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The use of the expression anti-Semitism to indicate hostility towards the Jews – only the Jews and not as generally thought towards all “Semitic” people – dates back to the second half of the 19th Century, when the word, a neologism derived from linguistics, was spread throughout...

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A month of ideas.
Giancarlo Bosetti Editor-in-chief
Association for dialogue and intercultural understanding
Monday, 24 June 2013

Interculturalism or Multiculturalism?

Charles Taylor, McGill University, Montreal

This essay discusses the difference between the concepts of multiculturalism and interculturalism, both concepts which are current on the Canadian scene. It argues that the difference between the two is not so much a matter of the concrete policies, but concerns rather the story that we tell about where we are coming from and where we are going. In some ways, we could argue that interculturalism is more suitable for certain European countries.[1]

1 - What is meant by “interculturalism”, and how does it differ from “multi-culturalism”? I’d like to introduce my discussion of this issue with some extremely parochial considerations, having to do with the never-ending Canada-Quebec imbroglio. The fact which I start from is that policies concerned to deal with diversity and integration are grouped in “English” Canada (Canada outside Quebec) under the rubric “multiculturalism”, whereas in Quebec they are referred to as “interculturalism”. These policies are in fact quite similar when one spells them out. But it nevertheless has been politically imperative to use a different name.

Now part of the explanation lies in the lowest kind of demagogic rhetoric. Quebeckers of a very nationalist bent a) can’t bring themselves to adopt policies having the same name they bear in “English” Canada, b) have created a history in which multiculturalism was introduced in Canada in order to avoid having to deal properly with French-English duality, and/or c) that Canadian multiculturalism is designed to slow down, and even defeat integration, that it consists in encouraging immigrants to retreat into their communities of origin, in short that it encourages ghettoization.

Now (a) is not a valid reason, and (c) is just plain wrong; although it is worth noting that this negative, ghetto-inducing idea of the point of multiculturalism is widely shared in Europe, as Canadians discover to their cost and horror when they discuss these questions with French, Germans or Dutch.

I remember reading a headline in a German newspaper “Multikulturalismus ist gescheitert”, where the explanation was that the politics of laisser-aller which recognizes difference with no concern for integration had brought Europe to a terrible pass, and that now was the time to get tough, and make immigrants conform. In fact, in recent months, the heads of government of the three biggest EU countries – Merkel, Cameron and Sarkozy - have announced the end of this pernicious “multiculturalism”. In France, “Communautarisme” has been regularly stigmatized as the same kind of encouragement to retreat into closed cultural communities, “le multiculturalisme” is seen as an endorsement of philosophy of closure. Quebeckers are often just repeating the French rhetoric on this. Canadians find it hard to recognize themselves in this travesty, because multiculturalism in this country has from the beginning been concerned with integration, putting a great emphasis, for instance, on teaching the national languages, English and French.[2]

But the fact that the word has a different sense in Europe and in Canada is not just a harmless semantic shift. Anti-multicultural rhetoric in Europe reflects a profound misunderstanding of the dynamics of immigration into the rich, liberal democracies of the West. The underlying assumption seems to be that too much positive recognition of cultural differences will encourage a retreat into ghettos, and a refusal to accept the political ethic of liberal democracy itself. As though this rush to closure was the first choice of immigrants themselves, from which they have to be dissuaded through “tough love”. Up to a point, we can understand why politicians with no great experience of the dynamics of immigrant societies fall into this error, because the tendency among immigrants is always at first to cluster with people of similar origins and background. How else can they find the networks they need to survive and move ahead in the new environment. We also see this clustering in globalized cities, like Bombay, where new arrivals seek out people from the same state or village.

But the major motivation of immigrants into rich democracies is to find new opportunities, of work, education, or self-expression, for themselves and especially for their children. If they manage to secure these, they – and even more their children – are happy to integrate into the society. It is only if this hope is frustrated, if the path to more rewarding work and education is blocked, that a sense of alienation and hostility to the receiving society can grow, and may even generate a rejection of the mainstream and its ethic.

Consequently, the European attack on “multiculturalism” often seems to us a classic case of false consciousness, blaming certain phenomena of ghettoization and alienation of immigrants on a foreign ideology, instead of recognizing the home-grown failures to promote integration and combat discrimination.

Only in (b) is there some element of truth, because “bi-culturalism” was a term of election for certain Quebeckers who wanted to bring about a serious recognition in Canada of the Quebec difference[3], and Trudeau’s negative reaction took the form of saying: Canada is bi-lingual, but not bi-cultural; rather it is multi-cultural. But this turned out to be only a minor part of the story. There were serious reasons within English Canada for the multicultural turn, which I will come to shortly.

So much for the baser political motivations for this difference in terminology. But there are more serious reasons for the semantic distinction. How could there be, one might ask, if the policies are not all that different? As a first approximation, the answer to this, in a word, might be because the rhetoric is different. What, just rhetoric? one might reply. My answer to this is that anyone who speaks of “just rhetoric” doesn’t understand politics. In fact this difference carries other serious ones in its train, which are crucial to these policies.

Let me explain. Let’s agree to use the term “multiculturalism” on two levels: as a generic term for the ensemble of policies introduced with the combined goals of recognizing diversity, fostering integration and producing/maintaining equality; and then as a word designating a sub-species of such policies, to be contrasted with another sub-species, called “intercultural”. I will go on for a while in a parochial vein, illustrating this difference from the Canadian scene, but then I will try to show that it has wider application.

So what do multicultural programmes and policies hope to effect? They start from the perception that any democratic society has a historically developed and shared culture of interaction. I am gesturing with this term at the ensemble of ways that members of the society relate to each other in a host of contexts, as fellow citizens in the polity, or as fellow members of political or other associations, or as employers and employees of an enterprise, or as merchants and customers, and so on. An understanding comes to circulate of what the normative citizen, members, employee, etc should be like, of what is expected of him and her, as also of the different footings they should stand on with each other, the modes of intimacy or distance, the assumptions about social distance, and so on. A multicultural challenge arises when this culture defines certain sorts of people as enjoying the status of fully normative citizen, member, economic agents, etc., enjoying the normal degree of intimacy, recognition from the others; and excludes others from this status. This arises, for instance, when people of a certain historical descent are accorded, in virtue of the historical origins of the society, the status of fully normative citizen or member, while people of other origin are viewed differently. But the issue doesn’t have to turn on culture in this historical sense. We can also have this imbalance in a society where women are excluded from certain roles, or are treated differently than men when they occupy these roles. Or when people of a certain sexual orientation are discriminated against.

Of course, this kind of inequality can exist for a long time in a society without this being seen as a problem. Hierarchies are often “normalized” in this sense, even in democratic societies. It may be the general consensus that women have their “place”, and shouldn’t aspire to operate outside it; or that this society has as basic purpose the preservation of a certain historic culture, and that thus full members of this culture have a privileged position within it. For the sense of multicultural challenge to arise, this normalization has to be put in question, has to be seen as a denial of equality, which is one of the crucial values of a democratic society.

The age of multiculturalism is in fact the age in which this kind of inequality has come to seem more and more indefensible. The multicultural issue is often posed in terms of natives and immigrants, or people with a long local ancestry versus those who have more recently arrived. But it can also arise because of inequalities suffered by people who have always been there, as with women of historical national minorities, but whose subordination previously seemed normal, and now no longer does so in a fully democratic age.

The challenge of multiculturalism can be met by a range of policies; but these have as common ultimate goal that they transform the culture of interaction so as to remove the inequalities, and confer the status of normative citizen or member on everyone. But if this is going to happen, we need not only specific policies, conferring skills, like the national language, opening access to various jobs and positions, barring discrimination, and so on. We also need an articulated account of what we’re doing, we need to articulate what the new culture of interaction will be, and the way it differs from the old. We need to give some expression to the new footing on which we want to be with each other, having set aside the inequalities and exclusions which characterized the old. We need a narrative of the transition we’re trying to bring about.

Let’s call this articulated account, the “story” that gives the rationale of the policies. This is what I was referring to above in my (admittedly rather flip and provocative) reference to “rhetoric”. So my point there could be put in these terms: between Canadian multiculturalism and Quebec interculturalism the differences lie less in the concrete policies, but in the stories. Admittedly, one can note a semantic distinction between the two terms which seems to point to a different inflexion of policies: if multiculturalism in the generic sense includes policies which aim both at recognition of difference and integration, one might argue that the prefix “multi” gives greater weight to the first goal - acknowledging diversity - while “inter” invokes more the facet of integration. But why this difference is important will only emerge when we look at the two stories.

So let’s look at these. Basically, the story behind Canadian multiculturalism is the following: “English” Canada, or better, anglophone Canada, used to operate within a culture of interaction in which the normative citizen traced his/her ascent from the British Isles, English, Scottish, Irish. And sometimes discriminations were made among these, matching those prevalent in the home islands (where the Irish were emphatically not on the same footing as the others). People of non-British origin were not quite on the same footing. This had a lot to do with the political identity of anglophone Canada, where the relation to the Empire/Commonwealth bulked very large, and identity which was further strengthened by the two World Wars. Our armed services were “royal” (RCAF, RCN), the excitement around the Coronation of Elizabeth II was intense.

In the post-War period, we gradually moved away from this identity - though we still have the RCMP, our “Mounties”, as a major police force on the federal level and in most provinces. There were many reasons for this, but an important one was demographic. A smaller and smaller proportion of Canadians share that “British” origin; I think it’s now down to something like a third of the Canadian population. But also there was the inevitable social advance of people of other origins to positions of importance in all walks of life. That, plus the new climate of opinion developing in the West which put greater and greater importance on the recognition of identities (and which also helped power feminist movements, those for gay rights, etc.), made the old “anglo-normativity” no longer tenable.

The “story” around Canadian multiculturalism as it develops in the 60s and 70s was essentially the dethroning of this anglo-normative understanding. It had to be made clear that one was no closer to the heart of the Canadian identity if one was called Jones, than if one’s name was Kowalski or Minelli. Culture, in the sense of what one received from one’s origins, was sharply distinguished from citizenship. Canada, it said in the legislation, had no official culture (understood here: ancestral culture). This change was not mainly motivated by a concern for immigration policies, although multiculturalism did alter how immigrants were received, and in particular helped greatly in easing the adjustment to an important change in Canada’s immigration policy which came in these years, viz., the abandonment of the bias in favour of people of European origin. A multiracial Canada is much easier to build under the philosophy of multiculturalism than it would have been under the older outlook. But in fact the pressure came largely from the older immigration; people of non-British origin had been coming in great numbers since the beginning of the 20th Century. The new definition of Canadian identity was mainly carried through with them in mind, and of course, with their support.

There were, of course, resistances to this identity shift, and some of them are still there. But in general, it went through with a surprising degree of support and in an atmosphere of consensus (mainly in the large cities, where most new immigrants settle). Multiculturalism became a marker of the new Canadian political identity, and Canadians often turned into those insufferable preachers, spreading the word internationally about their own success and its status as paradigm and model for everyone (a trait that ironically, is what irritates us most in Americans).

Multiculturalism could never take in Quebec, because this story just didn’t suit. First, demographically, in Quebec upwards of 70% of the population is descended from the original francophone settlers. Secondly, their language, culture (and for a long time, religion) has been under powerful threat of assimilation. As far as the language is concerned, there is a triple threat: an anglo majority in Canada, an overwhelming domination of the English language in North America, and on top of that comes the fact that globalization speaks (a sort of) English. The continuance of this vibrant, creative French-speaking society on the banks of the St Lawrence is something of a miracle, but it has not happened without a long and persistent struggle. I believe that our more extreme nationalists greatly exaggerate the threats to the French language today, and what is more, often instrumentalize this fear to narrow political ends, and even worse, obsessively support restrictive legislation where we should be concerned with the quality of our French education. But nevertheless, this long struggle has left an understandable legacy of concern for the language and the identity which has been woven around it.

I mentioned above that one possible semantic distinction between the “multi-”and the “inter-” was that, within the dual goal of recognizing difference and achieving integration, “inter” places a greater emphasis on the latter. Now we can see that this has to be the case in Quebec. Because integration has to be a more complex goal here than in the rest of Canada. It is not just a matter of ensuring that immigrants find jobs, make contacts, join associations, in short find their place within society. Because of our situation, we have to work to ensure that that integration takes place in French rather than English. Up until the “quiet revolution” of the 1960s, the normal path of immigrants to Quebec (mainly of course, settling in Montreal) was to integrate into the English minority (of course, this meant into the Canadian majority). In the 60s and 70s, particularly in face of the declining birthrate in Quebec, efforts were made to reverse this trend, culminating in the major language legislation of the 70s. And now the tendency is for immigrants’ children, schooled in French, to take their place in francophone society. But this didn’t happen of itself. By contrast, in Toronto no-one has to do anything to ensure that immigrants’s children become anglophones. The host language there is also today’s universal speech, not to mention its place in American popular culture.

So for all these reasons, the idea that one could simply dethrone the ancestral identity, and declare that Quebec had no official culture, could never take hold in this province. It sounded too close to an abandoning of the struggle. But does that mean that there is no way that Quebeckers can change their culture of interaction, which has in fact been very much centred on what we call “Québécois de souche” (old-stock Quebeckers)? Is there no alternative story which can take us towards the recognition of difference, and the creation of a more equal and inclusive society?

We (Quebeckers, I mean[4]) think there is, but the story can’t simply be a carbon-copy of the Canadian one. What does it look like? Something like this. Quebec society has been engaged in a long-term project not only to survive as a francophone society, but to flourish; and indeed, to flourish as a democratic society based on equality and human rights. We invite those who come here from outside to join us (those already there) in this project as full members, which means of course, learning the language and becoming integrated into the society. But we invite them to become full members of this society, with a say like all the others, whose views and contributions count as much as those of native born. We are indeed, eager to benefit from the skills and insights that they bring to us from outside.

So the contrast is clear: the “multi” story decentres the traditional ethno-historical identity, and refuses to put any other in its place. All such identities coexist in the society, but none is officialized. The “inter” story starts from the reigning historical identity but sees it evolving in a process in which all citizens, of whatever identity, have a voice, and no-one’s input has a privileged status.

Now these “stories” have a peculiar status. They purport to be about what is happening, but at another level they are setting out what ought to be happening, and on another level again, they are highlighting one take on the extremely complex congeries of things which are in fact going on. So the contrast between the Canadian and Quebec stories may exaggerate the differences between what is actually happening. The anglo identity is still very important in anglophone Canada, for instance, and the dynamic in some regions is not totally different from what is going on in Quebec. But nevertheless these are the stories which frame debate and define the dominant interpretation of what is happening in each society.

This “rhetorical” difference helps explain why, despite the similarity of policies, so much tension can arise in Canada/Quebec around the distinction “multi-” versus “inter-”. Observers from the rest of Canada are sometimes scandalized that Quebeckers don’t want to dethrone their traditional identity. This appears to outsiders to be a refusal to recognize diversity, whereas it can in fact be part of a different way of opening to difference. And on the other side, this insistence that Quebeckers should treat their historical identity as just one among many is often seen by Quebeckers as a refusal of the fundamental duality of Canada, as a country comprising both a francophone and an anglophone society, each integrating immigrants in their own fashion. Those who speak of “mere” rhetoric fail to see the essential role these stories play. They see them not as interpretive accounts framing the policy decisions, but rather as simple descriptions of them. They thus too easily conclude that not accepting their story means rejecting the basic principles of recognizing diversity.

2 - I want now to look more at the “inter” story, and the hopes and fears that arise in connection with it. Of course, this story allows that the society will develop in ways which it wouldn’t if only the native born were in charge. The hopes connected with that are that people coming from outside will contribute new ideas, new skills, new insights which will enrich our society. The obverse of this expectation is the fear that somehow what are considered essential features of our identity will be lost. In the Quebec case, these essential features include understandably the French language. After more than 200 years struggle to maintain the centrality of French, there can be no question of abandoning it. But these are other basic elements as well. Quebec has become a liberal society, sharing the same basic ethic as other similar ones. The central features of this are human rights, equality and non-discrimination, and democracy. But beyond the language and these basic principles, there is an indefinite zone of customs, common enthusiasms (hockey), common reference points, modes of humour, and so on, each cherished to varying degrees, and more by some than by others, whose weakening, abandonment or demise may be feared.

The degree of acceptance of the intercultural story depends on the balance between these hopes and fears, and the public debate centres around them. But this debate is unavoidably imprecise and semi-articulate. As to the fear element, it seems focussed disproportionately on the principles, in present day Quebec. By that I mean that worries about the third element in our list, the customs and common reference points, etc. (let’s call these for short “folkways”), often get articulated as fears for the principles. So Quebeckers will often state their apprehension that immigrants don’t want to adopt our way of life; then when asked for examples, they frequently come up with issues of male-female equality.

Now to some extent this arises from the fact that, as in other Western countries, the debate about integrating newcomers has focussed disproportionately on Muslims; and fears around Muslims has focussed on instances where women have been maltreated or given inferior status. But to some extent also, the choice of these examples reflects the fact that it is generally considered more acceptable to invoke universal principles in this context of argument, rather than more “parochial” modes of cultural unease.

The frequent invocation of male-female equality also reflects the sense that our society has made serious strides in this direction only relatively recently, and that the gains may be fragile. Will these newcomers contribute to bringing about a retreat on this front? Lots of people expressed fear on this score during the hearings of our commission.[5] These fears seem quite unfounded, since a) Muslim Quebeckers generally themselves support these principles (indeed, often came here because of them); and b) even if they were hostile, they are a relatively small minority. But if we see the invocation of this example as articulating a more unstructured fear about the possible loss or erosion of our way of life in its many facets, an articulation which has the advantage of being more generally acceptable, and more clearly defined, then the anxiety surrounding it becomes more understandable.

The Achilles heel of the inter story is thus the fears it can arouse that “they” may change “us”. The notion that “they” can be equal collaborators in remaking our common culture rings alarm bells in all who share this anxiety. It seems safer and more sensible to insist that they conform first to what we consider the basics, before we let them become co-deciders. But this easily slides in practice towards imposing assimilation as a condition of integration; that is, towards insisting that they become like us before they can function beside us to shape our future. Logically, of course, the preconditions could be much more limited; we might just say: start learning our language and accept our basic ethic. But where even these demands are made in a spirit of fear and mistrust; and where they are motivated by a larger unstructured fear for our whole way of life; they begin to amount to something like: win back our trust (and we doubt very much that you can) before we can accept you as equals. That is, in any case, how the demands are perceived by their addressees. And we are on the road to creating and entrenching a deep rift in society, which can compromise democratic life.

Or the fear may take an alternative form. “They” are hostile or recalcitrant to our way of life. But what they want to do is not so much transform “us”, as to set up their own self-contained communities in our midst; in short build a ghetto. In fact, “they” are carrying out the “multicultural” programme (as this is widely misunderstood by those who see it as favouring cultural retreat into closed communities). And they are being assisted by naïve liberals who don’t realize how disastrous this is. We have to demand that they conform. (And so we come to the same policy: assimilation as a condition of integration.)

Now the push towards assimilation undercuts the intercultural scenario, as indeed, it goes against any form of multiculturalism in the generic sense. But how can one combat fears of the kind which drive this demand?

3 - Here let me step beyond the parochial, and say what I’ve been building up to all along. The intercultural story is not simply made for Quebec. It also suits better the situation of many European countries. The features which make it applicable to Quebec also often apply in Europe. There (1) many countries have a long-standing historic identity which is still shared by the great majority of their citizens. (2) This identity frequently centres around a language which is not spoken elsewhere, and is under pressure from larger, “globalized” languages. And (3) the same kind of not-fully-structured fears for the future of its culture and way of life may arise there as I noted in Quebec. Points (1) and (2) make the intercultural story a better fit than the multicultural one. Indeed, they may contribute to fears around the word “multiculturalism” analogous to those encountered in Quebec, and to the misunderstanding that it amounts to encouraging ghettos. And at the same time, (3) may mean that a policy of openness to difference may trigger off some of the same reactions as we have found in Quebec.

These fears may be aggravated by several factors: a) European experience as immigrant receiving societies has been much shorter than that of societies in the Western hemisphere; b) much of that experience occurred under (what turned out to be) a disastrously wrong story, that summed up in the term “Gastarbeiter”, the idea that outsiders who came to fill the needed jobs would end up returning to their home countries, with the benefit of the funds earned during their time of employment in Europe. As a result, the necessary measures were not taken to integrate them and their children. For instance, programmes to ensure that immigrant children learn the language of the host country were not undertaken, and are only now being introduced. Thirdly (c) there is an important difference in the level of education and skills between immigrants to Quebec and those to many European societies. The former are selected on the basis of their skills and competences, which are usually much higher than those entering Europe. They are frequently professionals, or potential occupants of middle-class jobs. They often have a level of education, and hence outlook and way of life which has been more influenced by “globalized” trends, and thus find it easier to integrate into the host society.

The intercultural story thus faces additional obstacles and resistances to those encountered in Quebec (and God knows, these are great enough here). Because the necessary policies were late in coming, immigrant children may find themselves in an underclass where they lack the linguistic and other skills to succeed. And their skill set will probably already have been lower to begin with than their Quebec counterparts. In addition, they may be culturally more distant from the native born than we experience these days in Western hemisphere societies. The result can be a growing sense of alienation, especially among younger people in immigrant communities, a conviction that they are not welcomed, not treated as equals, discriminated against in employment housing and in their treatment by police and other authorities.

This sense of alienation can lead to expressions of revolt and rejection of the host society, of the kind which were dramatically evident in the riots and car-burnings in the “banlieues” of France in autumn 2005. And such movements obviously increase the fears of the majority, and their sense that the historic culture is under threat. Indeed, immigrant alienation and host society cultural fear are in a relation of mutual intensification. The fears stoke hostility to immigrants, and intensify demands for stern, even punitive measure of assimilation, or else more radically for an end to immigration, or even a repatriation of those already present. This hostility then entrenches further immigrant alienation, which leads to further expressions of anger; and so on into a dangerous spiral.

How to stop the spiral? The best antidote, perhaps the only one is: successful enactments of the intercultural scenario. That is, leaders and members of the majority mainstream seeks out leaders and members of the minority(ies), and together with them work out new ways of resolving the conflicts, then work together effectively to resolve them. (This is, for instance, what Jop Cohen did when he was mayor of Amsterdam.) The ensemble of such collaborative enterprises contributes in effect to the elaboration of a new more inclusive culture of interaction.

So enactment of the scenario eases fears. But people also have to overcome their fears to enter into these enactments. So a catch-22 obstacle threatens to block our way forward. How to convince members of the mainstream to enter into this kind of collaboration?

Perhaps what they need is more familiarity with the immigrant situation. The vast majority of immigrants to the rich countries of the North are drawn to them because they hope for a better life for themselves and their children. Indeed, millions aspire to this, and sometimes risk their life on the ocean, or crammed into containers, on the outside chance of getting in. A better life, in what sense? For some this means a place of relative freedom, of security, of human rights. But for just about everyone, it means opening possibilities for themselves or their children, particular jobs, with access to higher income, and education for their children leading to even better occupations and greater prosperity.

Success in these endeavours creates an enormous positive bonding with the host society, a sense of gratitude and belonging which one often hears expressed by immigrants to the USA, and sometimes Canada. And this is what tends to come about, provided ... Provided the hope is not negated: the avenue to the hoped for job systematically blocked, by discrimination or some other structural factors, avenues to other associations blocked by prejudices; or else one is stigmatized, and branded an outsider, a danger for the society. When this happens the resultant bitterness is proportionate to the dimensions of the antecedent hope, and great alienation can result. But when things go as planned, newcomers can express a patriotism which makes natives blush. (This may be particularly the case in Canada where such fulsome expressions make people uneasy.)

In our Northern societies this kind of positive bonding should not be difficult to create. It takes some special factors to wreck it. These can be geo-political, as one sees in ex-imperial countries, where relations with the ex-colonized are compromised by a heavy and problematic past. Or hatred and resentment may be mobilized today on the geo-political level, as with various jihadist movements in the Muslim world, and these may find recruits among immigrants in Northern societies. But for the most part these movements have little success without a hefty assist from high levels of hostility and exclusion generated within these Northern societies themselves. Alienation within these societies is to a great extent created by the fear and mistrust they have generated against the new arrivals.

This is a sad fact, but it can be seen as a basis of hope: that more open policies may turn the situation around, and reverse the spiral. So that enactments of the intercultural scenario inspire further such enactments, and make the story itself come true.

Let me try to draw together some of the threads of this discussion. I started off in section 1 looking at the distinction which has come to be made in Canada/Quebec between multiculturalism and interculturalism. I argued that beyond the misunderstandings, either genuine or politically motivated, there is an important distinction here, which touches not so much the description of the detailed policies hatched under these terms, as the over-all story of what we are trying to do, and of how things are meant to unfold. In the light of this difference, it is highly understandable that Quebec should have preferred what it calls interculturalism to Canadian multiculturalism, as the scenario it desires to follow.

But I think this is of more than parochial Quebec/Canada interest. Some of the reasons that make interculturalism right for Quebec apply also to some European countries. The issues involved in their situation might be more clearly discernible if seen in the light of this story, rather than the multicultural one. And so I thought that a discussion of the dynamic of fears and hopes that we see arising around Quebec’s intercultural story might help shed some light on the parallel situations that we find in Europe. This is what occupied the second and third sections of my paper. I am admittedly obsessed by the situation in my own (double) country. But my excuse for dwelling on this at great length is the hope that the concepts worked out here may be somewhat helpful elsewhere.

[1] In writing this essay, I have been greatly helped by discussions with Gérard Bouchard, both during our time as co-chairs of the Quebec Commission on Reasonable Accommodation, and since.

[2] See Will Kymlicka

[3] This was the term put forward by André Laurendeau, and the commission he co-chaired was called the “Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism”.

[4] The reader may notice that my use of the first-person plural pronoun varies in reference. Sometimes I refer to “us Canadians”, and sometimes to “us Québécois”. I hope the reference is clear in each case. But the slide from one to the other is unavoidable in those with dual identity.

[5] I am referring to the Quebec “Commission de Consultation sur les pratiques d’Accommodement Raisonnable reliées aux différences culturelles (CCPARDC) », which the Quebec government set up in 2007, and which reported in 2008. The Commission was chaired by Gérard Bouchard and myself.


A version of this article was presented at the Reset-Dialogues Istanbul Seminars 2011 (‘Overcoming the trap of Resentment’) that took place at Istanbul Bilgi University from May 19-24, 2011.


The final/definitive version of Charles Taylor’s essay was published in Philosophy&Social Criticism, vol 38 number 4-5 May 2012, SAGE Publications Ltd, (LA, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC), all rights reserved, p. 413-424, Special Issue: “Overcoming the Trap of Resentment”, Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations Istanbul Seminars 2011, Edited by: Alessandro Ferrara, Volker Kaul and David Rasmussen. Link to the issue http://psc.sagepub.com/content/38/4-5.toc

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