9.3   Inclusivity: Living in Peaceful Pluralism

 (This is a current extract from the Patterns of Power Repository.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition02/93.htm)

Pluralism is inescapable and is increasing.  Previous chapters have highlighted multiple ways in which pluralism affects, and is affected by, governance.  These findings are drawn together in this section to provide a synopsis of how the four dimensions of regulated governance can each play a part in preventing ethnic tensions from escalating:

·      Immigration can create social problems if it is on a large scale (6.7.4.1), but the economic pressures that lead to migration (3.4.3.1) can be reduced by allowing developing countries to trade on equal terms with the rest of the world (3.5.8.3). 

·      Substantial immigration might be avoided in the future if funds are made available to help the countries most affected by climate change (3.5.7.3).

·      When immigration has occurred, the resulting ethnic tensions would be reduced if people had a better understanding of its economic benefits (3.4.3.3).

·      People as individuals can make the most powerful contribution to peaceful pluralism, by behaving in a socially-acceptable manner to everyone (4.4.2) and by encouraging others to do the same (4.4.3). 

·      Everyone, particularly moral leaders, can play a constructive role in strengthening cohesiveness and combating ethnic divisiveness (4.4.7.3).

·      Human rights (4.2.4 and 6.3.7) should apply to every individual in a society, without exception – to protect minorities, to protect individuals who seek to break free from their ethnic groups, and to demonstrate to the majority that pluralism is not leading to erosion of agreed values.[1] 

·      Legal measures can be used to prohibit some forms of ethnic divisiveness (5.4.6), adding an element of official coercion to the less formalised pressures of moral influence, but to do this the law must be acceptable to all communities (5.4.3). 

·      If people wish to conform to additional religious law, it can be formally recognised within State law (5.3.3.2), but safeguards are necessary to avoid inconsistencies between the two.

·      If religious law is not recognised by the State, the State law should avoid making life difficult for religiously-observant people (5.3.3.3).

·      Inclusivity (6.7.4.5) emphasises shared values whilst allowing gradual adaptation.  It is preferable to pressurised assimilation (6.7.4.3) or multiculturalism (6.7.4.4) because minorities are less likely to feel that they are being unfairly treated. 

·      It is advisable to offer minorities some form of political recognition (6.7.4.6), preferably by formal consultation (6.5.3).  Signs of tension need to be addressed before they escalate, so community leaders need access to their political representatives.

·      A sense of belonging, and of shared national identity, can transcend ethnic differences at any level of subsidiarity (6.7.4.7).

·      Government must be neutral towards all ethnic groups (6.7.4.8), so that everyone can accept the political system as being fair.

·      Citizenship (6.7.3.3) should be seen as being of value; a path to it should be available to every individual.

·      Distributed control of public services can depoliticise them and increase individual choice, allowing some services to be tailored to meet different ethnic requirements (6.6.2).

·      Some elements of regionalisation (6.6.3.2) may be helpful if an ethnic group dominates a defined geographic area, though each region will still have some pluralism within it.  Full-scale partition (6.6.3.3) is unlikely to be achieved peacefully.

·      Education can strengthen people’s sense of shared identity as citizens and it can ensure that children are taught to understand and respect all ethnic groups (4.4.7.1 and 6.7.4.9).

·      Confidence in the police is essential, to avoid the risk of people resorting to Self-Protection (7.2.4.3).  It reassures minorities if law-enforcement and national security forces are multi-ethnic, though this may be difficult to achieve in practice – as was the case in Northern Ireland for example.[2] 

·      If minority groups abandon regulated governance, in favour of civil disorder (7.2.6), peace can only be re-established by negotiation. 

It is ultimately necessary, and possible, to agree to live together in peaceful pluralism (4.4.1).  It benefits everybody.  In return for respect and equality of treatment, minorities can contribute to the economy and to a fused culture that is both stronger and richer than what has gone before.  There are many examples of successful adaptation.[3]

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014



[1] The Economist argued the case for national safeguards for individual rights in its leader, entitled A case for vigilance, not despair, on 6 Dec 2008.  This was available in April 2014 at http://www.economist.com/node/12724930.

[2] Almost half of the population of Northern Ireland is Catholic, yet Catholics are under-represented in the police force.  This undermines the legitimacy of the police in the province and efforts have been made to correct the ethnic balance, but this is difficult in practice because Catholic police face personal risk from Republican terrorists – as was vividly illustrated in April 2011 by the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr.  This story, and an analysis of the problem as a whole, was reported by the Royal United Services Institute in an article entitled Murder In Northern Ireland, which was available in April 2014 at http://www.rusi.org/analysis/commentary/ref:C4D99D92CD7AF9/.

[3] An Economist article on 4 December 2008, entitled When town halls turn to Mecca, described a number of examples of successful adaptation to the presence of Islam in European cities.  The article was available in April 2014 at http://www.economist.com/node/12724966.  Another article in the same issue, entitled Hockey and hijab, gave some successful American examples; it was available at http://www.economist.com/node/12725575.