Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Mike Rosen on Interculturalism

With David Cameron's words on multiculturalism still reverberating round the gutters, now's a good time to take a second look at the word "culture".

The two main overlapping ways the word is used in everyday conversation are: (a) to cover artistic products we consume - plays, films, books, paintings and the like - and (b) to talk of "the way we do things in our everyday lives" - our kinship relations, what we eat, what kinds of dwellings, rituals, music, gestures we make and, significantly, what language(s), dialect(s) and accent(s) we speak with.

Underlying many discussions about the second usage is the notion that there is a "host" culture which is distinct, unified, ancient, virtuous and desirable and there are "other" cultures which at best are "interesting" or "lively" but should be made to "integrate" or be "assimilated".

As Marxists, we might reshape that and talk of a "dominant" or "hegemonic" culture and of "non-dominant" or "sub-cultures". Either way, this has its problems, because it presents cultures as if they are discrete, self-contained chunks. From the right, there has been an effort to claim some kind of pure English or British "way of life" or "set of values" which is "indigenous". Meanwhile, on our side, we quite rightly celebrate multicultural "diversity" and "minority cultures", claiming this as a form of cultural resistance. I think we have to go further and celebrate "interculturalism" - which is ultimately part of internationalism...

Read the rest of the article from this month's Socialist Review

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