Pressurised Assimilation

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6743.htm)

It is tempting to apply political or even legal pressure upon immigrants to assimilate: to conform to majority behaviours.  Some of the reasons advanced in favour of encouraging assimilation are:

  • Existing inhabitants, preferring their own culture, often want ‘to keep things as they are’; they argue that they should not have to adapt or be exposed to changes around them.
  • It benefits the immigrants themselves, both economically and socially, if they integrate.
  • Homogeneity is easier for everybody.
  • A policy of assimilation might lessen the risk of identity politics.

There are arguments against a policy of applying pressure to immigrants to assimilate, though:

  • Attempts to force rapid assimilation, by forms of coercion such as the French prohibition on wearing the Islamic veil (, lead to immediate resentment and are likely to backfire because people want to assert their identities in the face of what they inevitably see as oppression.
  • In countries which have a dominant religious sect, or a strong secular tradition, a stated policy of assimilation confers second-class status on everyone who holds different beliefs.
  • Freedom of belief is a cherished human right – it is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Appendix 1), for example.
  • Ethnic diversity can enrich everybody’s lives and stimulate creativity.

Another argument against a stated policy of assimilation is that it is unnecessary: people will gradually learn to live together without a top-down policy, if peace is maintained (4.4.1).