nation-ness and/
or nationalism constitute cultural artefacts of a particular kind; a nation
is an imagined creation, something that is invented and fabricated as
Ernest Gellner (1983, 1987) and Eric Hobsbawn (1999, with Ranger,
1983) often pointed out. Yet what really matters in order to understand
the construction of a particular national identity is not that a nation is
merely imagined and invented; rather than dwelling on issues of falsity
or genuineness, what is crucial for Anderson is the ways and style in
which the nation is imagined and narratedthe ways and style, in


multicultural controversies

other words, in which nation-ness is retold and rediscovered: the nation

is reinvented through history and memory; the nation is narrativized
through imaginative literature, the nation is re-articulated through
ideological and political work, et cetera.
In this respect Andersons appeals quoted earlier to do our best to
learn the real, and imagined, experience of the past (146) is key to Homi
Bhabha (1990), who also deals with the specific issue related to the ways
in which present national narratives are articulated around memories
of the past.9 Bhabha himself states the following right from the outset:
Nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time (1)
which linked to the idea of nations nebulous past also refers to loosing
their origins in the mists of time. In addition, Geoffrey Benningtons
contribution to the same volume edited by Bhabha (Nation and
Narration) also revolves around the proposals that (i) the idea of the
nation is inseparable of its narration (132) and that (ii) at the origin of
the nation we find the history of the nations origin (121).10
Within the contemporary context of studies in multiculturalism,
Bhabhas postcolonial cultural critique also brings forward the idea
that exilic / migrant identities, nation and colonialism are inextricably
linked in modernity. As he points out in the concluding paper (1990,
291) with the suggestive title of DissemiNation:
The emergence [ . . . ] of the modern nation [ . . . ] is also one of
the most sustained periods of mass migration within the west, and
colonial expansion in the east.

Certainly, in one way or the other the nation remains a bte noire
of critical studies on radical identity politics. For instance, when
Stuart Hall (1993) dealt with national identity and diaspora qua
migrant politics within the context of globalization, he also addressed
several multicultural themes directly (the home and away dialectics of
diaspora/migrant subjects, hybridization and cultural diversity in the
global world) as a means of undermining the politics of nationalism. If
for Hall the nation-state was a terrible historical hurdle, (361) this was
so because following Anderson, historically, the nation-state constitutes
a symbolic formation, a system of representation which produced
the idea of nation as imagined community. The nation-state hence
constituted for Hall an imagined, or invented / fabricated, community

nation and migration


and within the present historical moment of increased globalization,

Hall then also contended that alongside the weakening of the nationstate, unprecedented opportunities were also offered for smaller national
movements to bring about their aspirations of self-government in new,
more effective political arrangements.
As Hall is concretely referring to the case of the small nations located
within the British Isles / borders, he was also adamant in insisting that
cultural diversity is here to remain the fate of the modern world. As a
result, a greater danger arises, he argued, from forms of national and
cultural identitybe they emerging national movements and / or old
state formationswhich attempt to secure their identity by adopting
closed versions of culture and community, and refuse to engageeven
in the name of an oppressed minoritywith the difficult problems that
arise from trying to live with difference:
National movements that in their struggle against old closures,
reach too closed, unitary and homogeneous a reading of culture
and community will have succeeded in overcoming one terrible
historical hurdle only to fall at the second (361).

As with Appadurai, Hall also reminds us of the global era we all

live in and where unprecedented financial, technological, cultural,
ideological and human exchanges take place all around us. This speaks of
a world that has irremediably opened up into a never-ending, borderless
network(ed) society (Manuel Castells, 2000). Yet the very ambiguity of
the nation (dominant/subordinate; state/stateless; oppressive/liberatory)
as discussed so far in this chapter also calls for a very specific and
distinct two-directional critique: not only of the standard liberal (and
liberal-multiculturalist) position on the nation but also those stemming
from radical multiculturalism and the left.
For in the context of standard multiculturalist debates elicited
from within the frameworks of well established nation-estates, explicit
statements that express noble ideals such as integration, respect and
reciprocity, intercultural dialogue and tolerance, equality in diversity,
social cohesion, etc, also risk being constructed on political and cultural
visions with built-in implicit assumptions and prejudices.


multicultural controversies
Implicit assumptions

Overall, when dealing with the question of nations and nationalism,

a de-nationalisation of the State, as it were, becomes part and parcel
of a standard anti-nationalist qua post-national rhetoric. We are
referring here to discursive articulations that privilege facile appeals of
cosmopolitan world citizenship and, more often than not, display a sense
of superiority (and also often of deplorable arrogance) when assuming,
that is, taking for granted a kind of non-nationalist status of traditional
or historical European nation-states.
Slavoj iek is adamant as to the suspicious nature of such selfvindicating cosmopolitan and anti-nationalist intellectual propositions.
Not least within the Western, and more particularly European context
where those cosmopolitan and anti-nationalist claims stem from
precise intellectual contexts situated in strong nation-states.11 Among
these, three are, without the shadow of a doubt, the main state-national
formations around which European cultural politics and political
culture have revolved so far: Britain, Germany and France.
Despite intellectual anti-nationalist fantasies to the contrary, when
talking about multiculturalism, certainly in Europe but also globally,
the focus cannot be removed from the strength of the influence still
exerted by the highly idiosyncratic national predicaments (or existential
attitudes and political positions) privileged and nurtured in these three
main grand-national states (German idealism and contemplation,
French politics and revolution, and Anglo-American pragmatism
and economic zeal).12 Accordingly, a similar matching exercise could
be suggested here with regard to some admittedly broad ideological
and existential attitudes to multiculturalism and cultural diversity.
These could be encapsulated as follows: German segregation, French
assimilation, and English integration.
In the wake of this analogy, it is obvious that Frances classical
revolutionary politics come to symbolize the ultimate abstract
universal values of freedom, equality and justice. In turn, these
universal values also stand for the principle that it is not (sub)cultural
groups or collective communitarian entities but citizens who belong
to, and participate in the unity of the civic and republican nation
directly as individuals, that is, without any particular communal or
identitarian mediation; hence the specifically assimilationist cultural

nation and migration


politics with regard to migrant communities stemming from, and

privileged in, French political culture.
Yet, in the face of such Jacobin tradition informing French official
anti-multiculturalism, it would also be a mistake to take the German
approach as any better in regards to cultural difference (recall Chancellor
Merkels rather pejorative handling of the multiculti question and
her explicit assessment that multiculturalism has utterly failed in
Germany). The question however would be: but was there any official
German multiculturalist policy in the first place, for it then to fail? In
reality, Germany never applied a consciously multiculturalist policy
but instead thought about the Other (i.e., mostly Turkish migrants) in
terms of a segregated, that is, separated and distant Orientalist object of
simultaneous contemplation and rejection.
This is precisely why Will Kymlicka refuses to count the
German case as multiculturalist.13 For Kymlicka, together with some
complementary issues related to what are known as identity politics
(gender, class, ethnicity), multiculturalism is mostly about three main
areas of intervention: immigration, indigenous peoples and other
cultural / national minorities, all of these being dealt with, needless to
say again, within the context seldom challenged of already established
nation-states. In this respect, it is worth insisting on the idea that, in
fact, multiculturalism constitutes a rather idiosyncratically utilitarian
and pragmatist technique of social engineering best defining the liberal
Anglo-Saxon integrative approach towards the management and
governance/governmentality of cultural diversity.14
Much unlike the French case, which consists of over-affirming
the idea of French (linguistic, secular, republican) identity, the AngloSaxon approach hinges instead on the opposite attitude, that is to say:
on understanding that the best pragmatically and symbolically efficient
way to go about the business of dealing with multicultural diversity
is not over-emphasizing but rather under-stating the yet normative
source of the dominant unmarked identity (Englishness) against which
all other differential identities (African-Caribbean, Muslims, Gay and
Lesbian, people with disabilities, Scots, Welsh, Irish . . . ) become visible
only as marked and hence subordinate formations (or at least so was the
case until recently).15
Paradoxically, this overall multiculturalist approach which, as
it will be now shown, relies on a clear link with discourses of national


multicultural controversies

identity, weighs heavily as well on the British lefts own engagement with,
and commitment to identity politicsalways-already rooted within
the very national confines of British political culture.16 This is clear for
Sarah Ahmed (2008) who from a black feminist perspective looks at the
local context of British politics, left, right and center. Ahmed does so
as she attempts to answer a public interpellation by iek according to
which, it is an empiric fact that liberal multiculturalism is hegemonic.17
In her response to the challenge iek extended to anyone to prove
the opposite, Ahmed reasserted the need for a critical reappraisal of
contemporary multiculturalist politics as she simultaneously developed
a critique of British multicultural politics and hidden racism under New
Yet on reading Ahmeds response to iek, it can be argued that
one does not think that there is, or perhaps better put, one does not
see a major difference between ieks insistence on the empirical fact
that liberal multiculturalismis hegemonic and Ahmeds response
according to which, [t]he fantasy that multiculturalism is the hegemony
would amount to a kind of language game concealing the Real of
monocultural hegemony. For, after all, the central argument does not
revert so much to knowing whether the hegemony of multiculturalism
is an empiric fact or notone should think of iek using this term in
a very commonsense way (empiric meaning overwhelming and obvious
matter of fact).
As both iek and Ahmed explore the conditions of (im)possibility
of (British) liberal (democratic) multiculturalism, it also seems that both
agree with the fact that noble ideals such as anti-racism, to name only a
very visible one, often end up constituting discursive strategies leading
to social practices that serve to conceal dominant-culture led hegemonic
politics. This is why Ahmed associates the notions of diversity and
multiculturalism with the realm of British monocultural fantasy. In
such a fantasy, as she puts it:
Racism is officially prohibited. This is true. We are supposed
to be for racial equality, tolerance and diversity, and we are not
allowed to express hatred towards others, or to incite racist hatred. I would argue that this prohibition against racism is imaginary, and that it conceals everyday forms of racism, and involves
a certain desire for racism.18

nation and migration


According to Ahmed, the prohibition of racist speech should not

be taken literally since it functions as a way of imagining us, good
multicultural subjects, as placed beyond racism: By saying racism is
over there look, there it is!Ahmed continues- in the located body of
the racistother forms of racism remain unnamed. Following from the
validity of this argument, however, does not Ahmeds position converge
with Zizeks point that multiculturalism is a disavowed, inverted, selfreferential form of racism, a racism with a distance?19
In other words, this experiences of racism which support the
hegemony of whiteness necessarily include the almost invariably
tokenistic nature involved in the gracious liberal desire to positively
engage with the different Other. As both Stanley Fish and Alain Badiou
put it in their own terms on an earlier chapter, this is a desire, ultimately,
to engage with someone other who must be brought to be the same as
me; a desire, hence, that underpins the very, in Ahmed words, [ego]ideal(ist) discursive fantasies, which are invariably based on the promise
of a frictionless and harmoniously integrated (multicultural) society
so long as the dominant (universal, monocultural) point of view is the
initial point of comparative departure. So long, that the main national
identity at stake, that is, is never put into question.
In this respect, Ahmeds engagement with iek must be framed
within a concrete temporal framework corresponding to the post7/7 (2005) London bombing (Recall Tony Blairs lapidary statement:
The rules of the game have changed).20 One of the consequences of
such bombings was that they prompted renewed calls such as Tariq
Modoods for Remaking Multiculturalism after 7/7. This was then seen
as necessary and urgent because, according to Modood (2006, 1) the
London bombings of 7 July led many analysts, observers, intellectuals
and opinion formers to conclude that multiculturalism has failed; even
worse, that it can be blamed for the bombings.
Following the 7/7 London bombings, what was understood to be an
all-out anti-multiculturalist backlash took place in Britain, one of the
consequences being a generalized call for abandoning multiculturalism
and embracing some form of interculturalism instead. In other words,
with this move from multiculturalism to interculturalism, the aim was
to shift emphasis from the celebration of difference and pluralism to
insisting on integration and building bridges between communities; to
underline, as a popular sound bite went at the time, what unites us and


multicultural controversies

not what separates us. Trevor Phillips from the Commission for Racial
Equality summarized this new mood well when he said that: In recent
years weve focused far too much on the multi and not enough on the
common culture (quoted in Tariq Modood, 3).
In short, the multiculturalism vs. interculturalism debate in the
wake of the 7/7 (2005) bombings in London corresponded to the classical
liberal-national(ist) debate, which attempted to articulate the equality in
difference motto in such a way that respecting difference and celebrating
diversity could be achieved by praising (national) unity (national unity
in difference, as it were)
The point is, nevertheless, that this debate did not substantially alter
the main coordinates of the issue at hand. In this sense Ahmed is right
again when she criticizes:
The explicit argument of New Labour that multiculturalism went
too far: we gave the other too much respect, we celebrated difference too much, such that multiculturalism is read as the cause of
segregation, riots and even terrorism (italics added).

As said, the post-London 7/7 bombings debate was re-situated along

the lines of the new reading of multiculturalism as failure. This sense of
policy failure brought about the necessity felt to redefine the relationships
between multiculturalism and national identity in Britain. Yet, in the
light of such debates, central to the argument was not so much knowing
whether the hegemony of multiculturalism is an empiric fact or notit
was rather that the main parameters or the central questions at hand did
not change substantially anyway. For instance, when told that a shift hat
to take place from celebrating and respecting the difference of the other
to placing more emphasis on integration and building bridges between
communities, the evidence of the discursive articulation that took place
with New Labour between the necessity of respecting diversity, on the
one hand, and promoting integration, on the other, suggests that the
gap separating these two apparently irreconcilable positions was quite
easy to bridge; that, ultimately, the bridge between multiculturalism and
national identity is not so hard to cross.
Important as it may be to Ahmed, this division merely reverts to a
question of detail; a detail, which refers to the often hidden relationships
existing between anybodys explicit statements and the implicit

nation and migration


assumptions that sustain those statementsa point she clearly captures

in the quote above.
In this sense, what is fair to say is that the supposedly new post7/7 context only provoked the pre-7/7 implicit assumptions of British
multiculturalism becoming the explicit statements of the British nationstate.
For neither before nor after the 7/7 attacks British (liberal)
multiculturalism as a tool and process for celebrating difference was
ever meant to challenge and undermine the common culture guaranteed
by the unifying structures and institutions of the British state. What
changed, admittedly to worse, is the new pervasive insistence on a new
sense of Britishness and the intrinsic virtues of a newly found British
national identity, which becomes increasingly pervasive precisely under
the appearance of the opposite.21

It has been argued that forms of built-in racism may easily take
the guise of anti-racist policy making. Monocultural multiculturalism,
as it were, would thus refer to how the implicit assumptions
(dominant, racist . . . ) of a majority national culture contradict the
explicit statements (respect of diversity, open minded anti-racism)
of official discourses. Previously, border theory sought to disrupt
standard European qua metropolitan-civilized discourses about
the (barbarian) Other understood as both external exilic/foreign
homo sacer and internal unsophisticated minority. In this context,
anti-terrorist discourses of national emergency relying on a quasipermanent state of exception contribute to perceiving multiculturalism
in new different ways. This will be further shown in the next and
last chapter of this book, where the relationships between (post)
nationalism and multiculturalism are studied in more detail.


multicultural controversies

Chapter 6

The State is Dead. Long Live the State

In order to understand the role of nation-states in both modernity and

(mostly) the Western world, Immanuel Wallerstein (1990a, 47) provides
the main cultural and social co-ordinates of the present world-system. In
doing so he also establishes the main difference between pre-modernity
and modernity with regard to how political systems achieve legitimacy:
Modernity as a central universalizing theme gives priority to newness, change, progress. Through the ages, the legitimacy of political
systems has been derived from precisely the opposite principle, that
of oldness, continuity, tradition. There was a straightforwardness to
pre-modern modes of legitimation which does not exist anymore.
Political legitimacy is a much more obscure objective within the
realities of the capitalist world-economy, yet states of course seek
constantly to achieve it. Some degree of legitimacy is a crucial element in the stability of all regimes.

Then, within the context of his overall cultural critique of imperialism

Edward Said (1994, 21) refers to the underlying naivet involved in
thinking of traditional nation-states as benign integrative entities, for:
[O]ne should not pretend that models for a harmonious world order are ready at hand, and it would be equally disingenuous to suppose that ideas of peace and community have much of a chance
when power is moved to action by aggressive perceptions of vital
national interests or unlimited sovereignty.

Central to this chapter is a reflection on the new status of the

nation-state and the discourse of post-nationalism within globalization.
Several conflicting and always contingent discursive articulations are
explored: between liberalism and multiculturalism, between liberal
multiculturalism and (post)nationalism, between dominant liberal
forms and alternative post-colonial forms of (post)nationalism.


multicultural controversies

As this final chapter is more of a broad and mostly theoretical

reflection on those articulations, the first section looks at certain forms
of intellectual legitimization at work. In Britain, Third Way politics
as well as the notion of sophisticated multiculturalism by Anthony
Giddens show well how the articulation between multiculturalism and
national identity takes place. In the rest of Europe and elsewhere it is
Jrgen Habermass assessment of the post-national constellation, which
is to be widely debated. Both these approaches find their political logic
within the conceptual articulation of the liberal-democratic universe.
As it will be shown, these sophisticated post-national discourses are
always presented in anti-nationalist terms but are ultimately articulated
from nationalist positions; from, positions, in other words, which only
reject the nationalism of the Other. This is so because, after all, the word
nationalist is stigmatized and is used to stigmatize, especially those
who do have a state, those who exercise their nationalism in a daily
and usually taken for granted, banal way, and because, as explained
by Michael Billig (1995), this banal nationalism is well established and
consolidated at the international level. In these cases the banal practice
of nationalism is perceived in all its normality because nationalism is an
ideology that historically stems from the state.
Hence, the question of loyalty to the state and its relationship
with the idea of multiculturalism is also an important concern of the
second part of this chapter. After producing an analysis of the discursive
articulations taking place between two different forms of postnationalism alluded to in the previous chapter (i.e.: liberal-democratic
and post-colonial), the final part further looks at the question of the
state and the various levels of post-political administrative management
that emerge within the context of globalization.
Sophisticated multiculturalism
In order to understand what lies implicitly under the explicit discourse in
which national identity and multiculturalism intersect, it is convenient
to remember that it is through a series of discourse articulations
that these two apparently contradictory concepts (nationalism and
multiculturalism) are bound together, and that, in addition, these
discursive articulations also take place within an utopian horizon of
discussion, which arises in the overall liberal market of ideas.

the state is dead. long live the state


In more concrete terms, it was Charles Taylor (1992) who elaborated

these overall liberal-multicultural themes, seeking to reconstitute his now
classic multicultural Politics of Recognition. Taylor saw the promotion of
these multicultural policies as a key meansand even demandto push
liberal democratic institutions, and most particularly state-national
governments, into accepting, understanding and recognizing the
diversity of cultural traditions and their value. This allowed Habermas
to speak (not least, in Taylors second edition of the same volume on the
politics of multicultural recognition (1994)) of a dialogic politics aimed
at building a free (civil) society based on a process of problem solving
through clearly rationalist and consensus seeking approaches.
Habermas post-national position is echoed in Anthony Giddens
own notion of sophisticated multiculturalism (2006). Giddens places
emphasis on the State understood to be the appropriate vehicle for
stressing, the importance of national identity, and national laws, but
also the fostering of connections between different social and ethnic
In a practical sense, by developing a narrative of Britishness
and British national identity within the parameters of liberal
multiculturalism, Giddens clearly linked and thus articulated
nationalism and multiculturalism. He did so when suggesting that
integration of diversity can only take place within the confines of a
particular dominant national culture of a given state-national identity.
In Giddens sophisticated multiculturalism, as a consequence, the
multicultural Other is constituted as an external entity, as a subordinate
minority of sorts (sub-national, cultural, racial, religious, sexual), which
must be integrated into the moral values and civic codes of a given statebased dominant culture and society. This is indeed an approach to the
management of difference, which remains beyond question not only for
Giddens (a fundamental responsibility is to obey the laws of the land)
but also, it is worth remembering here again, for Bhikhu Parekh himself,
for whom the dialogic resolution to whatever historical demand and/
or cultural grievance should be negotiated according to the operative
public values, which formalise legally the way we do things here
(2006, 363365).1
Other than the notion of sophisticated multiculturalism, Anthony
Giddens (1994, 1998, 2000) formulated a Third Way political philosophy
seeking to overcome the shortcomings of the New Right and the Old


multicultural controversies

Left. As Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1983, xivxv) put it, the
proponents of the Third Way claimed that, [T]he notions of the Left
and Right have become obsolete, and that what is needed is a politics of
the radical Centre.2 With the blurring of the frontier between Left and
Right and the move towards the Centre, radical politics concern practical
life issues, which by placing emphasis on the expert administration of a
good and just society should be resolved through dialogue, negotiation
and consensus.
This sacralization of consensus, in Laclau and Mouffes words,
refers to a specific form of liberal and/or progressive politics whereby,
whether the ultimate decision taken should remain more or less rooted in
civil society, community or the individual, or whether the states policy
making should respond to a more or less interventionist or laissez faire
agenda, what remains paramount, nevertheless, is to adhere to the notion
that any right idea (pragmatic, utilitarian, egalitarian, pluralist) can only
be achieved by offering well-grounded, reform-based, instrumental and
realistic solutions with the purpose of tackling the issues that surround
us and achieving the tolerant society we all should strive for.
Although the emphasis on particular points may differ, what
remains imperative is to find that middle ground or middle way between
individual autonomy and communal solidarity, freedom and equality,
cosmopolitanism and non-nationalist patriotism, between merciless
capitalism (capitalism with a heart/human face!) and any form of right
or left authoritarianism or religious fundamentalism. In short, the
ultimate aim is always running away from unreasonable extremes and
to try to occupy that highly sought for middle ground in order to strike
the right compromising balance between the different options available.
And it is in this precise context that Anthony Giddens notions of, and
approaches to Third Way politics and sophisticated multiculturalism
meet Jrgen Habermas theories on (1979) and the notions of a
deliberative democratic and universalistic Constitutional Patriotism
rooted in post-national politics (1997).
The first thing that must be said about Giddens and Habermas
approaches to the nation and multiculturalism is that both are presented
as being pragmatic and utilitarian and both are based on a role given to
the states integrative abilities. Yet, simultaneously, if we were to use a
well-known binary in Ferdinand de Saussures structuralist linguistics
(1945 [1916]) it seems that both these authors rather center themselves

the state is dead. long live the state


in privileging the synchronic realities of (or former dynastic) European

states here and now. As a result, these present post-national approaches
also advance their sophisticated arguments by either omitting references
to the past or otherwise relegating the regrettable impurities of such
states to the diachronic dustbin of history, as it were. Hence reflecting
on the history of the nation-state and the future of a unified Europe,
Habermas (2001, 102103) reached this conclusion:
If this form of collective identity was due to a highly abstractive leap
from the local and dynastic to national and then to democratic consciousness, why shouldnt this learning process be able to continue?
. . . These experiences of successful forms of social integration have
shaped the normative self-understanding of European modernity
into an egalitarian universalism that can ease the transition to postnational democracys demanding context of mutual recognition for
all of uswe, the sons, daughters, and grand children of a barbaric

It seems here that, in re-evaluating the collective identity of the

nation and nationalism, a two-fold implicit operation takes place in
this analysis. First of all, a history of nationalism is mentioned in ways
that Habermas would like to be generalized to all of us in order for
everybody to internalize and share a blame, which is particular to his
own (German) origins, so to speak. Secondly or, rather simultaneously,
the whole history of European imperialism and colonialism is ignored
as if it never happened. As a result, this history of Europe, which hence
was never colonial or imperialist and which has now extirpated the ugly
supplement of barbaric nationalism from its body politics, can claim, as
a result, an evolution which is internal to Europe and which naturally
and un-problematically generates multicultural societies. In addition,
these multicultural societies are endowed with not only the individual
rights of citizens but also with collective rights. As Habermas (74)
himself puts it:
Multicultural societies require a politics of recognition because
the identity of each individual citizen is woven together with
collective identities, and must be stabilized in a network of mutual


multicultural controversies

Hence, Habermas looks at resolving the politics of recognition

in Europe following the North American steps of Charles Taylor, as
mentioned earlier, yet simultaneously attempting a synthesis with John
Rawlss political liberalism (1993), namely, through a similar (neo)
liberal ideological articulation; and, as expected, this ideological, and
also hegemonic, articulation between the formers alluded-to work on
Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition (1992/4) and the latters
Theory of Justice (1971, see also 1999) establishes a would-be perfectly
reasonable middle ground wherein each individual is primarily a citizen
but is also endowed with collective rights.
As noticed, Habermas account above ignores quite blatantly, and
regrettably, the whole (post)colonial history of generalized exclusion of
the migrant Other. In addition, when pushed into having to refer to the
individual and collective rights of some concrete citizens and settled
national communities, how and to whom his own politics of recognition
should be applied appear to be quite arbitrary as well. To give a wellknown example, Habermas (72) clearly dismisses the Irish case as one
not requiring such politics of recognition because the Irish question is a
nationalist problem of the past:
Here I am not referring primarily to nationalist conflicts such as
those ( . . . ) in Northern Ireland. Nothing of the seriousness and
gravity of those conflicts is lost if one sees them as the delayed
consequences of a history of nation-building that has generated
historical fault lines.

For Habermas, the Irish conflict could not fall into the category of
problematics to be resolved under the appliance of the multicultural
recognition formula. For the Irish case represents an anachronistic
throwback belonging to a past era of national conflicts3 In other words,
Habermas establishes a general theory of post-nationalism in Europe, but
dismisses the cases that do not fit his theory. He fundamentally negates
the principle of recognition upon which his theory is built. Habermas
theory is multicultural and post-national in name. His aim, in practice,
is to produce a theoretical framework instrumental to reorganize the

the state is dead. long live the state


existing European states along diversity lines that fit the needs and goals
of neoliberal democracy and capitalism in Europe.
In short, although for Habermas Europe constitutes the ultimate
horizon of his post-nationalism, his position still remains nationalist.
This is so because, retroactively, Habermas still upholds the State and its
historical national identity, based on the history of its majority groups,
as the only institutional locus of recognition. The complementary idea
of patriotic constitutionalism only serves to implement Habermas
nationalist agenda under an explicit state ideology. Through this stateideology, Habermas allocates the potential and possibility of applying the
universal principles of an open democratic, modern and cosmopolitan
citizenship to certain national formations, while the same civic and
democratic potential is denied to other national formations.
Beyond the post-nationalism of Habermas and the like, it has
already been shown that post-colonial discourse has developed its
own particular positions on post-nationalism also. The particular
post-national dimension of radical identity politics draws from welldeveloped arguments and perceptions of the ways post-colonialism and
globalization have destabilized nation-state formations. Likewise, postcolonial discourse disabled absolutely the very possibility of equating
nation-state with a pure (one) race-ethnicity-culture-language. This,
in turn, brought about a major crisis in the cultural and linguistic
approaches organized by nationalist principles. To talk again for
instance of the three main national formations around which European
geopolitics have been organized for the last two centuries, languages
such as English, French, German, etc, are no longer expressions of the
singular identity of a particular nation.4
The work of theorizing the ongoing crisis and demise of these and
other colonial/imperial nation-states as we historically knew them in
modernity is at the same time to observe the ensuing emergence of a
variety of global, post-colonial and post-national cultures along new
dividing lines. As seen in part II, this emergence of global, post-colonial
and post-national cultures is certainly also determined by market forces
and consumption. Yet the divergent aesthetic and ensuing consuming
tastes of a multiplicity of diversified identity allegiances (i.e., gender,
class, subculture) adds to the overall political sense explored in part I;
namely, a sense that it is no longer possible to develop a unique national
narrative rooted to one language and one single territorial entity but


multicultural controversies

there is instead ample room for speaking of trans-national flows and

global difference, heterogeneity, hybridity, fluidity, diffuseness and
notions of de-centerd fragmentation, which no nation could possibly
hold together any longer.
Certainly, the post-national critique, which derives from this
ontological tradition around what has been named as post-modern
identity politics, gives center stage to the ways of being of hitherto
marginalized or subordinate/subaltern identities. Likewise this
tradition finds that it is its intellectual duty to develop an approach to
knowledge or epistemology, which is both firmly contextualized (always
contextualizeStuart Hall) and historicised (always historicise
Fredric Jameson). In addition, this very post-national critique has aimed,
simultaneously, to transcend the dominant cultural tenets and aesthetic
tastes historically over-determined by dominant cultural politics
(institutionalized establishment). To do so, the intellectual tradition
where this overall post-national critique is inscribed also develops a
conceptual framework of its own, from which the productive division
Paul Gilroy (2003, 6768) established between ontological and strategic
essentialism is worth bringing forward here.
This division opposes nationalist and ethnically absolute, unitary
approaches to culture and identity with a more pluralistic and complex
representation of difference and particularity seen as internally divided
by class, sexuality, gender, age, ethnicity, economics, and political
consciousness. This allows constantly weighting the claims to any
unified national identity against other contrasting, polyphonic varieties
of subjectivity and identification. In addition, this division between
the unitary and the pluralist standpoints leaves behind the very status
once enjoyed by the building of not only physical (or territorial) but
also symbolic national borders/boundaries in the writing of cultural
histories, hence opening up new spaces for cultural critique.
This kind of post-national critique makes a significant contribution
to the task of overcoming standard essentialist representations of
any territorially based (cultural) politics (for instance with regard to
the officially established fields of literary studiesEnglish, French
literature, etc). This post-national critique also constitutes a healthy
intellectual antidote to the prevailing, and all pervasive grandnationalist explanations of modernity, culture and identity; a remedy,
in other words, which re-situates the different, differing and concrete

the state is dead. long live the state


localities of a given cultural formation within wider global contexts

while simultaneously calling, as Paul Gilroy did, for the deployment of
explicitly trans-national and inter-cultural perspectives. In this respect,
just as we saw Gilroy standing against absolutist temptations (both ethnic
and state-national) of fixing identity, this kind of post-national(list)
critique also seeks to disrupt any strategy seeking to privilege nations as
the main container for cultural and political identification.
In short Habermas liberal-democratic post-nationalism and,
say, Gilroys post-colonial post-nationalism privilege two different
approaches to dialogue. In the former there is dialogue so long as it
takes place within the confines, norms, and regulations established by
majority cultures in already established nation-statesit is a vertical,
top-down type of dialogue ultimately seeking sameness. In the latter it is
rather Mikahil Bathkins polyphonic logic, which prevailsa horizontal
logic inherent to a de-colonially oriented post-national dialogic
imagination (Bathkin and Volishonov, [1929], Holquist and Emerdon,
1981, Mercer, 1998); a dialogue among differents, which captures the
new de-territorialised, diasporic dynamics impinging upon identity and
culture in all its geo-political and bio-political complexities.
State of affairs
The arguments above account for the distinct case of yet another
important empty signifier (namely, post-nationalism), which here again,
very much as in the case of multiculturalism, is articulated and filled in
with two very different sets of meanings and / or significations stemming
from two opposing intellectual traditions.
On the one hand, liberal post-nationalism, and more concretely
that theorized by Habermas, situates Europe along a straightforward
historical teleology of redemption as it were, rooted in a classic
Cartesian/rationalist ontology. European nation-states are understood
as a middle-passage (that of modernity) in a civilizing evolution that
takes Europe from pre-modern (archaic, obscurantist, based on
religious prejudice) to post-modern qua post-national societies (in
which liberal multiculturalism also plays a corrective role: discourse of
tolerance, etc). In this context, the post-nationalist approach that resorts
to Habermas ideology of Constitutional Patriotism is a doctrine based
on the aim of rationally overcoming any issue of identity particulars;


multicultural controversies

yet, simultaneously, such patriotism is nothing but a neo-nationalism of

the grand European nation-state under the presumed cover of a purely
humanist and rational democratic universalism. This Eurocentric brand
of post-national discourse is co-extensive, rather un-paradoxically, to
a re-nationalization of multicultural politics and the reduction of such
politics to mere post-politics, that is to say: the administration and
supervision (governance, policy making and legislation, criminal justice
system) of cultural difference: ways of life of minority ethnic cultures;
sub-state national minorities, etc., which, in turn, link perfectly well
with the idea named in this book as management multiculturalism akin
to the liberal imagination.
On the other hand, a different kind of post-national critique has also
been discussed, which incorporates the legacy of poststructuralist, (post)
Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist, cultural and gay (or queer) studies,
etc, and which allows no historical amnesia with regard to the Western
violent imperial past (and present). This overall post-colonial critique,
itself based on a rather more radical and interventionist approach to
multiculturalism and identity politics proposes a new point of analytical
horizon where the geopolitical dimension (the post-national) and the
bio-political dimension (sex, gender, race, class, etc) converge within
and through the various critical movements alluded to at the outset of
this paragraph. Yet, that very distinctive radicalism of post-structuralist
and post-colonial discourse is not itself without flaws.
For instance, Slavoj iek disagrees with both post-national views
those promoted by the likes of Habermas and Giddens, certainly, but
also those nurtured in post-colonial critique. In addition, ieks
anti-post-national discourse, as it were, is also instrumental to finally
engage with a whole scholarly literature on the question, which became
prominent in the 1990s. In order to provide concrete information as to
the mystification hiding behind such post-national propositions, iek
(2006a, 248) bluntly stated the following:
The first myth to be debunked is that of the diminishing role of
the State. What we are witnessing today is a shift in its functions:
while partially withdrawing from its welfare obligations, the State is
strengthening its apparatuses in other domains of social regulation.
In order to start a business now, one has to rely on the State to
guarantee not only law and order, but the entire infrastructure

the state is dead. long live the state


(access to water and energy, means of transportation, ecological

criteria, international regulations, etc.) to an incomparably larger
extent than a hundred years ago.

In this respect, it is also worth pointing out again that it is not only
that states are not disappearing; it is also that even the nationalism that
sustains big national-states is there to stay. Recall the notion of banal
nationalism by Michael Billig (1995). As he suggested, nationalism is
more than separatism at the peripheries of established nation-states.
Instead, Billig argued, albeit it is often unexpressed, nationalism is
not only ubiquitous but always ready to be mobilized in the wake of
convulsive events.
The obvious tension expressed so far with reference to the issue
of state (and) sovereignty and the extent to which it has disappeared
(dwindled etc), can be further summarized by counter-posing ieks
stated position to Michael Keatings, who does indeed celebrate the
outlook of a new territorial restructuring in the post-State era (2000,
2004). Keatings overarching aim is to resolve the question of stateless
nations such as Scotland (2009). In order to do so he reclaims the values
of a possible pluri-national democracy (2001). Paraphrasing Keatings
thesis (viviii / 12):
We are now moving from the times where nation states were
predominant to a new post-sovereign era.
In this post-sovereign era, instances and processes of institutionalization above and below the level of nation-states radically condition
the instrumental action of conventional States.
As a consequence, the claim of small national formations to
decide their own future should not mean that the objective is obtaining
a new independent State based on the Westphalian logic and/or the
parameters of nationhood prevalent in the nineteenth century.5
For even if nation and state have been closely linked historically,
nowadays, together with the demystification of the state this very link is
losing its strength, which is something obvious, most notably in Europe.
Both with regard to Europe as well as speaking more generally, we
saw how iek disagrees with this vision that the state is an institution
that is to disappear any time soon. Remarks about the total loss of the


multicultural controversies

state as an institution under the globalization process do not seem very

convincing. What rather happens is that states are reset to participate
and compete in these global processes more effectively, and according
to Zizek, more ruthlessly as well. The state, in other words, remains.6
Indeed talking of an instrumental approach to the administration of
the modern (Western) State, these are the key cornerstones on which
its main pillars stand: security (army, police), the corollary ability to
administer justice to its citizens, social welfare (health, education), and
also, as sketched in part II, the ability to secure a territorially based
national market.
In other words, the structural relationships between regional and
national-state levels in the context of globalization do not equate to a
zero-sum game, so that the existence and expansion of one level produces
as a necessary effect a symmetrically correlative contraction of the other
level. In fact, taking as an example the case of Scotland within the British
union (Nairn, [1977] 2003), it could be argued that one of the reasons
for confrontation and incompatibility between the idea of Britishness
and Scottish national claims is the desire of Scotland to become a global
player at a level previously reserved only for the national state .
So what is new in this context is not that states stop playing the
global role that has always been enrolled in their geopolitical agendas.
They still do. It is rather that potential competitors stem now from subnational positions, which want to interact directly and meaningfully
with global institutions.7
Yet, standard theory in the 1990s (Camilleri and Falk 1992; Sassen,
1996, 1998) produced an overall vision according to which, together
with the increasing process of globalization, a correlative decrease of
state sovereignty followed. Accordingly, supra-state military alliances
such as NATO were said to undermine the military sovereignty of
nation states; the increasing weight of international law (on human
rights, etc) goes hand in hand with a decreasing influence of the statebound judiciary; the crisis of the welfare state is amended with an
ongoing and unbound process of privatization (hospital management,
schools, etc); and finally, the process of globalization itself undermines
economic sovereignty.
In this context, if control of the economy and security are no longer
dependent on the state, if justice is increasingly delivered under the
banner of universal rights, if private hands increasingly handle social

the state is dead. long live the state


welfare, and the economy is as global as it is, run by supranational

institutions (IMF, etc), then the ensuing question as to the practical
usefulness of the State inevitably arises;8 and to this question, another
standard answer, at least regarding Europe, is that the State now inhabits
a kind of ghostly territory, halfway in-between these two levels:
(a) the practical domain of local management (regional economies,
city-regions) which leads to a greater control of resources by society
itself and which, since it is socio-culturally closer to handle the issues of
citizens, has likewise a better capacity to take more immediate action;
(b) the more uncertain, as it were, domain of global governance
that would still rather function as a utopian vision envisaging the
appropriation of certain key functions of the nation-state so as to
configure some basic rules with regard to the global economy and
universal security, etc.
At this point it is perhaps worth recalling that these highly
conjectural propositions were mostly put forward in what we
characterized as the happy post-communist Clintonian 1990s, and
on which part II of this book mostly focused. Now, some twenty years
later, where a more pessimistic mood prevails (including a deep financial
crisis), strong evidence also suggests the following: while solutions to
global issues tend rather to stall far too easily, and as individual states
refuse to relinquish their own prerogatives (recall the Kyoto ecology
summit/debate on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, for instance),
at the same time the relations of self-governed regional entities or cityregions with the global economy always remain heavily mediated by the
In this respect, some early analysis, such as Ohmae Kenichis
(1995), which described globalization as the creation of a borderless
world in which sovereignty and the influence of nation-states was to
disappear completely, have proven highly exaggerated. This awareness
also prompted the corrective questioning of standard liberal postnational discourse (Smith and Bakker, 2008) together with the explicit
acknowledgment that despite some weakening of their original powers,
States, in effect, continue to have the ability to act relatively independently
in the context of the progressive globalization of the world.


multicultural controversies

In this sense, it could be argued that this State power is most visible in
its political and cultural aspects rather than in the economic dimension.
The fact remains that we are still a long way from the complete
disappearance of national states as significant social formations. As a
result, unlike the argument developed by Neil Brenner (1999, 431) in
which the territorial organization of contemporary city, regional and
state institutions/spaces should be viewed as the outcome of a highly
conflicting dynamic of global spatial structuring, it seems that that the
expansion of city-regions and sub-state regional entities is ultimately
a re-territorialization of national state power, particularly in cases of
multinational or multiregional states. In this context, speaking of the
total loss of power of the states under the process of globalization does
not seem to fit reality.
What happens, rather, is that although states might have required
relinquishing power to sub-state formations (city-regions, small national
formations) as well as taking part in supra-state organizations that (may)
limit their sovereignty, all in all, states have, nevertheless, reconfigured
themselves to participate and compete in these global processes more

This final chapter began with Habermas formulating the idea of
the (European) States integrative abilities by delving on notions of
constitutional patriotism, rationally balanced deliberative politics and
liberally constituted universalistic democracy. Giddens also spoke of
sophisticated multiculturalism as an attempt to reformulate some Third
Way politics located in a radical center able to articulate notions of
social well-being as inscribed in concrete narratives of national identity
(Britishness, in this case).
The question here was not only that instead of being the rational
outcome of a balanced deliberative democracy of sorts, such sophisticated multiculturalism of the modern nation-state constitutes rather
a Eurocentric theatrical form of multiculturalism (as Madina V.
Tlostanova and Walter D. Mignolo (2009, 137) think of it speaking from
a de-colonial perspective), but also that within the strict coordinates
of European thought, both Habermas and Giddens seem to forget the
works of such philosophers of suspicion as Freud (fragmented subject),

the state is dead. long live the state


Marx (class antagonism) or Nietzsche (will to power) speaking to us

of fundamental splits in both the realms of our psychological makeup
as well as our societies and the ways knowledge is administered and
organized along specific power formations.
Certainly, multiculturalism is irremediably linked to such cultural
and social processes deriving from post-colonialism and globalization
precisely in such ways that, as explained above, make it fall beyond the
level of control of nation-states.
This does certainly not mean that, as often stated, (nation)states are
institutions about to disappear any time soon.
The task of the conclusion is to produce a brief re-evaluative
summary of multiculturalism, including the symptomatic idea that
being on the edge of the void is perhaps not such bad place to be in order
to engage in politics proper.


multicultural controversies

According to Cynthia Willet some 15 years ago, multiculturalism has
not yet been fully theorized. This could still be true nowadays as:
[I]n part the lack of a unifying theory stems from the fact that multiculturalism as a political, social and cultural movement has aimed
to respect a multiplicity of diverging perspectives outside of dominant traditions. (1998, 1quoted in Hesse, 2000, 14).

To begin with, Willets suggestion that multiculturalism as

a political, social and cultural movement rests on a plurality of
subordinate positions deploying their claims and demands away from
the dominant tradition must be qualified. In fact, in this book the
contrary position has been emphasised throughout; namely that, overall,
most multiculturalist controversies are ultimately contained within the
ideological coordinates of the liberal-democratic imaginary. A main
point of departure for this book was that the single most potent political
philosophy, which over-determines nowadays the multiculturalist field
of discursivity is precisely that of liberalism, albeit perhaps in its most
socially and culturally benign and progressive forms.
In this book neither intention nor claim has been laid to construct
a unifying theory. What was established in the introduction was
the possibility for developing an overall threefold historical, sociopolitical and cultural approach to multiculturalism, to which a fourth
speculative dimension has been added to deal, among other issues, with
the all too important debate on the relations between universalism and
particularism; a dimension, admittedly, which has found most of its
sources in the traditions of continental philosophy rather than in AngloSaxon analytical philosophy.10 By means of this approach, a specific
model and framework for the overall exploration of multiculturalism
to proceed was also advanced. It was highlighted that throughout this
book the main logics, nature and features of this model were to be
carried forward through the study of what were loosely headlined and
conceptualised as (1) Militant/activist/radical/critical multiculturalism,
(2) Market/consumerist multiculturalism and (3) Management/
administrative multiculturalism.


| multicultural controversies

On the basis of this framework,11 if there was a further final,

wrapping-up synthesis of the key arguments developed in the book
to be made, this would have to start by saying this again; namely,
that multiculturalism is a very controversial and contentious term
widely used in our globalised societiesa term carrying various often
contradictory meanings.
In this book it has been amply shown how numerous authors engage
in various aspects of the debate regarding multiculturalism (radical
stances and struggles against discrimination; promotion of diversity,
respect, tolerance; migration, gender and human rights; the markets
and cultural consumption; politics, nation and governance; the issue
of the relationships between universalism and particularism etc). These
debates around multiculturalism have been presented through myriad
articles and books where multiple and conflicting views have emerged.
If anything what has been shown is how the notion of culture is, for
obvious reasons, at the centre of the multiculturalist debate. From a general
anthropological point of view one of the main risks of multiculturalism
always was that to fall into essentialism and reductionism. This is
the case when the cultures of the other (migrant, indigenous first
peoples, religious, cultural minorities) are apprehended as if they were
straightforward and clear-cut entities, which then become the very
embodiment of homogeneity often apprehended a-historically. An
important risk of viewing culture in this way is that such homogenising
and a-historical constructions of culture promote, consciously or not,
certain forms of covert racism. As Sara Ahmed clearly showed, this
often leads to the multicultural fantasy that ultimately informs and
permeates Western monocultural hegemony; a form, in other words, of
elegant racism as opposed to vulgar racism (Miriam Lee Kaprov, 1991,
1978) in which the fantasy of cultural harmoniousness speaks rather of a
racism without races, a racism, in other words, which is based, precisely,
on the rejection of otherness in the precise guise of its opposite; that is to
say, in the guise that, now that the old times of colonialism are over, the
other appears to be, in fact, duly respected.
Without a doubt it is Slavoj iek, together with Alain Badiou,
who appeared most at odds with this kind of multicultural politics
based on (i) shaking the Wests sense of colonial guilt by promoting a
shallow, ritualized praise of the post-colonial others culture by means
of (ii) deploying a whole set of explicit statements that are favorable to


| 109

the other, (benevolent, respectful, etc.) only to continue to maintain

the implicit assumption of Western-European cultural superiority.
To explain this iek and Badiou also interpret multiculturalism
as the ideology of global capitalism. For these authors, if anything,
multiculturalism facilitates the globalization of capital, hence repeating
the same relational design that old nineteenth-century colonial empires
imposed between the metropolis and the colonies. In this new approach
the culture of the then natives now turned traveling migrants should
be still studied and respected carefully. For iek and Badiou, however,
whereas the colonizing powers represented concrete nation-states
dealing with their own colonised others, multiculturalism nowadays
arises directly from the universalizing dimension of capital; in short,
from global companies.
In this context, throughout Culture and Imperialism Edward
Said also invites us to engage in the debate on multiculturalism with
no fear. This he does by asking us to remember that the main tenets
of Western enlightenment are based on promoting emancipation
through integration and not separation; that is to say, that the very ideal
at the center of the enlightenment project would not allow anybody
to be excludedhence the legitimacy of the struggles of subordinate
peoplesa point that Jrgen Habermas, for instance, does not take on
board since it appears that for Habermas completing the unfinished
project of the enlightenment would require, so it seems, that former
colonized Others to still abide by the universality of European qua
Western values, which are presented to them as neutral and somehow
As Said would point out, actually anticipating ieks overall view
on the matter, under the apparent defense of diversity and the promotion
of pluralism, this kind of sophisticated multiculturalism aiming at
remaining neutral (recall the co-ordinating role Giddens accords to
the state) indirectly masks racism. It does so since this self-appointed
neutrality speaks rather of a position above from which Western
European culture looks down into the cultures of the Other. In this way
the supposed respect for the others culture is more an affirmation of the
superiority of Western culture overall. This is why Saids critique of the
West in Orientalism remains always valid. It is because the undeniable
instances of discrimination of migrant populations and minority
cultures as well as the persistent and increasingly explicit forms of


| multicultural controversies

racism in Western societies speak of a rather not-very-sophisticated

variety of multiculturalism being dominant after all; a ritualized and
procedural multiculturalism, as it were, which appeals to noble ideas
such as respect and tolerance, or the universality of such values as
non-discrimination and equality without ultimately responding to the
question of coexistence in particular situations and contexts.
This book is based on a desire to participate in a global debate but
it is certainly not to promote a war of cultures la Huntington, less so
to proclaim the victory of the Western liberal political, economic and
cultural model la Fukuyama. In order to establish effective forms of
intercultural dialogue what must be promoted are symmetrical situations
in which whatever dialogic arrangements take place, critical and reflective
ways of engaging with the other prevail in both, indeed all sides of the
cultural debate. Uncritical, self-serving multiculturalism leads to the
entrenchment of inward-looking cultures in rigid, static and monolithic
parameters, which are dramatically incommensurable with those of
other cultures. Any emancipatory politics stemming from our own PostMarxist re-articulation of the multiculturalist debate must advocate
for flexible approaches to the defense of cultural difference free of
reductionism and also within the general coordinates and/or orientations,
which privilege discourses of social equality. The aim is not to produce
only anti-discrimination politics tailored to the particular demands and
interests of ones own (group)-specific identity formation(s) but to renew
the multidimensional contents of emancipatory politics through the
constant reworking of universality understood not as a static notion but
rather as a meaningful notion worth struggling over and for.12
According to Badiou an event emerges from the edge of the void
and then breaks away from/ruptures with the current order of being,
from the current order, that is, of things being as they are supposed
to be by necessity. For some (see, for instance, Callanicos, 2007) this
often airy way of discussing the possibilities of radical change may
also be politically problematic in that it finds itself uneasily close to a
miraculous and religious conception of the world (Badious celebration
of Saint Pauls universalism comes to mind here), and seems thus to give
a blessing, as it were, on all sorts of arbitrary voluntarism and moral
relativism. Regardless, stating that one is sitting on the edge of the void
also serves to end this book by summarizing the intellectual parallax
and / or conceptual dialectics, as it were, informing this whole enquiry


| 111

on multiculturalism. In a nutshell, it can be said that this enquiry has

been ultimately articulated around the presentation of two main postMarxist approaches.
The first post-Marxist approach, mostly dealt with in Part I, accounts
for an array of theories (post-structuralism, post-colonialism, postmodernism . . . ), which have, over the least thirty to forty years, imagined,
conceived and celebrated the emergence of a series of marginal cultural
identities and invisibilized political subjectivities (feminism, subaltern,
various social movements, cultural, sexual . . . minorities . . . ) as enacted
from specifically de-centered points of enunciation: the edges, margins,
borders . . .
In this sense, it is still important to mention that, when addressing
the issue of current, dominant discourses on (multi)cultural politics,
the tradition and genealogy of cultural studies and critical theory is
also key to the understanding of how, when and where radical forms
of, and militant struggles for multiculturalism, among other struggles
(feminism, ecology, etc) emerge(d) both within specific politico-social,
counter-cultural, and subcultural activist practices as well as along
the line of critical academic engagement. In this context, the ideas
of methodological freedom within a critical context of carnivalesque
transgression as it were, came hand in hand with innovating works
on such notions as culture, diaspora and hybridity, subalternity,
etc, by cultural theorists such as Stuart Hall, James Clifford, Paul
Gilroy, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak and many others mentioned
in this enquiry. This, in turn, also gave a sense of a transnational,
globalized dimension to identity politics, which will be rather lost in
the now conventionally nationalized post-political approaches to the
management of cultural difference.
The second post-Marxist approach that has been developed in Part
II is certainly not linked to an overly optimistic sense of celebration
(of difference, etc) but rather, on the contrary, speaks of a deep sense
of failure and impossibility following the debacle of communism after
the fall of the Berlin Wall. Therefore, the main vocabularies emerging
are those around such terms as void, impasse, gap, failure or
cut . . . Yet also of a continuous attempt to search / re-articulate
new collective political subjects both in negative (Agambems Homo
Sacer (1998) or indeed Zizeks working class) as well as positive ways
(e.g. Rancieres Demos (1999), Michael Hardt and Antonio Negris


| multicultural controversies

Multitude (2004) Ernesto Laclaus people (2005), or see also the weak
thought of Gianni Vattimos Ecce Comu (2007) within the hermeneuticcommunist (2011) framework he develops with Santiago Zabala)
It is on this account that a main aim and task of Part II was to
show, through the works of, among others, Alain Badiou and Slavoj
iek, the limits of the main ideological articulations established in
Part I with regard, particularly, to how, by at best sidelining and at
worst abandoning the notion of class, cultural studies and critical
theory found it impossible to offer a coherent critique of capitalism.
Likewise, in opposition to the radical approach to identity politics
above, both the mass consumerist qua corporate dimension as well
as the very political economy of market-led multiculturalism also
made it legitimate to deploy a dialectic counterpoint to the political
and philosophical shortcomings stemming from multiculturalist
militancy and cultural advocacy politics, over-celebratory notions
of pluralized cultural difference, anti-essentialist identity politics
and radical multiculturalism (culturalization of politics, cultural
relativism, mystification of migrant cultures. . . . )
In this respect, it is also clear that in order to give a final verdict as
to the direction contemporary theoretical and political interventions
should take, sutures qua articulations of meaning (in Ernesto Laclaus
sense) both within and between these two post-Marxist orientations
should be encouraged. This implies likewise further developing a
sense of critical skepticism with regard to the dialogic and consensual
arrangements nurtured by the overall discursive articulation of liberal
multiculturalism, as seen in Part III.
Liberal multiculturalism, also understood as a state-centered
project from above, explicitly favors such notions as respect, tolerance
and difference; yet, simultaneously, if only by ominous silence,
implicitly promotes grand-national discourses centered on notions of
national security relative, in turn, to a permanent state of emergency
against the threats of migrant qua barbarian invasions.
To sum up: In this enquiry a very contingent discursive
articulation of our own has been operated between both the above
Post-Marxist approaches. From these approaches it follows that in
the structure of feeling of transformative politics and the language
games of critical theory, the rhetorical struggle over the meaning of
any political sign (democracy, freedom, equality, etc) requires never


| 113

taking words in their apparent plain, taken for granted meaning. For
instance, contrary to their apparently daunting nature, notions such
as edge or void (can) account for situations whereby being on the
edge of the void is ultimately not such a bad place to be. For being
on the edge of the void also nominates the very anti-determinist idea
and prospect that what is to come cannot be anticipated. On the other
hand, seemingly crystal-clear notions such as multiculturalism are
extremely ambiguous. In fact, multiculturalism, like nationalism itself,
for the sake of the argument, can render both freedom and oppression
legitimate depending what words and notions they are articulated


| multicultural controversies

Notes to Introduction
1. Barnor Hesses quote also allows one to argue that multiculturalism
as such remains mainly an Anglophone phenomenon, and indeed mainly
Anglophone rather than even Western. To further prove this it suffices to
bring into the equation another author who is to feature prominently in this
book, Will Kymlicka. Both Hesse and Kymlicka represent quite markedly
opposite ideological persuasions regarding multiculturalism yet, at the
same time, both seem to agree as to which is the true geopolitical frame
of reference in which multiculturalism operates. When framing, and also
criticizing the actual reach of multiculturalism, Kymlicka (2009, 11) clearly
speaks of a context, which is wider than the Anglo-Saxon realm and is
in fact Western: This is certainly true in the sphere of multiculturalism
where the emerging norms and standards are heavily shaped by Western
experiences and expertise, with minimal input from the rest of the world.
When stating the above, however, Kymlicka himself is well aware that the
cunning of imperialist reason (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1999) speaks of
global asymmetries [which] have led some commentators to suggest that we
should replace talk of the [nebulous term] international community with
say, Western powers, or even American hegemony (10). For Kymlicka,
in short, the American factor, (itself central to what is understood here as
the Anglophone realm) overruns the wider Western dimension. Likewise,
Barnor Hesse spoke of a transatlantic configuration of multiculturalism in
the passage mentioned. He then further suggests (2000, 1) that The political
meanings of Western multiculturalism now have a transatlantic resonance.
Unlike Kymlicka, whose positions lean towards articulating liberalism
and multiculturalism together, Hesse speaks from a rather more critical
post-colonial perspective; from a position embracing forms of activist
multiculturalism based on an agenda of radical identity politics; but just as
much as Western powers should rather be read as American hegemony
tout court in Kymlickas approach, one should also re-interpret Hesses
transatlantic configuration and resonance of multiculturalism as something
taking place in the United States, in the first place, and then producing
an echoing effect in British multiculturalism, particularly, rather than in
Western cultural politics, generallya point that, though perhaps in an
involuntary way, Hesse (2000, 13) himself does not fail to capture explicitly:
In contrast to Britain, the figuration of multiculturalism in the United States
has produced much greater social reverberations and contested theoretical


notes to introduction

elaborations. What became known as the culture wars in the United States
during the mid-1980s into the 1990s, politicized and expanded the concept
of multiculturalism beyond the parameters of race and ethnicity, into the
discourses of gender and sexuality conceived as socially repressed cultural
differences. Barnor Hesse also offers these bibliographic references to make
his point: Foster and Herzog, 1994; Goldberg, 1994; Kincheloe and Steinberg,
1979; MacLaren 1997; Melzer, Weinberger and Zinman, 1998; Willet 1998. In
turn, our point is that although multicultural societies are certainly part and
parcel of global politics the rather Anglophone character of multiculturalism
as an ideology so to speak appears to be clear and cannot go unnoticed.
2. In fact, focusing on this question of theory, in the Anglo-American
academia, for instance, debates explicitly centered on multiculturalism
become central only in the 1990s, both in the broad fields of the humanities
(Goldberg, 1994; Willet (ed.), 1998; Smelser and Alexander; 1999; Barry,
2000) and the more specific / specialized academic disciplines ranging from
political theory (Benhabib, 1996; Parekh, 2000; Kymlicka, 1995; Bennet,
1998, Young, 2000; Taylor and Gutman, 1994) and philosophy (Fay 1996;
Willet 1998) on to educational studies (Kincheloe and Steinberg, 1997),
media studies (Shoat and Stam, 1994) or cultural and social theory (Goldberg,
1994; Lemert 1993; McLaren 1994). In addition, only in the 2000s can
multiculturalism be said to become a fully recognised, and institutionalised
discourse (Laden and Owen, 2007; Shohat and Stam, 2003; Kelly, 2002;
Parekh, 2006, 2008; Banting and Kymlicka (eds), 2006, Kymlicka, 2009;
Benhabib, Shapiro and Petranovich (eds.), 2007; Modood, 2007; Philips,
2009, May and Sleeter, 2010).
3. In fact, Kymlicka himself confirms this when stating that his own place
of origin Canada was the first country to adopt an official multiculturalist
policy (107). He also refers to Donald Forbes to reinforce the overall liberal
inspiration that this kind of multiculturalism promotes from and by the
state. In Canada: Multiculturalism appeals to the common understanding of
freedom as choice (Forbes, 1994, 94). Likewise, in the same association that
takes place between liberalism and multiculturalism, Kymlicka also brings
up James Jupps comments referring to Australia (1078): Canada is far
from unique in the way it ties multiculturalism to liberalism. We see a similar
linkage in Australia, for example. According to James Juppwho played a
pivotal role in defining Australias multiculturalist policymulticulturalism
in Australia: Is essentially a liberal ideology which operates within liberal
institutions with the universal approval of liberal attitudes. It accepts that all
humans should be treated as equals and that different cultures can co-exist if
they accept liberal values (Jupp 1995, 40).
4. It is important to insist on the fact that unlike standard approaches
to liberal multiculturalism concerned with policies adopted or demanded

notes to introduction


by many different types of ethnocultural groups including immigrants,

minorities, national groups, and indigenous peoples as Kymlicka would
put it (2009, 18, see also Parekh, 2000, 2008) radical identity politics also
included gender and sexual difference within the agenda of multicultural
identity politics, not to forget class politics as well.
5. Here it is important to emphasize that this is indeed as a matter of
emphasis. By linking Militant, Market and Management Multiculturalisms
to the framework now presented a main methodological problem arises with
this approach. It is that these two parallel dimensions will then be linked,
articulated and structured in far too straightforward a threefold historical
periodization. The issue is that this approach will irremediably lead to
placing more emphasis on certain aspects and forgetting others. For instance,
militant or radical multiculturalism has never ceased to exist, (one example
is how, for instance, migrant groups and aboriginals in Australia create their
own coalitions for action against the backdrop of still dominant Anglo-Saxon
culture in Australia). Yet, in historical terms, this enquiry will see it as more
pre-eminent in the second half of last century, particularly in the 1970s and
1980s when cultural and identity politics were understood in an extended
way encompassing questions of ethnicity, gender, class, etc. Likewise, what
is termed as market multiculturalism is always present by necessity (1960s
happy hippies or 1990s stressed yuppies paying for calming-down lessons
in transcendental meditation, or even todays street markets selling both local
and multicultural produces being three clear instances, say). Yet in this study,
the notion of market multiculturalism concretely speaks of a moment where
a clear de-politicization of culture takes place as the globalizing opening
up of (cultural) consumption increases from the 1990s onwards, after the
fall of communism. Finally management multiculturalism is also alwaysalready therefor instance quite explicitly in Australia and Canada, as it has
already been mentioned, in the 1970sbut in this study it refers to a further
twofold closing downnot only of the very meaning of multiculturalism as
a concept, only encompassing now a restricted meaning, but also of wider
political expectations for change. This overall lowering of cultural, social
and political expectations is simultaneous with a post-2001 war on terror
contexta context where discourses of national security prevail as a (rather
obsessively over-suspicious) state of national emergency keeps a vigilant
supervising eye on the administration of cultural diversity.
6. Covering these three main areas of the social formation in one way
or another, see Althusser, 1976; M. Poulantzas, 2001) and also Gramsci
(1973) Notes on Politics (The Modern Prince, State and Civil Society &
Americanism and Fordism) pp.123320.
7. Note also how in the procedural framework used in this book, the
cultural and social theories developed are linked to both historically aligned


notes to introduction

enquiry (Collingwood, 1946) and non-foundational (Sayyid and Zac,

1998) forms of philosophical investigation (Wittgenstein, 2001). This way
of intersecting social and cultural theory with philosophical speculation (P.
Winch, 1958) and history (Wright Mills, 1959) opens the way to re-situate
the contents of various multicultural controversies and themes within a
broader historicized context, in socio-political terms and through a wide
examination of the key polysemic notion of culture.
8. As Albert Schutz explains (1976, 91105), linguistic and cultural
description is a process analogous to the experience of any foreigner learning
the culture of the native group in the host society. Schutz noted that in the
weeks and months following the immigrants arrival in the new place of
residence, what they previously took for granted as knowledge about that
society turns out to be unreliable if not obviously false. In addition, areas of
ignorance previously of not importance come to take on great significance,
overcoming them being necessary for the pursuit of important goals, perhaps
even for the foreigners very survival in the new environment. In the process
of learning how to participate in social relations in the new society, foreigners
gradually acquire an inside knowledge of it, which supplants their previous
external knowledge. Schutz continued to argue that by virtue of being
forced to come to understand the culture of the host society in this way, the
foreigner acquires a certain objectivity not available to the inside members
of a culture. This form of what, for other methodological purposes, Schutz
conceptualized as gentle perspectivism, allows the foreigner noting how the
inside members of a culture are quite unable to see their culture as anything
but a reflection of how the world is. In other words, the inside members of
a culture are not conscious of the deep-rooted, fundamental assumptions,
many of which are distinctive to that culture, that is to say, fundamentally
context-specific and culture-bound sets of beliefs that shape their vision.
Schutz conceptualized this taken-for-granted-ness of ones own culture as
the natural attitude (1972; see also, 1970, 1976). One consequence of such
natural attitude is that regarding multiculturalism, cultural integration
and / or social inclusion a highly naturalized and (almost) unconscious
approach to the values, customs, laws, language and culture of the host
society also emerges. Worth mentioning here on this question is how
Bhikhu Parekh himself comes to underline this highly naturalized position.
He does so when stating that the operative public values of a nation are
those giving legal form to the way we do things here. Needless to say, this,
in turn, offers the foreign other a highly liberal and individual(ist) choice: . . .
and if you dont like it, you . . . [leave]!

notes to chapter 1


Notes to chapter 1
1. Raymond Williams (19211988) was born in the Welsh border village
of Pandy and also wrote a novel called Border Country (1960). Yet for all
the border theories and mythologies of the margins surrounding Williams,
when discussing culture, community and the academic discipline which
came to study both criticallycultural studieshe was certainly at the
center of it all. Standard accepted accounts situate the real foundational
moment of cultural studies in Britain as directly linked to two of his seminal
works; we are referring here to Culture and Society ([1958] 1963) and The
Long Revolution ([1961] 1965) which, together with Richard Hoggarts The
Uses of Literacy ([1957] 1970) and E.P. Thompsons The making of the English
working class (1963) are conventionally considered to be the key texts that
pioneered cultural studies. Yet Williams himself ensured that the origins
of cultural studies were traced back to the turn of the twentieth century.
This he did in the article The Future of Cultural Studies (1989, 151162)
in which he further linked cultural studies to grass-root initiatives such
as the formation of the co-operative movement and the creation of Adult
Education centers to discuss culture (cinema, etc.) with working class
participants. As an intellectual and academic project, cultural studies first
emerged in post-WWII Britain with the aim of protecting and reviving the
specific culture of the British working class against what was then perceived
as a threat: (American) consumer and mass culture.
2. This distinction was formalized by Ferdinand Tnnies (1887 [1944,
1957]) through his notions of Gemeinschaft (ideal, utopian community,
unity of being, sense of social righteousness, commitment to common
good) and Gessellschaft (bureaucratic, systematic, contractual . . . society).
Emile Durkheim (1960b, 1997 [1892/3]) also gave an account of this rupture
and presented it through a somehow inverted metaphoric process in
defining basic forms of social relation: organic (capitalist, modern, urban)
vs. mechanic (pre-modern, pre-capitalist, traditional, rural; where social
relationships were carried out in a mechanical or machine-like manner).
3. In passing a point by Pierre Bourdieu (1979) is relevant here as he
argued the value of high culture would also lie not so much in ones ability
to make distinctions in judging works of art, but in the fact itself that such
ability confers distinctionthis point will become relevant later on when
referring to the nature of the dominant multicultural gaze into the ways of
life of the subordinate others.
4. These were attainable through myriad stories, traditions, books,
personal diaries, etcFor a more detailed take on the production of diaspora
literature see also King, Connell and White, 1995.


notes to chapter 1

5. Overall Gilroys is a good reminder of what Michael Billig (1995)

called banal nationalism, which will become more relevant as a concept in
the third part of this book and is also part and parcel of nation-state based
Left politics. In regards of what Gilroy terms as ethnic absolutism Janna
Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur (2003,4) state that Gilroy disputes African
diasporic conceptions [ . . . ] portraying African diasporic individuals
everywherescattered across several continents- as linked by a common
heritage, history and racial descent. In other words, Gilroy addresses the
issue of Black nationalist strategies that emerge in the diaspora itself by
contesting the Afro-centric perspective and the idea that Africa provides
diaspora black peoples with the possibility of a return to some sense of a
unifying past origin and a true, authentic pre-modern homeland. In terms
of Gilroys bibliographic production, The Black Atlantic sits in-between
another classic of cultural studies It Aint No Black in The Union Jack: The
Cultural Politics of Race and nation (1992) and Between Camps: Nations,
Cultures and the Allures of Race (2000). While the former deploys a severe
critique against both ethnocentric British cultural studies, as it were, as
well as the racist attitudes in Britain regardless of the right/left political
divide, in the latter Gilroy continues to suggest the idea of diaspora as a tool
to overcome life in entrenched camps (nations). Simultaneously, Gilroys
search is also on for a more global and unifying planetary humanism
transcending both liberal humanism and over-indulgence on the politics of
difference. Although emphasis shifts from one work to the other, all three
books remain constant in exploring the relations among race, class and
nation within the evolving historical context of modernity as product and
outcome of the Western enlightenment project.
6. According to Clifford, the notion of traveling is handled in two
different ways within the field of anthropology. First, the ethnographer moves
in the literal sense to the extent that he or she must leave home in order to
carry out research work: Ethnographers, typically, are travelers who like to
stay and dig in (for a time), who like to make a second home/workplace
(99). Secondly, at the epistemological level, the ethnographer finds the need
to describe knowledge as contingent and partial: Every focus excludes; there
is no politically innocent methodology for intercultural interpretation (97).
7. As a preliminary taster of this critique it can be already said that with
the emphasis placed on a sense of permanent mobility, fluidity and process
conveyed by the experience of nomadic traveling, room for skepticism soon
widens. The crucial point here is that far too superficial an understanding of
nomadic wandering and hybridity (another key term in the semantic field

notes to chapter 1


of traveling cultures) leads to an interesting paradox: is it not that by way

of never being in one place and always being in-between places, comfort
and refuge may be sought in this very constant state of inbetweenness with
indeed, little of the adventure, risking and daring that Edward Said would
demand from an exiled spirit, involved in the process? In this respect, to the
extent that Edward Said was a Palestinian intellectual in exile, he (1994, 43)
was likewise extremely demanding on himself: There is no real escape, even
for the exile who tries to remain suspended, since that state of inbetweenness
can itself become a rigid ideological position, a sort of dwelling whose
falseness is covered over in time, and to which one can too easily become
accustomed. With no possible evasion from the necessity of continuous
self-assessment, appeals to the nomadic and the hybrid become problematic
on one main account. Nomadic exaltations of travel often rely on a wellknown mystification of journeying conceived of as free movement. Within
the context of Western nomadic journeying any sense of constraint is lost.
8. In fact, the notion of structure of feeling was first used by Williams
in his A Preface to Film (with Michael Orrom, 1954), then developed in The
Long Revolution (1961), and extended and elaborated throughout his work,
in particular Marxism and Literature (1977)
9. Talking of modernization, for instance, the body of narrative fiction
also known as the industrial or social (problem) novels, published in the
Victorian England of the 1840s and referred to as the Condition-ofEngland novels (from Condition of England Question raised by Thomas
Carlyle in Chartism, 1839) would be one such example of the structure of
feeling; a specific cultural articulation in literary terms, as it were, which
emerged in middle-class consciousness out of the development of industrial
capitalism in the process of sharing the particular concern of the social
consequences of the industrial revolution in England at the first half of the
nineteenth century.
10. It is worth reminding that in terms of its own historical unfolding
and evolution, the early origins of cultural studies must be linked not only
with the emergence in post-World War II Britain of a coherent group of
Marxist historians and cultural critics, but also with other traditions of
thought, namely the critical theory of the Frankfurt School in Germany.
Although stemming from a different point of departure (history and literary
studies vs. philosophy and psychoanalysis) both approaches challenged
the main tenets of traditional dogmatic Marxism (base/superstructure
paradigm, historical determinist teleology, the question of the subject of
history) and opened the way for the study of culture on its own autonomous


notes to chapter 1

terms. Subsequently, the slow in-roads towards institutionalization (Adult

Education, Open University) will also coincide with the New Lefts
post-1968 heterodox, non-dogmatic and, sometimes, anti-theoretical
controversies with and against the linguistic turn of French structuralism.
This, in turn, will prepare the ground for a crucial stage retrospectively
seen as decisive and also foundational in most accounts of the emergence
of cultural studies as a well-defined intellectual formation and academic
project. It has already been mentioned that Raymond Williams (1989, 151
162) brings back the origins of cultural studies to the turn of the twentieth
century. Be that it may, Dennis Dworkin (1997) situates the proto-origins
of cultural studies with the formation of the Communist Historians Group
with Eric Hobsbawn as their main figurehead in the 1950s. It has already
been pointed out also that standard accounts situate the real foundational
moment of cultural studies with the path-breaking works by Richard
Hoggart ([1957] 1970), E.P. Thompson (1963) and Raymond Williams
(1958] 1963; [1961] 1965). It is, however, with the creation and establishment
of the now mythic Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies/
Cultural Change that a further and decisive development is to take place
in the consolidation of cultural studies, understood now as widely linked
to the post-Marxist and post-structuralist breakthrough of the 1970s. This
together with the irruption of feminism and post-colonial studies will also
culminate a double displacement of cultural studies both ideologically and
territorially: away from Marxism to Post-modernism and from Britain
to the United States (and then elsewhere). Although the bibliography on
cultural studies is far too wide, it is still worth recalling some relevant/
seminal introductory collections of articles that followed the opening up of
the field as a self-consciously constituted academic project during the late
1980s and early 90s. In this respect, Grosberg, Nelson and Treicher (eds.):
Cultural Studies, 1992, constitutes a kind of foundational selection of key
texts and authors, among which Stuart Halls chapter Cultural Studies and
its Theoretical Legacies (277294) is a relevant reference for this overview.
For other important books, collections and debates: During (2005); During
(ed.) (1993); Frow, 1995; Storey (ed.) (1996); Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen
(eds.) (1996); Curran, Morley and Walkerdine (ed.) (1996); Grossberg
(1997); Sardar and Van Loon (1998), Inglis (1993), Mercer, (1994) Barker
(2000), Bowman (3d) 2003, Bowman 2007.
11. On discussing the de-colonial option Madina Tlostanova and
Walter Mignolo (2009, 141) further specify this particular genealogy in

notes to chapter 2


this way: Around the 1970s a radical transformation of intellectual and

scholarly fields took place due to the impact of decolonization struggles in
Asia and Africa, the emergence of dictatorial regimes in South America, and
the Civil Rights movement in the US. In the Third World the concern was
with the geopolitics of knowledge and, consequently, with the decolonizing
of imperial knowledge. In the US the concern was with the body-politics
of knowledge. It was the moment of the creation of women studies, ethnic
studies, Chicano/Latino/a studies, African-American Studies; Queer Studies,
Asian-American Studies, etc. The post-colonial studies emerged mainly in
the US in this particular context. The novelty was that it put the geopolitics
of knowledge on the table of an already subversive scenario centered on the
body-politics of knowledge. The postcolonial theories and/or postcolonial
studies entered the US carrying in their hands the books of Michel Foucault,
Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan. While Tlostanova and Mignolo (142)
further specify the de-colonial project, they also account for the specific
political and cultural mood to which this study refers in this Part I as follows:
De-colonial thinking and de-colonial option have a different genealogy of
thought and emerged in a different historical context: not in the US of the
civil rights movement but in the Third World bourgeoning with histories,
sensibilities and still open wounds of global coloniality. [ . . . ] De-colonial
thinking was also unavailable in Europe, where Marxism, structuralism
and post-structuralism occupied all the intellectual debates at the time. Decolonial thinking was going on in Maghreb, in sub-Saharan Africa and in
India, but not in France or England. De-colonial thinking entered Europe
with the massive immigration from South Asia, Middle East, Maghreb. In
the US, todays massive migration is just joining the de-colonial thinking
processes that can be traced backin their conceptual awarenessto the
1970s, if not before. For subaltern studies see: Guha & Spivak (eds) 1988;
Guha (ed) 1982, 1989; Spivak, 1887, 1988, 1993, Mignolo, 1995, Rodriguez
2001, Rodriguez & Lopez (eds) 2001.
Notes to chapter 2
1. Another very important theme that has not been mentioned but was
also key to this overall radical structure of feeling promoted by and around
cultural studies is that of carnival. Here it is worth mentioning how in the
broad fields of cultural studies Mikhail Bakhtins work ([1968, 1970]) also
opened the way for what was once a highly celebrated world of carnivalesque
reversal and subversive excess in academia. Along the wide, and maybe even
wild, literature prompted by this carnival motif of risk and excess, feminist
scholar Mary Russo (1994) celebrated the radical explosion of post-colonial
and post-structuralist writing as follows: There has been, as well, a carnival


notes to chapter 2

of theory at the discursive level [ . . . ] This has included all manner of textual
travesty, mimetic rivalry, semiotic delinquency, parody, teasing, posing,
flirting, masquerade, seduction, counter-seduction, tightrope walking, and
verbal aerialisms of all kinds. This methodological freedom within the
critical context of carnivalesque transgression was also linked to Bakhtins
dialogic imagination and key term of heteroglossia, which referred to a world
that had already become polyglot, once and for all and irreversibly; to a
period when national languages, coexisting but closed and deaf to each
other (had come) to an end (in Holquist and Emerson (eds.) 1981,12).
Bakhtin was discussing this multicultural questions if there is one, during
the first third of the twentieth century. As to the carnival motif, however, the
obvious shortcoming would be that, historically, these transgressive reversals
are already duly contained within the official calendar of festivities, as it were.
2. On those debates Gilles Deleuzes work on nomadic thought (1977)
was widely quoted but, all in all, Deleuzes view had little to do with the idea
of free, ungrounded and/or unbounded travel. For Deleuze, being, feeling
and acting as a nomad keeps a precise political dimension. Nomadicism, for
Deleuze, means opposition to central power (See also Foucault, Deleuze,
1979). It was in this sense likewise that Deleuze and Felix Guattaris (1980)
notion of Rhizome and the rhizomatic accounted for, and offered the
possibility of generating some form of nomadic symbolic (dis)order, as it
were, whereby connectivity, heterogeneity and multiplicity constituted
valid principles from and with which to articulate resistance and challenge
both Western nomadic exaltations of post-modern mobility and innocent
liberal visions of multicultural traveling, understood as the process of
joyful journeying seeking to meet the quaint other. Against these views, the
Deleuzian idea of nomadicism equates to the idea that displaced (groups of)
people are able to contest authority and develop a critique that originates
from a particular placethe margins, the edges, the less visible spaces. By
qualifying the nomadic-postmodern as western it is also meant that forms
of traditional nomadic traveling are rather subjected to fixed and repetitive
itineraries. In other words, unless external factors enter into the equation
the few remaining authentic nomads are people moving from one place
to another on a very routine and custom-led basis. This can be seen, for
instance, in Smadar Lavies ethnographic monograph (1990) on Bedouin
identity moving across borders under Israeli and Egyptian rule. Here it is
clearly shown that the actual traditional nomadic experience of the Bedouin
people in the South hardly fits the postmodernist metaphoric meaning
extension of the original concept in the North.
3. In fact, the emergence of what was known as Second Wave
feminism and its engagement with, and critique of Marxist social sciences,
psychoanalysis, deconstruction or post-modernism constitutes a concrete

notes to chapter 2


case for illustrating the kaleidoscopic and contradictory nature of a broader

militant, activist moment anterior to the historical demise of really existing
socialism that we are dealing with in this section. Within the parameters
of feminism itself, as well as within the logic of a specific, internal feminist
history of ideas, prior to this moment, First Wave feminism is generally
historicized as encompassing womens struggles for equality of individual
and collective rights during, broadly speaking, the historical period marked
out by two seminal works: Mary Wollstonecrafts Vindication of the rights
of women (2010 [1892]) and Simone de Beauvoirs The second sex (1949).
On this basis it is not surprising that what is then known as Second Wave
feminism takes on board the traditional claims and demands against political,
social and economic marginalization, including a critique of the linguistic
problematic (Irigaray, 1985, 2004; Cameron, [1985] 1992; Cameron (ed.)
[1990] 1998). In addition, a radical engagement with issues of female (oversexualized) re-presentation in dominant culture is also produced (Delmar,
1986). Most tellingly, a feminist critique of Marxist sociology (Hatmann,
1979; Barret, 1980) is also generated on the need for a better understanding
of the relationships between class stratification and gender differentiation,
class society and patriarchal society, the public and the private (the personal
is the political!). On the other hand, beyond the specific intellectual
engagement with Marxism and some specific struggles against external
threats (Butler, 1990 [2001]), feminism, much like Marxism itself, cannot
be understood without addressing the internal debates and struggles taking
place within the global womens movement as a whole. It is in these internal
debates and struggles that the complex intersections of gender with class or
with ethnicity and sexuality are re-articulated in a variety of critical ways.
In addition to the class vs. gender or otherwise class & gender question in
Marxist feminism, the range of these debates and struggles covers a wide
spectrum of critical feminist (identity) politics. It is these identity politics
which Teresa de Lauretis (1993 see also: 1987, 1989, 1994, 2007) places under
the same roof of a feminist House of Difference where the invention of a
conceptual imagining of a continuum of experience (88) is still possible
regardless of two main diverging drives (the erotic and the ethical) speaking
of different and often contradictory approaches to feminism. From the divide
de Lauretis establishes, on the one hand, the conventional, so to speak,
feminist ethical critique can be found where, paraphrasing Rosalind Demar
(1986, 13) feminism is defined as an active desire to transform the position of
women in society. Yet as Pamela Abbot and Claire Wallace (1993, 212) would
also suggest, although all feminists agree on the fact that understanding the
subordination of women and struggling for emancipation is necessary, this
does not imply that there is agreement as to the causes of such subordination
and the ways to achieve emancipation. It is in this context, for instance, that


notes to chapter 2

in the race vs. gender debate, a strong womanist critique by subaltern women
of colour can be also found which is directly addressed against white, middle
class feminisms totalizing inclination to speak on behalf of all women (Evans
(ed) 1984, Bobo 1988; Collins, 1990; Wallace, 1992; hooks, 1992; Moraga
and Anzaldua, 1983; Anzaldua, 1987; Spivak, 1988, Mirza, 1997). On the
other hand, the feminist critique steered by the erotic drive also mentioned
by de Lauretis spills over into other specific feminist struggles engaged in
the lesbian question (Freedman, 1985; Fuss, 1992; Kosofsky Sedwick, 1990)
as well as the problematic yet productive alliances of lesbian-feminism with
queer theory (Dorenkamp and Henke, 1995; Schor and Weed 1997; Garber,
2001; Whisman, 1986). These debates, moreover, also had a strong voice
in the sex wars that took place around the thorny issue of pornography
(MacKinnon, 1987; Kipnis, 1992; Dworkin, 1981; Parmar, 1988; Rubin, 1984;
Ross 1989; Abelove, Barale, and Halperin, (eds.) 1993). Likewise, a feminist
separatist critique of theory also emerged in this context, where theory
was understood as a tool of male domination (Spender, 1980; Rich, 1980;
M. Barrett, 1980, see also Frye, 1983 on the question of reality and feminist
theory). Sketchy of necessity, this bibliographic mapping nevertheless gives
an account of a split feminist territory. In the words of de Lauretis (1993,
8586) these splits have marked feminism as a result of the divisions (of
gender, sex, race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, etc) in the social itself, and the
discursive boundaries and subjective limits that feminism has defined and
redefined for itself contingently, historically, in the process of its engagement
with social and cultural formations.
4. This problematic relationship to which MacKinnon refers speaks of a
rather unhappy marriage between Marxism and feminism (Hattmann 1979;
Sargent (ed.) 1980) despite the obvious input of Marxist feminism (Barret,
1981). In addition feminism engages in critical discussion, to mention only
the most obvious ones, with sociology (Abbott and Wallace, 1993), political
theory (Mouffe, 1995), psychoanalysis (Mitchell, 1974; Wright 1992; RaphaelLeff and Perelberg (eds.) 1997; T. Brennan (ed) 1989), deconstruction (Elan
1994; Barnard, 1993) and post-modernism (Morris, 1988; Hutcheon, 1989;
Lovibond, 1989; Soper, 1990; Nicholson, 1995) or even pragmatism (Rorty,
5. Overall, Louis Althussers structuralist Marxism accounts for an
important moment in the evolution of (post)-Marxist cultural critique.
Althussers work is crucial for posterior studies on culture and identity
since he also placed special emphasis on the workings of ideology, most
particularly through the very sophisticated, yet negative and gloomy theory
of the ISAs and the notion of interpellation or hailing (Ideology and Ideological
State Apparatuses, 1976) which are to be widely used in all walks of critical
theory at the time and beyond. Althusser moves ideology away from the

notes to chapter 2


domain of ideas and locates concrete ideological practices within specific

state apparatuses. Ideology is a practice and not the consequence or outcome
of false consciousness, which can be somehow resolved with the overturn of
the economic base. Ideology takes place though practices, which are alwaysalready present and all classes take part in it. Hence, ideology cannot be
explained with Gramscis notion of consent in the sense that subordinate or
subaltern classes accept the hegemonic ideas of the dominant ruling classes.
The potentially hopeful implications hidden underneath the Gramscian
notion of hegemony (the possibility of counter-hegemony) all but disappear
since Gramscis consent becomes participation in Althussers vocabulary.
Participation means that all classes take part in these ideological practices
although this does not mean that ideology no longer works only in the
service of the dominant classesit does; it rather means that modern power
is not maintained any longer by the use of almighty and excessive force but
through hidden means. In other words, instead of being overly regimented,
manipulated and directed to follow specific paths, we are rather incorporated
into the system, the system co-opts all forms of potential threat. According
to Althusser, ideology is ultimately more influential and determinant than
Marx ever thought. Ideology is totally and completely inserted within the
ways of thinking and living of all classes, and it is precisely to further insist
on this question that Althusser mobilizes his famous notion of interpellation.
Interpellation is for Althusser the most overwhelming and yet shrewd
ideological practice that can be, in that it is practiced through every act of
communication. Interpellation has the ability to place us in any ideological
category that does not really or necessarily belong to us (such as the majority
of the law-abiding, hard working people, as proud citizens of the nation, as
responsible consumers, moderate Muslims, good multiculturalist subjects,
etc). Through interpellation, the object of ideology is the constitution of
subjects. Ideology hails human beings as subjects, but the political trajectory
of the word subject does not necessarily suggest subject-ive agency. On the
contrary, it rather expresses subject-ion, the process of being subject-ed.
Although playing with words in regards of political subject-ivity, it could
certainly be said, to help Chantall Mouffe here, that there is also something
active in being an object of interpellation, namely that one can also object to
it! With regard to the possibility of meaningful social change, nevertheless,
if for nineteenth century Marx revolutionary change was necessary and for
early twentieth century Gramsci possible, in the political and cultural vision
developed later in the twentieth century by Althusser it is most unlikely.
As agency takes place through the mentioned ideological practices and
interpellations, it also responds to the demands of the state apparatuses:
the Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA) (legal system, political parties,
mass media, schools, family, church) and the Repressive State Apparatuses


notes to chapter 2

(RSA) (police, prisons, army.), which constantly hail and incorporate agency
by means of either the Velvet Gloves of hidden ideological persuasion or,
if necessary, the Iron Fists of the state, which turn ideology into concrete
practices and rituals. As a consequence, determination and stasis are
overwhelming in the proposals of Althusser, for whom placing the notion
of an effective and creative social agency at the centre of any theoretical
project for change only amounts to basing ones accounts on voluntaristic
ideas and false pre-suppositions. For Althusser, the subject must be situated
as a historical product within concrete and determined social relations, and
not by making use of a context-free ontology of sorts, which would speak of
an essential and permanent subject of history, as the previous generation of
European humanist Marxists seemed to suggest.
6. According to Stuart Hall (39) this particular slogan was coined by
political theorist Andrew Gamble on behalf of Thatcherism.
7. Together with what is known as Thatcherism or the Thatcher era must
be put also, needless to say, the Reagan years as well as the corollary ideology
of economic rationalism in Australia. This is, in other words, the most
prosperous time of neo-liberalism. In addition, later references to Thatcher
stemming from the social-democratic Third Way speak of the paradoxical
sources from which her political and economical legacy are re-claimed.
8. In this sense, the very individualist subject of Thatcherism, that single,
autonomous subject only exists as such through subjection not only to the State
(Althusser, 1976, 1983) but also to a surrounding symbolic order which itself
constitutes a realm that is far from neutral or normally given. As Paul Taylor
(2010, 41) suggests following Slavoj ieks works, rather than there is no such
thing as society [P]araphrasing Margaret Thatcher, there is no such thing as
the individual. What appears to be a self-contained, autonomous entity, a
person-in-herself, is innately dependent upon external elements for her own
self-definition. Individuals can only exist as individuals to the extent that they
have successfully internalized an external symbolic orderones status as an
autonomous subject presupposes a state of subjection (emphasis mine).
9. Unless we are speaking here of psychosis as the ultimate outcome of
neo-liberalisms individualist logic radicalized to the point of refusing all
social bond. This, in passing, would speak of another dimension of silence,
that of madness, which again would be closer to the silence of the foreigner
that that of the structural silence that subaltern politics denounce. In passing,
also, another failure of Thatcherism, which is not dealt here with because
it would be giving too much weight to the tyranny of current affairs, is
obviously how David Camerons Conservative thinking nowadays speaks of
big society as being key for (national) cohesion.
10. Here mention should be made first to the impact legendary figure
of the British right, Enoch Powell, had on the British debates regarding

notes to chapter 2


immigration. Worth recalling also is the legendary Tebbitt Cricket Test, which
best epitomizes the multicultural problematic of the time. No coincidence
either that the Tebbitts test in Britain coincides with the English vs. Hispanic
linguistic question in the United States as well as the official disdain for
aboriginal communities in Australia despite much heated debate on
multiculturalism. Regarding the mentioned senior Conservative politician
Norman Tebbitt, it must also be said that despite his always polemical inputs
into the debate on multiculturalism, the occasional acuteness of his comments
is also worth if not praising at least emphasizing. It is in this sense that as
Jaqueline Rose (1996,149, quoted in iek, 2006a, 155) states, Tebbitt will
turn out to be quite right himself in explaining, for instance, New Labours
first 1997 electoral victory in Britain: Many traditional Labour voters
realised that they shared our [Conservative] valuesthat man is not just a
social but also a territorial animal: it must be part of our agenda to satisfy
those basic instincts of tribalism and territoriality. All in all, however, the
very insidiousness behind the alluded Cricket Test coercing British citizens
of Afro-Caribbean descent into choosing between two national cricket
teams in exclusionary terms confirms that Barnor Hesse (2000, 3) is right in
both quoting and despising MP Lord Tebbitts unapologetic rightwing rant
against multiculturalism (Guardian, 8 October 1997): Multi-culturalism is a
divisive force. One cannot uphold two sets of ethics or be loyal to two nations,
any more than a man can have two masters. It perpetuates ethnic divisions
because nationality is in the long term more about culture than ethnics [sic].
Youngsters of all races born here should be taught that British history is their
history, or they will forever be foreigners holding British passports and this
kingdom will become a Yugoslavia.
11. This also allows for a quick summary historical reconstruction of
how multiculturalism evolves and is understood as a concept from the 1960s
to the 1990s. In order to frame the post-colonial narratives of governance
and management of difference in regards of cultural / ethnic difference,
Hesse with the help of Floya Anthias and Nira Yuval-Davis (1992, 5859)
discern(s) three main responses (or general policy-making approaches) with
regards to race-relations and in Britain: 1/ up to the early 1960s assimilationist
policies sought to counteract the expulsionist framework of the conservative
orientation; 2/ from the early 1960s onwards integrationism accounted for
what it could be argued that a weak variation of the assimilationist approach
corresponds to the American melting pot politics; 3/ by the early 70s a
self-proclaimed multiculturalism would begin developing the notion of
hyphenated identities and the discourse of diversity, tolerance and respect
of difference as we still understand them today. From here on, discussions
on multiculturalism will speak of the different modes to be found on each
side of the Atlantic divide, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon world. As already


notes to chapter 3

shown in the Introduction, this is how Barnor Hesse (2000, 13) speaks of a
more extended notion of multiculturalism in the United States through what
became known as the culture wars from the mid-1980s into the 1990s. This
is how and when the concept of multiculturalism became politicized and
expanded beyond the parameters of race and ethnicity into the discourses
of gender and sexuality, which were also conceived as socially repressed
cultural differences. This, according to Hesse, produced much greater social
reverberations and contested theoretical elaborations in contrast with Britain,
where the figuration of multiculturalism remained anchored on issues
of race and ethnicity. It is within this framework, finally, that Hesse ( 6)
reconsiders the social, political and intellectual meanings of multiculturalism
in the West but particularly across the British / American transatlantic axis,
and locates the post-war genealogy of British multiculturalism deployed by
Anthias and Yuval-Davis into a further threefold temporal sequence, which
accounts for successive governmental, liberal responses to non-white
immigration and its relation to a public reconfiguration of British national
identity: 1/ from the 1960s to the 1980s multiculturalism valorized the
incidence of harmonious cultural difference in the social, particularly where
this meant the decontestation of race and ethnicity and their conflation
with the individualist ethos of nationalist liberal democracies; then 2/ from
the mid-80s onwards multiculturalism became increasingly and diversely
unsettled by ethnically marked and cross-culturally mobilized interrogations
of the nations imagined communities; and 3/ as the urban vernaculars of
multiculturalism were gradually transformed into a critical concept and
once multiculturalism became a contested frame of reference throughout
the 1990s, as already said the concept of multiculturalism entered the
American and British lexicons of western cultural studies in various
portentous guises.
Notes to chapter 3
1. iek, Badiou and Laclau do not only share this idea that capturing an
objective point of reference beyond the symbolic order is impossible (for it is
discourse which constitutes such reality); hence they also agree that the subject
itself can not be defined a priori from any transcendental meta-discourse but
comes into play in each unique situation with its own means and language
the materiality of this concept (of subject) is expressed in how heterogeneous
registers are articulated, which are impossible to prescribe for every case. Yet
this does not mean that Laclau, iek and Badiou succumb to the tenets of
what they understand overall as post-modern relativism, according to which
all political positions could be sustained and/or are indeed sustainable.
On the contrary, for Laclau, iek and Badiou everything is not worth the

notes to chapter 3


same. All in all, therefore, major convergences emerge from the ways these
three authors articulate fundamental questions around such notions as the
subject, politics and truth and, in addition, they also share the fundamental
vocabularies of Lacanain theory (petit object a or point of caption as nodal
point (articulation), the concept of master-signifier as the culmination of
a process whereby a particular element assumes the universal structuring
function within certain discursive field, or the deployment of the ImaginarySymbolic-Real triad etc). Beyond these similarities, however, major
differences emerge as well their own points of departure, levels of analysis
and scope of intervention are quite different: Laclau works specifically on the
fields of political theory and the social sciences while taking some elements
from psychoanalysis and, above all, rhetoric and linguistics; iek intervenes
in the broad fields of culture and politics and does so from a perspective
that, albeit mostly limited to philosophical speculation, also borrows from
psychoanalysis, scientific discourse and cultural critique; finally, Badiou
addresses philosophical problems as such, and discusses classical concepts
extensively with authors from within the tradition (Plato, Kant, Hegel,
Heidegger), but, at the same time, he also borrows from mathematics, logic,
psychoanalysis, etc.
2. Daniel Bells earlier announcement of The Coming of Post-industrial
Society (1973) and The End of Ideologies (1962) are perhaps also worth
remembering again in this context.
3. Come to this point it is worth mentioning that a main critique of this
ethical turn stems, precisely, from within the ranks of feminism and it is
Peter Dews himself (108) who brings to our attention the book of collected
articles The Turn to Ethics (Edited by Marjorie Garber, Beatrice Hansen and
Rebecca I. Walkowitz 2000). While in the introduction to this book we are
told how the de-centering of the subject brought about a re-centering of
ethics (viii-ix) the uneasiness or confusion as to the scope, necessity and
validity of the ethical discourse is also clear. As Judith Butler admits in her
contribution to the same volume: I do not have much to say about why
there is a return to ethics, if there is one, in recent years, except to say that
I have for the most part resisted this return, and that what we have to offer
is something like a map of this resistance and its partial overcoming (15).
In her contribution, Chantal Mouffe also complaints bluntly about the
triumph of a sort of moralizing liberalism that is increasingly filling the void
left by the collapse of any project of real political transformation (86). Yet,
by the same token, it is no less true that Derridas idea of openness to the
alterity of the Other is crucial to the multiculturalist debates on identity
politics and the politics of difference and multiplicity that were at the origin
of feminisms own ethical critique against the construction of a pervasive
notion of the ideal, autonomous and sovereign subject of the enlightenment


notes to chapter 3

projectrecall de Laureatis distinction between the ethical and the erotic

dimensions of the feminist global house of difference. On the other hand,
Badious own positions against the very moralizing ethics of liberalism
that Mouffe despises, or in favor of the politics of universalism and truth,
constitute just as relevant a critique of both overlapping variants of radical
and liberal multiculturalism.
4. As Evil runs the show in the standard ethics of human rights the Good
(i.e. thou shall not this or that (kill, steal, etc) depends on, and stems from
identifying first and then combating Evil, and not the other way around as
Badious own ethics propose, i.e.: we first find ourselves seized and shaken
by the Good of a particular truth in a given, concrete situation and then
we make sure to combat the evils that are always bound to lurk around that
informing/structuring truth. Evils, in other words, are inherent to that truth
and consist of falling within the grasp of three fundamental dangers (i) the
terror stemming from a simulacrum of truth unable to broaden a given
particularist appeal (ethnic, cultural, religious . . . ) with the significance
of a gesture towards universality; (ii) the betrayal of a truth deriving from
lacking the nerve and commitment required to pursue its implications as
far as it takes; and (iii) the disaster of making the power of a truth absolute
(tantalization) : Evil, if it exists, is an unruly effect of the power of the truth
(61). That is to say: the possibility of evil accounts for a perversion, which is
not external but intrinsic to the ethical realm (see 7287).
5. Against these forms of postmodern cultural politics and ethics of
difference and otherness, more-than-modern Badiou disagrees with the
propensity for overusing the prefix post in the now classic pre-modernity
/ modernity / postmodernity periodization. For him, instead, there are two
main moments in modernity: the classical period (say from Renaissance
humanism to enlightened rationalism) and the romantic period to which we
still belong. The whole deconstructive mode would fit perfectly the romantic
moodemphasis on differe/ance and diversity, ethical othering. . . .
6. In this context the figure of Saint Paul should also be mentioned as
a model in the eyes of Badiou for thinking a new kind of universalism
one which according to Dews would no longer be vulnerable to charges
of abstraction and formalism but would rather express the scope of an
experience of truth which cannot be detached from a singular situation
(109). But again, by mobilizing Pauls celebrated and lapidary statement in
the epistle to the Galatians (3.28): There is neither Jew nor Greek, there
is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, Badiou is not
claiming that there are NO differences. For Badiou, who also sees himself
through the concrete universality of the militant, solitary, nomadic poetthinker of the truth(-event), Saint Paul is instrumental in understanding
our contemporary situation / world. This is so not only because Saint Pauls

notes to chapter 3


radical Universalist stance constitutes an unprecedented gesture (which)

consists in subtracting truth from the communitarian grasp (2003: 5),
but also because he provokedentirely alonea cultural revolution
upon which we still depend (15). Yet the concrete universality of truth
does not eliminate, as already stated, the empirical existence of differences
(there are differences. One can even maintain that there is nothing else).
In other words, by becom(ing) all things to all men Saint Paul does not
stigmatise differences, customs, opinions. Instead he appropriates diversity
and particularity and accommodates difference to the immutability of the
principles he holds dear. Hence when Saint Paul himself asks If even lifeless
instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how
will anyone know what is being played on the flute or the harp? (Cor. I.14.7),
then as Badiou continues: Differences, like instrumental tones, provide us
with the recognizable univocity that makes up the melody of the True (106).
7. Defining multiculturalism as the ideal cultural logic of capitalism is a
deliberate allusion to American Marxist critic Fredric Jamesons now classic
work on Postmodernism (1991). In order to unveil the underlying unity of
capitalism and modernity in their interrelated historical evolution, Jameson
identifies three main technological breakthroughs (steam-driven motors,
electric & combustion motors, nuclear power & electronic revolution),
which are then linked to three main stages of capitalist development and
organization (market, monopoly / imperialism, and later multinational) in
turn associated with three main cultural logics (Realism, Modernism and
8. This position on multiculturalism iek first stated in his seminal
work The Ticklish Subject (1999, 216),
9. In the case of British multiculturalism, for instance, there is no such
thing as the Anglo-Saxon (or English) ethnic minority competing for recognition
on a par with African-Caribbean, Muslims, Gay and Lesbian, people with
disabilities, Scots, Welsh, Irish, etc, in order to define what Britishness is. It is
rather this particular content (Englishness) which has historically exerted the
hegemonic function and succeeded in overwhelmingly calling the shots, so to
speak, by both stepping outside the chain of differences and secretly filling in
the empty point of universality through the very medium of the (supposedly
neutral) British national institutions (state, media, cultural establishment,
etc). In this sense, the Anglo-Saxon- ethnic dimension of British-ness both
disappears and yet works as the alluded-to absent center, unmarked political
sign and/or norm against which the other differences are measured. To a
large extent this is still so, regardless of some new reactive English identity
consciousness raising exercises on compensatory grounds (e.g., if the Scots
have St Andrew why not St George? If the Welsh have an Assembly we also
want a Parliament, etc). A potential Scottish independence would certainly


notes to chapter 3

change the parameters of English ethnic invisibility.

10. In a nutshell, this political fantasy is that liberal and / or progressive
politics seek negotiation and consensus and refer to a specific form of
gradualist, reform based, utilitarian politics.
11. As iek puts it: Those in power often prefer critical participation,
a dialogue, to silencethey would prefer to engage us in a dialogue, just to
make sure that our ominous passivity is broken (2006a, 212).
12. Here one should not be misled into thinking that either boutique
or strong multiculturalists do somehow follow Baudious universalist
predicament. For one should note that Saint Pauls radical universalism (There
is no Jews or Christians, Masters or Slaves, Men or Women . . . ) is defined
around a primordial structuring struggle or antagonism. Saint Pauls is, in two
words, a struggling universalism, it is certainly not a sort of blissful universalism
based on an idea of harmonious human co-existence in which, as Henry A.
Giroux (1992, 207) would put it, for instance: History, power and agency
now dissolve into the abyss of liberal goodwill, New Age uplift thinking, and
a dead-end pastoralism; and cultural differences dissolve into a regime of
representations that universalize harmonizing systems while eliminating the
discourse of power, conflict and struggle. In passing, this approach to what
is known to be a rather more weak and pluralistic form of universalism
(as opposed to the original strong form of liberal, unitary universalism) is
also shared by both (multicultural) liberalism and New Age holism. This is
so as Western forceful consumerist individualism meets benevolent Oriental
wisdom and alternative qua now complementary medicine through discourses
of health and hedonism, which are not entirely alien to the overall boutique
multiculturalist predicament. Yet more to the point, universalism is also
associated with progress and science, which, again, rather un-paradoxically
now, also involves a keen holistic realignment as iek (2006a, 216) explains:
Much more worrying than the excesses of Cultural Studies are the New
Age obscurantist appropriations of todays hard sciences which, in order to
legitimize their position, invoke the authority of science itself (todays science
has outgrown mechanistic materialism, and points out towards a new spiritual
holistic stance . . . ). Accordingly all these developments speak of a rather
overly expanded and / or all-encompassing (scientism and holism), rational
(we all have the ability / faculty to think rationally) and universalist (deep
down we are all one!) spirit of boutique multiculturalism.
13. In reference to Kymlickas discussions of multiculturalism from
a liberal perspective, Fish comes to argue that Kymlickas answer to the
question of how liberals should respond to illiberal practices also responds
to the same distancing logic enacted in the conventional discourses of
respect and tolerance, of which more in the next chapter. When Kymlicka
asks himself the standard question as to how should liberals respond to

notes to chapter 4


illiberal cultures? (1995, 94) his own answer is that since liberals should
eschew illiberal practices, they should not prevent illiberal nations from
maintaining their societal culture, but should promote the liberalization
of these cultures (9495). Or put otherwise: Liberal reformers inside the
culture should seek to promote their liberal principles through reason or
example, and liberals outside should lend their support to any efforts the
group makes to liberalize their culture (2007, 168). In the end, this would
simply amount to respecting the culture of the other by trying to change
it. Yet according to Fish, in his inability to see the contradiction between
maintaining a tradition and setting out to change it: [K]ymlicka is trying to
be a strong multiculturalist but turns boutique when the going gets tough.
He would reply that by promote he means persuade rather than impose
and that rational persuasion is always an appropriate decorum (6). With
comments such as this Fish seems to undermine any possibility for the
multiculturalists benevolent liberal gaze aiming at softening the sharp edges
of the others culture without paying the price of utter inconsistency.
Notes to chapter 4
1. This mood and moment is well documented as according to a variety
of authors, multiculturalism becomes normalized (West, 1992, 1993) into
depoliticized and consumerist patterns (Giroux, 1994; Jacoby, 1994a/b;
Zelizer, 1994, de Oliver, 2000) of a Disneyfying and United Colors of
Benetton-like (Mitchell, 1993) commodification of cultural difference
including the hedonist qua ludic, corporate and imperial (Matutk, 1998)
approach to cultural difference.
2. Here it is also worth noting Terry Eagletons overall critique of NorthAmerican academia in its radical, post-colonial version when he affirms that
(2003a,163) A good deal of post-colonialism has been a kind of exported
version of the United States own grievous ethnic problems, and thus yet
another instance of Gods Own Country, one of the most insular on earth,
defining the rest of the world in terms of itself. For Eagleton that the specific
and dominant cultural politics of multicultural otherness is located within
a specific geographical context says a lot about the whole multiculturality
debate: Nothing is more indigenously American these days than otherness.
Openness to the other is a rebuke to a parochialism of a nation which finds
it hard to distinguish between Brighton and Bogot; but it is also a piece of
parochialism in itself, rooted by and large in the intractable ethnic problems
of the United States. These home-grown concerns are then projected onto
the rest of the globe rather like a version of nuclear missile bases, so that
post-colonial others find themselves obediently adopting the agenda of a
largely American-bred cult of otherness. (3)


notes to chapter 4

3. Consider also here Spivaks intention behind the notion of multicultural

tokenism (with Sneja Gunew, 1993), which is directed against dominant
paternalistic approaches to the cultural diversity of the subordinated others
and is a warning against uncritical celebrations of difference and authenticity.
As to the tolerance/respect debate Terry Eagleton as ever has a mind of his
own for, on the one hand, not only Historically speaking, there has been
a rich diversity of cultures of torture, but even devout pluralists would be
loath to affirm this as one more instance of the colorful tapestry of human
experience. Those who regard plurality as a value in itself are pure formalist,
and have obviously not noticed the astonishingly imaginative variety of forms
which, say, racism can assume (2000, 15). But also, on the other hand, and
most importantly: Tolerance is not just a question of style and it is perfectly
compatible with passionate partisanship (2003, 175).
4. In Fishs words, when the pinch comes, and a question of basic
allegiance arises, the boutique multiculturalist must leave aside pluralistic
caprice and must affirm instead the value of ones universal identity. Important
as tolerance of diversity and the respect of the other may be in what are often
described as contemporary multicultural democratic societies, for the liberal
boutique multiculturalist no particular identity (ethnic or otherwise) can
constitute the foundation of recognition or equal rights;a position that Fish
summarizes further as follows: That is to say, we have rights, not as men or
women or Jews or Christians or blacks or Asians, but as human beings, and
what makes a human being a human being is not the particular choices he or
she makes but the capacity for choice itself, and it is this capacity rather than
any of its actualizations that must be protected (12).
5. Whether articulated around the question of modernity or the status
of communicative action, the prominence of Jrgen Habermas in all key
sociological and cultural debates that have taken place over the last decades
is unquestionable. What remain questionable, as will become still clearer in
section III, are the dialogic, rational-universalist and postnational views he
develops along the way. For the time being, it suffices to say that, certainly, it is
no coincidence if Habermass theories of post-nationalism and constitutional
patriotism, leading to the (neo)liberal oblivion of the past in Europe
(colonization, imperialism, world wars, etc), is also originally imported more
specifically from Germany. Germany is a European country that, after its
reunification, needed to refashion its history in such a way that to rid itself,
as it were, of the countrys past histories (Hitler, etc) becomes paramount so
as to then open the new imagined German nation to the ideology of (neo)
liberal democracy.
6. Turning the ironic mode on for a second, this cold vision of the
market forgets that a financial dealer in futures in the City of London also
does his standard weekly shopping in a big suburban shopping center while

notes to chapter 5


fulfilling likewise some ethical and humanitarian obligations in the evening

and simultaneously indulging in some multicultural transactions finding
time to consume fair trade products and buy ethnic food in trendy and/or
authentic street markets.
Notes to chapter 5
1. See also: Culture and Imperialism, (1993) and for more on this
metanarrative of domination see: Stuart Hall on The West and the Rest:
Discourse and Power (1992b, 265320).
2. Here some lateral reflections (on subject matter and method) arise
from looking at such ancient beginnings of Western civilization. Sure,
multiculturalism as a concept was as much inexistent in ancient times as
communism was in the Spartacus-led slave revolt. Nevertheless, if we look
backwards for a moment deep into the cradle of Western societies we all
agree that fascination is always high with the great artistic and architectural
creations and achievements of ancient Greek civilization; not least with
the philosophical impetus of classical Hellenisms celebrated propensity to
observe a universalist sense of cosmopolitan citizenship. Yet, at the same time,
classical Greek cultures and societies more often than not confronted the
questions of slavery, the foreigners and the external barbaric other in pretty
particular, not to say, literally, insular waysof which point Julia Kristeva
remind us vividly (1988, 6194) in her contemporary plea to see ourselves
as eternal foreigners. In addition, the celebrated resolution of the so-called
Socrates dilemma offers a good example of another fundamental theme in
present liberal multiculturalism, namely: the tense relationships between
the universality of individual autonomy, dignity and consciousness, on the
one hand, and the civic and collective duty to serve and defend ones own
particular (city)-state, on the other. It is well known that questions related to
human wellbeing in ancient Greece always aimed at achieving the good of
collective life and society as a whole. It is in this context that Socrates, himself
a bearer of a dutiful fidelity to the city-state, will nevertheless introduce the
idea of ones own individual freedom of conscience constituting the ultimate
moral kernel of human existence, for which he will die (Jaeger, [1933] 1990,
423). Such is thus the importance of Socrates dilemma that it should certainly
be appreciated in its own intellectual terms as well as full ethical dimension
since the individual freedom vs. collective duty clearly reverberates in todays
debates; and yet notwithstanding the relevance of this eternal dilemma,
emphasis should still be placed on the obvious albeit necessary materialist
clich according to which great ideas do not grow in a social and historical
vacuum and, generally, they are indeed a response to a clear sense of crisis.
To put it another way: the Socrates dilemma holds enough autonomy in


notes to chapter 5

abstract and timeless terms, as it were, for it to be understood and discussed

regardless of Athens objective material conditions of political decay and
military weakness. By the same token, however, it is also important to take
these concrete material and historical conditions into account as well. For,
clearly, Socrates own fate is by no-means context-free. Hence, when dealing
with any contemporary and / or current multicultural controversies there is
the fundamental dimension of concrete historical circumstances in which
they take place that it is important not to loose sight of. In this sense it cannot
be forgotten that Socrates death penalty was also a response to the emergence
of Sparta as a new hegemonic power at the expense of Pericles Athensa city,
in passing, which is also relevant to bear in mind comprised just over 30,000
citizens out of 300,000 inhabitants. To put other more modern examples, this
sense of crisis and threat of the new was just as much the case in Socrates and
Pericless Athens as it was in the varying contexts of political and religious
turmoil in Europe (e.g., Reformation, 30 years war, 161848). In this context,
it is also worth recalling that these historical events lead John Locke to write
A Letter Concerning Toleration (168990) and introduce a key distinction
between the realm of private belief and a sense of secularism in public life,
and Voltaire to write Trait sur la tolrance (1763) in order to redress the
violent excesses of Catholic orthodoxy. Yet, likewise, what was collapsing was
a whole feudal and pre-modern social organization to which in this case,
the works of both Locke and Voltaire contributed. Hence, the overall point
being worth repeating here again is the following: the dialectically informed
methodological approach (iek calls this The Parallax View, 2006b, 2008) of
this book (i) emphasizes critical perspectival ambiguity rather than one-sided
awe with the prima facie associations and positive connotations of certain
notions as opposed to others; and (ii) relies on the idea that although reality
may only be readily available to us through the mediation of language, all
discourses, idealist or not, are dependent, nevertheless, on (often unspoken)
material conditions.
3. A claim which, particularly in the case of empire, Michael Hardt
and Antonio Negri, for instance would also find preposterous since forms
of Empire have always existed throughout history as well as sharing the
following feature : As Thucydides, Livy, and Tacitus all teach us (along with
Machiavelli commenting on their work), Empire is formed not on the basis
of force itself but on the basis of the capacity to present force as being in the
service of right and peace (2000, 15).
4. For an explanation of what sophisticated multiculturalism is, see
chapter 6. As a complement to the reflection on this doubly articulated
other it has already been mentioned how Edward Said exposed the logic of
Orientalism as establishing a West-us/East-them split. Yet Marxist (literary)
critic Terry Eagleton (2000), who is himself of Irish descent, reminds us that

notes to chapter 5


the construction of the barbarian as the strange other is not always limited
to a threat, which should be understood only as external to the West: If the
science of anthropology marks the point where the West begins to convert
other societies into legitimate objects of study, the real sign of political crisis is
when it feels the need to do this to itself. For there are savages within Western
society too, enigmatic, half-intelligible creatures ruled by ferocious passions
and given to mutinous behaviour; and these too will need to become objects
of disciplined knowledge. In fact, Edward Said himself is well aware of this
and in the introduction of Culture and Imperialismspeaks specifically of the
Irish case falling into the same us vs. them orientalist / colonial / imperialist
logic. In this context, it is worth remembering how this dominant attitude
finds a paradoxical mirror image later on in the history of the humanities
precisely under the guise of post-colonial and cultural studies. This is how
Eagleton (1998, 324325) informs us of certain methodological pitfalls
and conceptual shortcomings within the realms of post-colonial studies by
pointing specifically to the case of Irish studies in the 90s: Indeed much of
the program of academic Irish studies is silently set by a postmodern agenda,
with some interesting political effects. Nationalism, for example, is not much
in favor because it is essentialist, whereas feminism is firmly on the agenda
because it is not. The truth is that some nationalism is anti-essentialist
whereas some feminism is essentialist; but one should not allow such minor
considerations to interfere with ones comfortingly clear-cut oppositions.
Nationalism is also upbraided for cutting across and concealing other kinds
of social division; but then some feminism and ethnic theory can do this too,
and for its own purposes quite properly so. The concept of ethnicity is much
to the fore in such studies . . . since the Irish are of course ethnic. Ethnic for
whom? The point being that one is not really so clear any longer about the
borders and boundaries splitting the West form the Rest, on the one hand,
and Western dominant culture from the many alliances that take place at the
lower level of subordinate and / or subaltern (cultural) politics across the
world, on the other.
5. On Border Theory see also Giroux and McLaren (eds.) 1994; Giroux,
1992; 1993; Saldivar 1997; Fregoso, 1999; Mignolo, 1995, 2000.
6. In this respect, staying within the realms of the political Left, two
contributions may serve to add to this ambiguity. First Simon During (1990,
138139) refuses to concede to the still prevalent position that nationalism
is essentially a nasty formation. In addition to this, he also vindicates the
right to make particular and local appropriations of reason and allows
enough room to deploy accounts of national movements, which are utterly
antagonistic to oppression; and then Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
also introduce (2000, 106) a further distinction when they argue that the
right of self-determination of subaltern nations is really a right to secession


notes to chapter 5

from the control of dominant powers; that stated most boldly as they
put it: It appears that whereas the concept of nation promotes stasis and
restoration in the hands of the dominant, it is a weapon for change and
revolution in the hands of the subordinated. Although little justice would
be paid to Hardt and Negris (109) overall predicament and understanding
of Empire as a universal order that accepts no boundaries or limits, should
one not emphasize their point that the progressive functions of the concept
of nation exist primarily when nation is not effectively linked to sovereignty,
that is, when the imagined nation does not (yet) exist, in other words, when
the nation remains merely a dream. According to Hardt and Negri, as soon
as the nation begins to form as a sovereign state, its progressive functions
all but vanish, which is a claim that Benedict Anderson (1315) himself
reinforces when stating that: By being imagined as sovereign, the nation
dreams of being free regardless of the fact that, in the times of pervasive
geographical and social mobility, ones freed nation will certainly become
anothers political prison.
7. This belief linked up with Appadurais main thesis ([1990]2003)
speaking of five different and interrelated types of imagined world landscapes,
which would explain the nature of cultural flows in the global economy and
which would, in turn, be undermining the future viability of nation-states.
These are: ethnoscapes (people who move between nations, such as tourists,
immigrants, exiles, guest-workers, and refugees), technoscapes (technology,
often linked to multinational corporations), financescapes (global capital,
currency markets, stock exchanges), mediascapes (electronic and new
media), and ideoscapes (official state-ideologies and counter-ideologies).
8. In Imagined Communities Benedict Anderson uses a historical
materialist perspective to produce what must have become one of the most
quoted contemporary texts to date within the fields of cultural studies as
well as the humanities and the social sciences at large. In historical terms,
according to Anderson, key to generating and developing the modern idea
of nation is the development of print-capitalism that favors the consolidation
of new nation-(state)s as communities imagined through the medium
of a written (and obviously read and disseminated) national narrative of
common histories, symbols, myths and traditions shared by a specific
national community
9. In this seminal reader, Homi K. Bhabha also reproduces a famous
lecture Ernest Renan (1990, 1318) delivered at the Sorbonne University,
Paris, in 1882. For Renan, nations were the outcome of profound
complications in history. Each nation came to be a soul or spiritual principle
constituted by two temporal dimensions: 1/ the rich legacy of memories
from the past, and 2/ the present-day consent that defines belongingness
to a nation as a continuous process based on daily plebiscite. For Renan,

notes to chapter 5


therefore, the spiritual principle or basis on which nations are built derives
both from will (or present consent) and culture / history, understood as the
(mythical) repository of the past.
10. Slavoj iek frames the ambiguous and contradictory nature
that defines the modern notion of Nation within the coordinates of
modernization in similar terms. According to ieks argument (2006a,
2021) this ambiguity lies in the very fact that nations are often perceived
wrongly as leftovers from the past when in fact their place is constituted
by the very break from the past. On the one hand, Nation designates the
modern community delivered of traditional organic ties: a community in
which the pre-modern links that connect the individual to a particular land,
family lineage, religious group, etc, are broken; the traditional corporate
community is replaced by the modern nation-state whose constituents are
citizens, that is, people as abstract members, not as members of particular
land holdings, for example. On the other hand, Nation can never be reduced
to a network of purely symbolic ties: there is always a surplus that sticks to
it: to define itself, national identity must appeal to a contingent materiality
of common roots. In short, according to iek, Nation designates both the
instance by means of which traditional organic links are dissolved and the
reminder of the pre-modern in modernity, the form long-standing organic
deep-rootedness acquires within the modern post-traditional universe,
the form organic substance acquires within the universe of abstract and
rational subjectivity. The crucial point is to conceive of both aspects in their
interconnectedness: it is the new bond brought about by the modern Nation
that renders possible the disengagement from traditional organic ties. In
other words, the Nation is a pre-modern leftover that functions as the inner
condition of modernity itself, as its inherent impetus to its progress.
11. ieks comments in regards of the universalism of grandnational Left intellectuals in big European nations also comes to mind
here, particularly when he states that, [C]learly, a nationalist bias is also
discernible. According to iek (2002: 121; 2004: 2627): We often hear
the complaint that the recent trend of globalization threatens the sovereignty
of the nation-state; here, however, we should qualify this statement: which
states are most exposed to this threat? It is not the small states, but the second
rank (ex)-world powers, countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and
France: what they fear is that once they are fully immersed in the newly
emerging global Empire, they will be reduced to the same level as, say,
Austria, Belgium, or even Luxemburg. [ . . . ] The leveling of weight between
larger and smaller nation-states should thus be counted among the beneficial
effects of globalization. Beneath the contemptuous deriding of the new
Eastern European post-Communist states, it is easy to discern the contours
of a wounded narcissism of the European great nations.


notes to chapter 5

12. As iek points out (2004, 12), stating this centrality is hardly new
or original: Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of
Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential
attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness
(French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad
can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and
English liberalism. In terms of the predominance of one sphere of social
life, it is German metaphysics and poetry versus French politics and English
economics. On the back of this (semiotic) triangle, iek goes on to show
how these differences between France, Germany and, more widely, the broad
Anglo-Saxon sphere of influence dominate, to a great extent, the geopolitics
of our world in modernity. He then goes on to show how ideology is very
much embedded everywhere in our everyday cultural and social practices.
13. In a footnote Will Kymlicka (2009, 73n12) explained why: In
Germany, for example, special education arrangements were set up for the
children of Turkish guest-workers with the goal of preparing them to return
to their home (even if they were born in Germany), on the assumption that
they did not really belong to Germany. This sort of preparationist education
clearly differs from what is typically understood as multicultural education,
and does not count as a multiculturalism policy. To establish policies
seeking to encourage Turkish workers to leave Germany can hardly count
as multiculturalism, which even by the standard of a weak definition still
remains both a political philosophy as well as a set of policies seeking to
recognize and accommodate diversity as a fact of society. In this respect,
Kymlicka (75n14) names this German approach A form of pseudomulticulturalism [which] has sometimes been adopted for metics [that is,
de facto long-term residents who are nonetheless excluded from the polis
(Walzer 1983)] on the assumption that encouraging the members of a group
that maintain their language and culture will make it more likely they will
return to their country of origin. This preparationist form of pseudomulticulturalism, in Kymlickas words, is the antithesis of the idea based on
fomenting multicultural citizenship as generally developed in the AngloSaxon countries.
14. For a more exhaustive view of these questions, see in Germany
(Fulbrook, 1996), in France (Silverman, 1992), in Britain (Kushner, Jones
and Pierce, 1998), and in Europe overall (Cesarini and Fulbrook (ed) 1998;
Eder and Giesen (ed) 2001).
15. For instance traditional anti-multiculturalist positions historically
nurtured in Conservative positions, ranging from Norman Tebbit to
David Cameron, rest on calls to national identity and unity etc. However,
the meaning of British national identity which was mostly based on, and
revolved around an untold (or implicit) universalization of the particular

notes to chapter 5


English way of life has considerably shifted over the last decade or so as
certainly, calls to national identity and unity seem to be more and more
explicit and less and less the quiet outcome of a state-promoted ideology
strategically under-scoring English qua British banal nationalism. In this
respect British national identity seems also to work more and more as a
reactive and defensive ideology in the face of the twin dangers of external
globalization and internal sub-state national claims (the Scottish question
being the clearest case in point). Likewise, for the last 10 to 15 years Labour
politics are also relying on increasingly visible (and indeed constraining if
not violent) forms of British nationalism, albeit always under the claim of
the opposite. Recall that New Labour Home Secretary David Blunketts (in)
famous Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, not to mention the idea for
the now functioning Britishness test he put forward, as well as the Language
Row he provoked at the time, were all anterior (2002) to the London
Bombings (2005). For background information on both see: BBC News
(2002a): Blunkett confirms 1bn asylum bill, BBC News (2002b): Blunkett
Language Row. Recall also Gordon Brown (2006) and his Key note speech at
the Fabian [Societys] Future of Britishness Conference, and more recently Ed
Milibands rather unfortunate yes I know/but nevertheless interventions on
Englishness (2012a) and Immigration (2012b).
16. In this context, it is worth revisiting Paul Gilroys ([1993] 2003, 52)
diagnosis in the first chapter of this book with regard to the intellectual closure
in which the English cultural studies string of his time had positioned itself
in the 1970s. This diagnosis is now not only out of date but also incorrect.
Let us repeat first what Gilroy stated at the time: The statist modalities
of Marxist analysis that view modes of material production and political
domination as exclusively national entities are only one source of this
problem [whilst] another factor, more evasive but nonetheless potent for its
intangible ubiquity, is a quiet cultural nationalism which pervades the work
of some radical thinkers. This statement is now incorrect, obviously, because
the potency of such nationalist ubiquity is nowadays not at all evasive and,
if anything, more tangible than ever. Taking the British case as an example
suffice to say here that Paul Gilroys concern should be extended from the
realms of academia on to the wider social-political and cultural domains.
In this respect is worth recalling not only British Left talisman Tony Benns
lifelong praise of British democracy as opposed to European bureaucracy
but just the same Left-wing cult popular singer Billy Bragg whose attempt
to reconcile patriotism with the radical tradition (The Progressive Patriot,
2006, 16) gives a clear indication, for instance, of the all too tangibly
ubiquitous presence of a major neo-nationalist repositioning that took place
in Britain under New Labour, and from which it was also allegedly possible
not only to overcome traditional, Conservative Middle England politics, but


notes to chapter 5

also to challenge the re-emergence of xenophobia together with the threat of

Muslim fundamentalism.
17. As Sara Ahmed first reported (2008): In his plenary talk at the Law
and Critique Conference called Walls that took place at Birkbeck College
(1416 September 2007), Slavoj iek repeatedly asserted that liberal
multiculturalismand its politically correct premise of respecting the
others differenceis hegemonic. When asked questions about this position
from the floor, he stated insistently that it was an empirical fact that liberal
multiculturalism was hegemonic, and challenged anyone to prove otherwise .
. . As a way of taking up his challenge Ahmed posted her response in the web
page Darkmatter post-colonial futures (19 Feb, 2008) response, which iek
(2008) himself answered back in (Appendix: Multiculturalism:
The reality of an illusion.).
18. To discuss the relationships between multiculturalism and (anti)racism, Ahmed used in her response to iek a polemical example at the
time (2007), namely, the case of late Jade Goodys Big Brother story. For
further background information on the story see: Wikipedia n/d : Celebrity
Big Brother racism controversy. As the first paragraph goes: The Celebrity
Big Brother racism controversy was a series of events related to incidents of
perceived racist behavior by contestants on the television series Celebrity Big
Brother 2007 shown on British television station Channel 4. The incidents
centered on comments made by contestants on this reality television show,
most notably Big Brother contestant Jade Goody, glamour model Danielle
Lloyd, and singer Jo OMeara, which were directed towards Indian actress
Shilpa Shetty. The screening of these comments on UK television resulted
in national and international media coverage, responses from the UK and
Indian governments, and the shows suspension during the 2008 season.
Ahmeds aim in bringing about this example was to point the finger towards
the forms of covert racism that often hide behind the fantasy of anti-racist
discourses. As she puts it: Take Big Brother and the Jade Goody story. You
could argue that Big Brothers exposure of racism functions as evidence that
political correctness is hegemonic: you are not allowed to be racist towards
others. But that would be a gross misreading. What was at stake was the
desire to locate racism in the body of Jade Goody, who comes to stand for
the ignorance of the white working classes, as a way of showing that we
(Channel 4 and its well-meaning liberal viewers) are not racist like that.
19. Ahmed also unpacks this covert racism with a distance that reverberates
in this liberal attitude when dealing, for instance, with the politically correct
bureaucratic box-ticking imperative in the public administration (You are
asked to be a tick in their box by smiling with gratitude adding color to the
white face of the organization. Diversity as an ego ideal conceals experiences
of racism, which means that multiculturalism is a fantasy which supports

notes to chapter 6


the hegemony of whiteness). Linked to the previous endnote and in order

to further explain this dominant liberal perspective also comes to mind the
classic Lacanian formula of the fetishist disavowal (je le sais bien mais quand
mme), which iek uses so often. In other words, this would amount to
saying: yes, I know: unfortunately there is this open racism of the uneducated
working classes but nevertheless: never myself, under no circumstances do
I / we tolerate this kind of appallingly racist behavior, on the contrary we
actively fight against it (see, for instance, how even footballers take part in
our kick racism out of football campaigns).
20. It should be unnecessary to insist that the London bombing happened
within the overall post 9/11 context, which also included the Madrid 11
march 2004 massive attacks.
21. Symptomatic in this respect are also the attempts at developing a
minority-led, bottom-up, progressive and alternative British patriotic
predicament by the very secular, liberal, cosmopolitan and unprejudiced
representatives of what are bureaucratically termed as the British Minorities
Ethnics (BME) themselves (Muslim, Afro-Caribbean, etc). In this respect,
notice how Trevor Phillips and Tariq Morood, to all intents and purposes of
self-definition and self-portrayal, both progressive liberals and / or centerleft thinkers, are quite adamant in pointing us towards such a forced choice:
to choose, that is to say, between British national identity or nothing else;
or do we instead, as Morood (2006, 6) asks, albeit with a certain amount
of sarcastic disdain [J]ust take the view that if inspiring and meaningconferring identities can be found elsewherein some internationalist
movementthats just fine and if thats at the expense of your country and its
citizens, well they dont really matter all that much in the ultimate scheme of
significance? Using some ironic play with acronyms the obvious answer to
this question is to ask whether there is a case to suspect that ultimately the
aim of this very elite of the British Minority Ethnics (BME) would not be
merely to become duly recognized Members of the British Empire (MBE)!
Notes to chapter 6
1. Here it is also worth mentioning the Parekh Report on The Future
of Multi-Ethnic Britain (2000) in which (i) a vision for Britain is provided
whereby the national story and identities in transition are rethought in order
to both achieve cohesion, equality and the respect of difference as well as
dealing with various racisms, reducing inequalities and building a human
rights culture; (ii) an overview is offered on a variety of issues (employment,
immigration and asylum, the politics of representation, religion and belief)
and institutions (police, criminal justice, education, arts and media, health
and welfare; and (iii) strategies for change in government and organizational


notes to chapter 6

leadership, legislation and enforcement. While the following controversies

(in the media, etc) around the report are necessarily structured around issues
of racial discrimination and immigration that pertain to the previous social
imaginary of the black mugger (S. Hall, 1978, Racism and Reaction in,
Five views on multiracial Britain, Commission of Racial Equality), most of
the themes and debates internal to the liberal / social democratic concerns
about social and cultural integration of minority / migrant groups within the
structures of the national-state remain relevant within the global post 9/11
geo-political context.
2. According to Laclau and Mouffe: The basic tenet of what is presented
as the third way is that with the demise of communism and the socioeconomic transformations linked to the advent of the information society
and the process of globalization, antagonisms have disappeared. A politics
without frontiers would now be possiblea win-win politics where
solutions could be found that favored everybody in society. This implies
that politics is no longer structured around social divisions and that political
problems have become merely technical. According to Ulrich Beck and
Anthony Giddensthe theorists of this new politicswe are now living
in conditions of reflexive modernization where the adversarial model of
politics, of us versus them, does not apply any more. (1983, xiv-xv). The two
key texts by Anthony Giddens we are referring to here are: Beyond Left and
Right: The Future of Radical Politics, 1994, and Third Way: The Renewal of
Social Democracy, 1998.
3. With a theory tailor-made to his own concrete (German) measure
of historical guilt and with no real or appreciable universal or liberatory
dimension to account for, perhaps a bit of Derriadean hauntology (see
chapter 2) would be appropriate here for it seems that Habermas is now quite
unaware of his own Marxist past as a critical theorist. I owe the main thrust
of this critique on Habermas post-nationalism to Joseba Gabilondo (2003).
4. Regarding this question, in passing, Etienne Balibars (2004)
position, borrowed from Umberto Ecco, on his reflections about Europe
and transnational citizenship is worth mentioning, i.e., that the language of
Europe would not be any of the existing national languages but translation
itself. (See also, Berman and Wood, 2005)
5. A standard approach to the study of the modern states places their
actual birth in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which ended the Thirty
Years War. The Peace of Westphalia and a posterior series of Treaty(ies) in
the seventeenth century are understood to be at the base of what eventually
brought an end to supranational religious and political (empire) authority
and the rise of individual, secular European nation-states. The Westphalian
doctrine understood states as constituting independent sovereign entities, a
vision which reached its peak in the nineteenth century. This doctrine was

notes to conclusion


instrumental in the emergence and growth of (state)-nationalism under

which individual states were thought of as corresponding to individual
nations united by language and culture (recall Benedict Andersons notion
of imagined communities). Here it is important to mention the (Woodrow)
Wilson Doctrine and the rise of the principle of self-determination in
Wilsons tenure in office (19131921) as an official US foreign policy (see,
Knock, 1992; Dudden (ed. 1957). In short, the Peace of Westphalia was key
to modern international relations as the principles of state sovereignty and
legal equality among individual states were meant to prevail over the idea of
external intervention of one country in the domestic affairs of another.
6. This is how, using a linguistic metaphor, states could be understood
as being the minimal meaningful units (lexemes / morphemes) for political
intervention in supra-state structures such as Europe or the UN, which would
constitute the wider level (phrases, paragraphs); whereas infra-state substate formations such as (city-)regions or small, stateless national structures
remain discrete units, certainly, albeit unable to produce meaning only by
themselves (like phonemes). The problem thus arises when discrete but
meaningless phonemes want to become meaningful lexemes/morphemes
able to contribute directly to a sense of the universal that no longer needs the
mediation of the nation-state hitherto speaking on their behalf.
7. Here it is again worth reading the quote by iek (2002: 121; 2004:
2627) in n11-chapter 5 (p141).
8. Here the search was/is mostly on for a pragmatic approach to multilevel governance (Hooghe and Marks, 2001) as the regional dimension of
city-regions (Taylor, 1995; Knox and Taylor (Eds) 1995; Sassen, 2001, 2002)
and sub-state national and / or regional formations (Jeffery, 1997; Hooge
and Marks, 2001; Sassen, 1996) intersects with the supra-State level of
globalization (Sassen 1998; 2006, 2007).
9. In the latest research Saskia Sassen (2011) carries out, the main argument
advocates for this idea, proposing that such a reconfiguration constitutes
a denationalization of the state structures, which interact directly with
globalization. Sassen seems to refer, in particular, to changes in local laws that
occur in order to adopt global standards of accountability and arbitration,
necessary for the proper functioning of the global economy. It is precisely
those institutions and the local actors who perform these transformations,
hence Sassen rightly reminds us that globalization occurs both in national
territories and also in regional and urban areas.
Notes to conclusion
10. For an interesting and strong critique of this standard division see
Zabala (2011).


notes to conclusion

11. Somehow tangentially here (although perhaps this could well be an

abstract for another book), another way emerges to better understand and
further frame the workings of what we name as Militant (radical) Managerial
(liberal) and Market (consumer) Multiculturalism. This new framework
would arise from considering some aspects of Jaques Lacans theory of the
symbolic order together with Slavoj ieks theory of the political proper.
The relevance of these two theoretical approaches combined stems from
their joint ability to address several separate but interrelated questions: (i)
the issue of radical multiculturalisms (lost) political voice, (ii) the nature
of the para-political desire that liberal-multiculturalism invests on the
consumption of otherness; (iii) the dominant post-political administrative
order which ultimately regulates the (lack of) voice of the subordinate other
(migrant workers, national/cultural minorities, first (indigenous) peoples
. . . ); and (iv) the need thus, from a self-proclaimed open, cosmopolitan
and universalist perspective, for the other to be framed through the archepolitics of communitarian particularist closure enabling a full yet ambiguous
enjoyment of cultural difference. Methodologically, Lacans schema presented
to us through the knot theory of the Borromean rings is instrumental to
address these dimensions of multiculturalism. The Borromean knot is a
very simple topological structure the only property of which is the mutual
implication (connection/linkage) of its terms in non-smaller number than
three. The most interesting point of this articulation is that it allows us to
think about what a minimum consistency can consist of; that is to say, it is
enough that one of the terms of the knot is not sustained so that the whole
imbricated set up (which could be made of infinite terms) disperses itself.
There is no hierarchic structure here, there is no one more important tan
the rest, each of the terms is necessary in order to sustain the whole set. In
addition, it provides us with another way of understanding the inter-position
(the middle term, the in-between-two) in an alternate and non-rigid way: the
Imaginary passes (it crosses) between the Symbolic and the Real, the Symbolic
between the Imaginary and the Real, and the Real between the Symbolic and
the Imaginary. We thus notice that consistency does not depend on anyone
term in particular to operate as a connector or a mediator, but that each one
acts in relation to the other two. Likewise, each one is interrupted by the
other in their circular tautological closure. We can thus say that the terms
show mutual solidarity. In other words, the internal modes of overlapping
that take place in such rings and knots illustrate how relationship between
dominant and subordinate cultures works at the interstices of the Real, the
Symbolic and the Imaginary dimensions of Lacanian theory. In addition, these
dimensions or registers can be further discussed within the context of the
various levels of multiculturalism already alluded to: militant-radical (civil
society / Politics / [S]); managerial-administrative (state / Post-politics [R]);

notes to conclusion


and economic-consumer (market / Para-politics / [I]). The combined effects

of these individual elements thus allows us to mobilize the fourth dimension
of Arche-political closure by which the majority / dominant culture enjoys
subordinate culture in a radically ambiguous / ambivalent way: jouissance
of the other as symptoms of both desire and traumathe enigma / stigma
paradigm of exoticization and demonization of the other etc.
12.I owe much of the spirit and also a bit of the letter of these final remarks
to the critical dialogues and exchange of papers with feminist thinkers and
activists during the final stages of writing up this book. See Gardeazabal in
Gemes and Basabe (2013) who in turn have lead me to the works of Miriam
Lee Kaprow (already mentioned earlier) and Celia Amors (2005).


multicultural controversies

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