Since the London bombs, the debate about multiculturalism and national identity has acquired a new urgency. One of Britain’s leading thinkers in this field argues that becoming a citizen should involve not only rights and duties, but also a moral and emotional commitment to this country
Bhikhu Parekh’s essay in the September 2005 issue of Prospect is based on a lecture he gave earlier this year at the International Labour Institute in Geneva. The full text of the lecture is below.
Almost all contemporary societies are multicultural in the sense that their members entertain different conceptions of the good life and assign different meanings and significance to human activities and relations. This cultural diversity is a product of several interrelated factors, such as ethnic and religious diversity, moral individualism, decline in the traditional moral consensus, globalisation and immigration. Since none of these is likely to disappear in the foreseeable future, cultural diversity is a more or less permanent feature of modern life. Every society needs to acknowledge this fundamental fact and find ways of accommodating its demands without losing its cohesiveness and unity. Different kinds of diversity raise different questions and require different responses. I shall