6.7.4 Pluralism in Politics

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/674.htm)

Pluralism is the term used in this book to refer to the features of a society that arise from the presence of multiple ethnic groups, where the term ‘ethnic’ encompasses racial, tribal, national, cultural and religious categorisations.  As described earlier (4.4.1), it is possible for many ethnic groups to live together harmoniously – but sometimes ethnicity becomes an important political issue, as outlined in the following sub-sections:

  • Immigration is a politically sensitive topic, requiring careful management (
  • Attention can be drawn to people’s ethnicity for political purposes, leading to ‘identity politics’ (
  • Immigrants can be pressurised to assimilate into the culture of the host country (, but this can create resentment.
  • They can be allowed to maintain their previous culture and live parallel lives – ‘multiculturalism’ ( – though that undermines social cohesion.
  • They can negotiate with the majority, to reach a mutually-acceptable compromise: ‘inclusivity’ (
  • It is possible for ethnic groups to be politically represented without making ethnicity a central feature of the political system (
  • A sense of belonging to a shared political identity is desirable (
  • Ethnic groups should be treated as politically equal (
  • Education is crucially important in fostering inclusiveness (

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