What is the understanding of society


More than ever, "multicultural society" has become a buzzword that leads to violent reactions in public discussion. It can certainly be seen as a step forward that this term has made the leap from science and from the circles of experts professionally concerned with the subject into the political level and everyday conversations. But it has not become any clearer either. Currently it is often used to sketch the outline of a society in which xenophobic behavior and attitudes have been overcome and a peaceful coexistence of different ethnicities and nationalities is possible. In this sense he has a more defensive character.

The concept of the multicultural society has replaced the concept of "integration" that dominated the public discussion on the issue of foreigners in the past. Just like the latter, its success can be explained by its ambiguity, which allows everyone to label their own ideas and worldviews with a label that attracts attention. The question is whether this change of concept leads to old content and concepts being made socially acceptable with just a modern concept, or whether it is a paradigm shift, a real change in scientific analysis, the social construction of reality and political concepts.

When discussing the multicultural society, there are often ideas and considerations that make it difficult to understand the actual social processes. Six such misunderstandings should be briefly mentioned at this point:

  1. There is a risk of over-emphasizing the cultural dimension of the coexistence of different ethnic groups and under-emphasizing the economic, political and social dimensions. Cultural differences are often used as the sole explanatory approach for problems and difficulties encountered by migrants. The consequence is that social conflict with help

    educational measures are to be solved. The fact that many problems result from institutional discrimination, legal inequality and economic disadvantage is overlooked.

  2. A limited cultural term is often used, which only refers to folklore and culinary delights. The multicultural society is advertised by referring to the enrichment of our menu and the enlivening of our markets and streets. In socially romantic versions, the migrant communities are assumed to have those characteristics that the locals lack: spontaneity, solidarity, communication, etc. These attributions and projections reveal the deficits and aspirations of the locals rather than providing an adequate description of the living conditions of the migrants .
  3. The notion that modern societies differentiate themselves primarily and primarily on the basis of ethnicity is wrong. The "German" culture is not opposed to the "Greek", "Portuguese" and "Italian" migrant cultures. These homogeneous structures do not exist. On closer inspection, one recognizes the different lifestyles, leisure habits, clothing rules, but also the different value orientations and interests that are hidden behind them. The idea of ​​a cultural homogeneity in a society in which traditional milieus are dissolving and which is looking for new criteria of meaning has no basis. Of course, this also applies to the migrant communities, as we were able to show in two recent studies [Fn_1: G nther Schultze, Greek youth in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bonn 1990; G nther Schultze, Vocational Integration of Turkish Employees - Comparison of the First and Second Generation, Bonn 1991].
  4. The vision of a multicultural society, in which there are no more conflicts and in which people live together in harmony, is unworldly. It is important to recognize the lines of conflict that break out along ethnic lines and to take seriously the conflicting interests and disadvantages that are expressed in them. We experience

    precisely a phase in which ethnicity is again increasingly used as a criterion for exclusion. The presence of foreigners is seen by many as a cause of the occurrence or at least an exacerbation of social problems and disadvantages among certain population groups. In a multicultural society it must therefore be possible to organize the distribution of social opportunities and goods not according to ethnic criteria. The goal of maintaining a fairer world can only be achieved through solidarity-based actions by equals in which ethnic affiliation no longer plays a role.

  5. The opponents of a multicultural society assume that the realization of this vision would lead to lawless areas. "The Koran is not law" is the headline of an article by E. Schiffer, chief thinker for foreign policy in the Ministry of the Interior, in "SPIEGEL" (40/91). Violent clashes between rival groups of foreigners are painted on the wall as a specter. Such an argument then no longer allows the question of how the equal participation of migrants in political and social decision-making processes can be regulated within our constitutional framework. The aim must therefore be to grant foreign citizens the right to participate in the implementation of the basic principles enshrined in our constitution; That they, like all citizens, have to adhere to the duties and standards laid down there, does not need discussion.
  6. The realization of a multicultural society is not possible without changing the German policy on foreigners to an immigration policy. We have to move away from the idea that the presence of foreigners in our society is a potential source of danger and that legal instruments should therefore primarily ensure the control of this group. In the future, our society will be even more dependent on immigration than in the past, otherwise economic and social problems will increase. The German immigration policy must be part of a well-planned European migration policy.

The enumeration of ambiguities and ideological contents of a term certainly does not replace its programmatic further development. It can prevent old ideas and concepts from simply appearing in a new guise without improving the living conditions of the migrants living with us. However, this must be the primary goal of our political and educational efforts.

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | July 2001