Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Spot the Petard

Between transcribing The Annotated Henry Reynolds and making a complete ass of myself at trivia quizzes (but that may just be the hangover talking), I haven't had much time to do much on the Gilligan and Roberts paper Australian Multiculturalism: Its Rise and Demise (link via Troppo Armadillo).

The paper is obviously part of a larger work, as indicated here:

Throughout this book we argue ... that Australian citizenship entails being a member of a particular political community that has a primary unanimity supported by a distinctive political culture. Being Australian involves sharing in both, albeit in limited ways by first generation migrants who retain strong identification with their original cultures and traditions. In the rest of this chapter we show how the policy of multiculturalism was extended beyond policies of humane settlement and modified integration to become a full-blown prescriptive account of Australian society that distorted the understanding of citizenship.

It's also very polemical in tone, which is why I was pleased to find the following paragraph. Can you spot the petard?

Multiculturalism was part descriptive and part prescriptive: it purported both to describe an actual state of affairs and to impose a preferred vision of what ought to be the case. That Australia should be a multicultural nation made up of distinct cultural groups, all of which are of equal value and should be equally valued, is a normative proposition. That Australia is this sort of nation is a factual proposition. Mixing up the normative and the factual is typical of ideologies, and invariably produces a confusing picture in which preferred normative vision colours factual appreciation.

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