Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

What are some Anarchist perspectives on multiculturalism?

0 votes
I've not seen it asked hear before and I'm curious, without wishing to impose my own thoughts and opinions I'd like to hear what people think and hear some other opinions.
asked Jun 9, 2014 by Anarcho-Goth (740 points)
A-G:  i'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

i wonder if there is a difference between a broad swath of ethnicities (for lack of a better term now) cohabiting the same place, and an agglomeration of homogenous "ghettos" where everyone in a place is the same but every place around them is different.  Does how a person views what is 'self' and what is 'other' impact this?

Well personally the idea of culturally homogenous "ghetto" like enclaves, seems rather a disturbing concept(although looking around, certainly where I live, that doesn't seem to far from what happens now). I suppose my concerns would be why are people divided like this? Is it voluntary? And are the groups all essentially equal and are individuals capable of moving freely between the groups as they wish?
Those are all really good questions.
And if you think of any answers, tell me, 'cause i have no freakin' clue.
I get the feeling there is something fundamental here though, even if i can't see it at the moment...

2 Answers

+3 votes
i guess i see multiculturalism in (at least) 2 distinct possible ways:

1. the diversity of a given setting (geographical, functional, social, whatever), in terms of the cultural/ethnic background of the people that live there.

2. an institutional objective, and related policies, that aim to create something like the above.

as #2 is clearly outside my desires for anarchy, i would only speak to #1.

i grew up in one of the most diverse neighborhoods i have ever seen (to this day), and i feel strongly that having grown up in that area (along with some pretty open-minded parents and extended family) gave me a perspective - or at least the foundations for one - that i largely retain, and i value it hugely. skin color, language, sexual preference/orientation, means of survival/sustenance, ... these things were basically a non-issue for me. because diversity was so prevalent, and i almost never left the city, i knew nothing else until i was at least in my late teens. the downside of that is that i was unprepared for the reality of most of the rest of america (and even other parts of the city), and how strongly entrenched group/cultural prejudices were elsewhere (and to some extent, even in my neighborhood, once i could see it).

speaking specifically to "cultures", my neighborhood was predominantly latin american (puerto rican, dominican, cuban), with large black american, anglo and jewish populations as well. chinese and haitians were a smaller percentage, but substantial. and a smattering of eastern europeans, east indians, west indians (jamaicans mostly), other asians, and south americans. there were tons of prostitutes, junkies, trannies and gay folk (often the same person). i can remember a soda fountain/candy store (jewish), a laundry (chinese), a cuban/chinese diner, a cheap clothing store (east indian), several bodegas (latino), an army/navy store (black and anglo), a hot dog stand (eastern european), a pizza shop (italian), a stationary store (anglo), a small supermarket (black and anglo), a small record store (black), a "dirty" movie theater (?), and a pharmacy (anglo) - all within a block or so of each other.

i love the idea of individuals from different cultures living in proximity with each other and interacting in all kinds of ways, so long as that situation is completely voluntary for all involved.

not sure if that is the kind of answer you were looking for...?
answered Jun 10, 2014 by funkyanarchy (10,830 points)
I just have a few questions for you then, would you say then that cultural and racial diversity is beneficial or perhaps damaging to creating a free and egalitarian society?
Voluntary association is obviously one of the key factors defining Anarchism, would you say then that voluntary disassociation even voluntary segregation is a bad thing?
i would say that context is everything. i don't think diversity in and of itself is either good or bad. in creating some abstract "free and egalitarian society", i suspect that diversity would be both problematic and beneficial.

voluntary association implies voluntary disassociation, and that is an absolutely core principle of (my) anarchy.

in both cases, i think you are referring to groups, while i am only really interested in individuals.
Interesting, so are you meaning that so long as you, as an individual, are able to freely disassociate then you would be unconcerned about whole groups wishing to associate or disassociate voluntarily?
any concern i would have about what others do - be they groups or individuals - would be related to the extent that their behavior impacts my life. if groups are more likely (than individuals acting autonomously) to have desires that would impose on my life - as is the case in today's world - then i will likely keep a closer eye on them.

i see no reason that free association (and its corollary) would apply any more or less to individuals acting as individuals or individuals acting as a group. the behavior they exhibit (and/or behavior i find reasonably predictable based on past behavior) is ultimately all i care about.

example: there are a bunch of racist fuck individuals, let's say there are 100 of them in this area. in one scenario, 20 of them freely associate with each other, and another 20 freely associate with each other, ... ending up with 5 groups of 20. then those groups choose to freely associate, forming a group of 100. in another scenario, all 100 individuals choose to freely associate and form a group of 100.

i don't really care how they chose to associate, i only care that there are 100 racist fucks around, possibly coordinated better (and/or more easy to defend against/attack) as a group than as individuals.

not sure i am understanding your question?
Well to be fair my question was rather open ended(perhaps detrimentally so), I suppose essentially it was an attempt to counter act the claims made by so called NATIONAL "anarchist's" that claim that (white) people would benefit from being segregated according to race and culture. That and my own observations that people from different cultural backgrounds often don't seem to be able to get along, I just wondered what an Anarchist perspective on that thought was, and if there was any solution to it.
  I do find your example quite useful and interesting though, presuming that a single individual or a group of individuals associating together does not begin to negatively affect any other individual or any other group then it doesn't really bother you?
correct - if i have no reason to think their association is an imposition on me, i couldn't give a shit. and the "national" anarchists (eg, bana in the bay area) are NOT any kind of anarchist i have ANY affinity with. i would argue they - like anarcho-capitalists - are not in fact anarchists.

and lastly, keep in mind that "anarchists" are not some monolithic mass. i speak for myself only, and other anarchists may well have very different ideas about groups and their associations. in fact i myself might have very different thoughts, in some unforeseen situation. context will always (i hope) be the ultimate driver of my thoughts and actions.
+2 votes
I think there is no single anarchist answer, as perspectives vary widely depending on what kind of anarchist you are, and anarchy, per se, doesn't seem to depend on the coexistence of cultures. That being said, I think that perhaps coexistence of cultures depends on anarchy. At the very least modern state capitalism kills cultures, because the state's legitimacy is aided by a monoculture, as is the corporation's marketing.

 *My* anarchy is somewhat tied up in multiculturalism, though. One of the things that I treasure in the world is it's marvelous diversity, and in light of this I can think of few better principles to live by than wonder and humility. Wonder at the awesome breadth of the world (human and otherwise) and humility in the understanding that I cannot understand everything or everyone, and cannot control them without destroying them. The world does not owe me safety: I have no greater expectation of survival in a foreign culture without changing my behavior than I do of finding a McDonald's there, and I have no greater right to that than I do to walk unaware into a forest full of tigers and expect not to be eaten; personally I would prefer a world with tigers to a world where I can safely be a stupid tourist. So that's me proselytizing, what does this have to do with mainstream anarchism?

(Here I should note that I am not yet, and may never be, a well read anarchist. It is my hope that readers who know better will feel free to elaborate, correct, or provide their own better informed analysis.)

Back in the old days we had the Old Left, which was based on solid 19th century thought. Like most thought of the period, it was characterized by  a belief in "progress" (a hydra-like concept that grows ten new meanings whenever you start to dismiss one), and that humankind was inevitably moving towards some kind of ideal state. I think it's fairly obvious that this viewpoint is hostile to the idea of multiculturalism. Recall, for example that many Old Left anarchists pushed for the adoption of a universal language (Esperanto, usually). Presumably once people could communicate they would rapidly move towards the universal perfect culture.

Then we decided the Old Left was, well, old, and so created what is now the Late Middle Aged (aka "new") Left. In the US at least the movement drew a lot of its rhetoric from the civil rights movement. So "equality" is the new progress. Now, some late middle aged intellectuals talk about multiculturalism, and the arguments used are (in my opinion) solid, but I find the models and methods to be confusing. For example, one favored approach of maintaining a diversity of cultures is to go into non-majority communities, take the most capable youth, and send them to majority schools. Which seems suspiciously close to the approach I would use to *eliminate* minority cultures.

So now what do we have? I don't know. A problem at the very least, because I can think of very few examples of diversified, interacting communities in the same space without a power hierarchy between them. Can anyone cite examples we can draw practice from? The type of community that funkyanarchy refers to in his answer, while very much a place I'd like to live, is not, I think, stable: the people there are immigrants in the process of assimilation (which strengthens the resulting culture, since it will incorporate the most suitable bits of the component cultures). Perhaps reinstating geographic separation is the only answer, with many communities being ghetto-like and some being melting pots? (I guess this looks like ATR social planning/daydreaming, so a better question might be: how do I live my life, learn from other cultures, uphold my own, and destroy neither?)
answered Jul 9, 2014 by Geomancer (610 points)
good answer!  raises interesting questions of assimilation.

in the neighborhood i grew up in, there was definitely a good amount of that going on for some in the so-called "minority" cultures. but there was also a good deal of specifically NOT that. several latino families i knew very well spoke literally no english, and interacted almost exclusively with other latinos (and the state when necessary). does that mean they were not assimilating? given that their aspirations were still largely compatible with (and likely driven by) the typical "american dream", it is hard to say there was not *some* level of assimilation. but then maybe that speaks more to the idea of a globalized western/american culture (assimilation in reverse? colonization?). folks from elsewhere often tend to come to the us in search of that american dream (roads paved with gold, etc).  

a certain amount of assimilation is probably required to be an immigrant, and to some extent that may be a desired facet of immigration. for most reasonable (to me) folks, there is no binary choice of assimilate or isolate. people assimilate what/how they need or want to, and retain what they want (or can) of their "culture". that may not be easy, but then neither is moving from one's cultural homeland (or having others move into theirs).

it makes me think of how the sunnis and shiites had lived together and gotten along fine, for many centuries. i don't know how different their cultures were/are, but when you look at what is going on now in the middle east...

as someone who values individual autonomy over any possible group identity (and they are not mutually exclusive), the entire concept of culture is one i often find vague and confusing.

on top of all the cultural prejudices (or is it prejudii? :-) ), those with wealth will always maintain a hierarchical relationship towards those without it, regardless of background. at what point do "culture" and "class" become synonymous?