It is worth pausing to consider why this worry has become so prominent in recent years. Part of the explanation, I believe, is that the rise of multiculturalism in many countries in the 1980s and early 1990s coincided with the rise of neoliberalism and the restructuring of the welfare state. Moreover, the same international organizations that championed neoliberalism in the 1980s – such as the World Bank, the OECD or the EUFootnote 12 – also pushed multiculturalism. As a result, in at least some countries, citizens experienced the rise of multiculturalism as part and parcel of an (imposed) neoliberal package: they were told to better respect migrants and minorities at the same time they were told to gut their social protection schemes. Or put another way, they were told to extend equality to minorities, but the meaning of “equality” was being reduced and reinterpreted in a neoliberal form, as essentially equal access to (or perhaps better, equal exposure to) the competitive global marketplace. The result has been aptly described as a form of “neoliberal multiculturalism” (or “Benetton multiculturalism”): the equal right of all to market themselves and their culture, and to safely consume the cultural products of others, indifferent to issues of disadvantage. In short, inclusion without solidarity.
Indeed, some commentators assume that this is the original and essential form of multiculturalism. Perhaps the best-known version of this argument is from Slavoj Žižek, who famously stated that multiculturalism emerged as the “cultural logic of multinational capitalism” (Žižek, 1997). Similar arguments have been made by other commentators, whether in relation to immigrants (Mitchell, 2004), national minorities (Cardinal & Denault, 2007) or indigenous peoples (Hale, 2005). In each case, the central argument is that multiculturalism emerged as a technique of neoliberal governance, as a way of integrating minorities and minority cultural products into global markets.
I have elsewhere argued that this story is demonstrably wrong as an account of the genealogy of multiculturalism (Kymlicka, 2013). Multiculturalism arose in the 1960s, well before the era of neoliberalism, and was rooted in a social democratic impulse, defended as a natural extension of civil rights struggles and citizenship struggles. Moreover, the initial reaction of Thatcherite and Reaganite neoliberals was to reject multiculturalism, precisely because it was seen as a project of the social democratic (“nanny”) welfare state. And in some countries, neoliberals never relinquished this original hostility to multiculturalism.
But for a variety of complex reasons, neoliberals in some countries – and in some international organizations - eventually decided they could work with multiculturalism, transforming it in a neoliberal direction, reframing it as a project of market inclusion rather than citizenship. Multiculturalism, as reimagined by neoliberals, was not about redressing the social and political marginalization of minorities generated by the privileging of nationhood. Rather, it was about enabling minorities to use their cultural markers as a source of market inclusion, either directly through commodifying cultural products (dress, music, food etc.), or indirectly by exploiting (transnational) ethnic networks as sources of social capital. And it was about persuading majorities to feel comfortable and competent when interacting with minorities in the workplace and marketplace, including the migrant workers desired by employers (Menz, 2013). It was this neoliberal version of multiculturalism – ethnicity, mobility and intercultural competence as market assets - that was promoted actively in the 1980s and early 1990s, and that in some places eclipsed the earlier more emancipatory vision of multiculturalism.Footnote 13
As a result, many citizens experienced multiculturalism and neoliberalism as a single phenomenon, as two sides of the same coin that threatened inherited schemes of national solidarity. And understandably, many citizens recoiled from this image of neoliberal multiculturalism, and mobilized to defend national solidarity and the welfare state. But all too often, this mobilization has taken the inverse form of neoliberal multiculturalism: that is to say, welfare chauvinism, or solidarity without inclusion. Social protection is reserved for those who fit some narrow definition of national belonging. Immigrants’ access to the welfare state is not only delayed or deferred for varying periods of time, but a range of new obstacles are put in place that make it difficult or unpredictable to meet these thresholds for access. Proposals for this sort of welfare chauvinism were initially formulated by far-right anti-immigrant populist parties, but have become distressingly popular across the political spectrum, and indeed implemented as public policy, as mainstream parties of both the right and centre seek to avoid bleeding votes to the populist right.Footnote 14
At times, then, we seem confronted with a stark choice between neoliberal multiculturalism – inclusion without solidarity – and welfare chauvinism – solidarity without inclusion. As stated earlier, my preference is for a third option: inclusive solidarity through a multicultural welfare state.Footnote 15 But is this a realistic possibility? It may sound attractive philosophically, but is it politically viable, or do we face a hard trade-off between national solidarity and multiculturalism? As Paul Collier notes, "most people who consider themselves progressive want multiculturalism combined with rapid migration and generous social welfare programs”, but he argues that “some combinations of policy choices may be unsustainable", and he claims that multiculturalism and national solidarity are such an unsustainable combination (Collier, 2013: 264–5).
Is it sustainable, and if so, what would be the sources or preconditions of such an inclusive solidarity? This is a key question, but unfortunately we have little surprisingly little research on it.Footnote 16 Neither the welfare state literature nor the multiculturalism literature has attended in any depth to the role of solidarity, either as a precondition or an outcome. Relatively little has been written about the extent to which the welfare state or multiculturalism presuppose solidarity, create solidarity, or erode solidarity. This partly reflects the dominance of the power resources theory within the welfare state field, but it is also reflects the fact that the very concept of “solidarity” has been neglected in social sciences and political theory. Several commentators have noted the “curious absence” (Reynolds, 2014) and “surprising gap” (Scholz, 2008) of solidarity as a subject of research in sociology (Reynolds, 2014: 1; Alexander, 2014), political science (Stjernø, 2004: 20) or in moral and political philosophy (Bayertz, 1998: 293; Scholz, 2008: 10). Wilde speculates that this is because solidarity is seen as “confined to the realm of rhetoric” – as a rhetorical trope of politicians – and not something fit for serious theoretical work (Wilde, 2007: 171).Footnote 17 Alexander speculates that solidarity is ignored because it does not fit well with “influential theories of modern society”:
Solidarity is a central dimension of social order and social conflict, yet it has largely been absent from influential theories of modern society. Most of the big thinkers, classical, modern and contemporary, have conceived prototypically modern relationships as either vertical or atomized. Modernization is thought to have smashed affectual and moral fellow-feeling: because of commodification and capitalist hierarchy (Marx), because of bureaucracy and individualistic asceticism (Weber), because of the growing abstraction and impersonality of the collective consciousness allows egoism and anomie (Durkheim). Postmodernity is typically seen as liquefying social ties and intensifying narcissistic individualism (Baumann); or as creating new forms of verticality, for example, the disciplinary cage (Foucault). (Alexander, 2014: 303)
In short, “much of contemporary social theory has tried to make solidarity disappear”. Yet I agree with Alexander that solidarity “remains a central dimension of cultural, institutional and interactional life in contemporary societies” (Alexander, 2014: 304). For justice to be possible, “citizens need to be motivated by solidarity, not merely included by law” (Calhoun, 2002: 153).
Given the meagre literature, my discussion of the sources of inclusive solidarity will inevitably be partial and speculative, and intended primarily to spur more and better research. But we can start with some good news. Despite the pessimistic claims of some of the earliest proponents of the progressive’s dilemma, it is now clear that there is no inherent or universal tendency for multiculturalism to drive down solidarity. Cross-national studies show that countries which have gone farther down the road of embracing multiculturalism policies have on average fared as well as other countries in maintaining social spending, in maintaining public support for redistributive programs, and in maintaining attitudes of inclusive solidarity (Banting & Kymlicka, 2006, (in press;) Brady & Finnigan 2014; Kesler & Bloemraad 2010; Crepaz 2006; Guimond et al. 2013). While multiculturalism and neoliberalism may have coincided in some countries in the 1980s, it is now clear that the impact of the latter was largely independent of the former, and that countries which rejected multiculturalism fared no better in defending the welfare state than those countries that embraced multiculturalism. Whatever the relationship between multiculturalism and solidarity, it is not a simple hydraulic one, in which one goes down when the other goes up.
But this isn’t to say that there aren’t more specific contexts or dimensions where they might conflict. Moreover, the findings to date do not provide much guidance for predicting what would happen if, as many progressives desire, we attempted to strengthen either multiculturalism or redistribution beyond what currently exists. It would help if we could move beyond bare regression models to uncover some of the actual mechanisms that underpin (or erode) inclusive solidarity.
As a start, I’d like to return to the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s, which is widely seen as a paradigmatic example of the decline in solidarity. Was there a significant decline in solidarity at this time, and if so, what caused it? I’ve already mentioned that it is implausible to blame multiculturalism – the depth of neoliberal reforms was not connected to the presence or absence of multiculturalism policies - but what then did cause the decline in solidarity?
One perhaps surprising answer is that there may not in fact have been any significant change in feelings of solidarity, as least as measured by support for general principles of the welfare state. Several studies have shown a remarkable stability in attitudes to the role of the state in reducing inequalities and ensuring equal opportunities before, during, and after the heyday of neoliberalism in the 1980s and 1990s.Footnote 18 This period witnessed significant changes in the strategic balance of power held by various actors, but not it seems in underlying public attitudes.
If we dig a bit deeper, however, it turns out that there have been more subtle changes in attitudes of solidarity. Cavaillé and Trump (2015) argue that, at least in the British case, while there has been little change in public support for the general principle that the state should reduce inequality (what they call “redistribution from”), there has been a hardening of attitudes towards specific recipients (what they call “redistribution to”), including the unemployed, single mothers and immigrants. Put more colloquially, it seems that the public continues to think that the rich don’t deserve their good fortune, and so should be taxed, but have started to believe that perhaps the disadvantaged do deserve their bad fortune, and so are less keen to support them.Footnote 19
What explains this hardening of attitudes to the recipients of welfare? Commentators typically refer to “deservingness” judgements, which include judgements about the extent to which someone’s misfortune or disadvantage was under their voluntary control. But the evidence suggests that deservingness judgements also track three other criteria: “identity” (the extent to which recipients are seen as belonging to a shared society), “attitude” (the extent to which recipients are seen as accepting benefits in the spirit of civic friendship); and “reciprocity” (the extent to which recipients are seen as likely to help others when it is their turn to do so).Footnote 20
The relevance of these criteria should not be surprising if, as I argued earlier, the welfare state is not primarily about either class struggle or universal humanitarianism, but rather about an ethic of social membership. Judgements of identity, attitude and reciprocity are all different dimensions of the idea that the welfare state embodies Marshall’s “direct sense of community membership”.
It is also perhaps not surprising that these criteria work to the detriment of immigrants. While several recipient groups are burdened by deservingness judgements, immigrants in Europe invariably come out at the bottom of the ranking of deservingness. Van Oorschot indeed calls this “a truly universal element in the popular welfare culture of present Western welfare states” (Van Oorschot, 2006: 25).Footnote 21 This is arguably a key factor in explaining the rise of welfare chauvinism, at the expense of a more inclusive solidarity.Footnote 22
If this is indeed part of the explanation for the failure of inclusive solidarity, then the urgent question is how we can counteract these trends? One option, in line with power resource theory, is to hope that immigrants over time will gain enough voting clout to muscle their way into the welfare state, even in the face of negative deservingness judgements.Footnote 23 Another option, in line with post-national cosmopolitanism in political theory, is to hope that citizens can be persuaded to separate their views of the welfare state from ideas of community membership, and to instead appeal to universal humanitarianism.Footnote 24
Both of these options seek to extend protection to immigrants without relying on national solidarity. But as I’ve indicated, I believe that national solidarity will continue to play an important role in shaping the welfare state for the foreseeable future, and we need therefore to think seriously about how immigrants can be part of an inclusive national solidarity.
To make progress on this question, we need to better understand why immigrants are at the bottom of the deservingness ladder. In the literature on anti-immigrant attitudes, two broad explanations are offered: one rooted in perceptions of economic threat or economic burden (e.g., immigrants as free riders), and the other in perceptions of cultural threat (immigrants as irremediably other). How we build inclusive solidarity will depend, at least in part, on the weight we assign to these two dynamics.
Insofar as immigrants are seen as disproportionately reliant on social assistance, and therefore as free-riders, then the relevant responses might be to redesign the welfare state to make it more universalist. We know that deservingness judgements are “primed” when the welfare state is organized on a more selective basis, using means-tested benefits, which makes recipients more visible, and invites – indeed almost requires – debates about their deservingness. Various scholars have shown that this dynamic, and its pernicious effects on immigrants, is diminished in more universalistic welfare states (Van der Waal, De Koster & Van Oorschot, 2013; Larsen, 2006; Swank & Betz, 2003; Van Oorschot, 2000; Kumlin & Rothstein 2010; Rothstein 2015).
We might go further and argue that social policy needs to be reorganized to focus more on “predistribution” rather than “redistribution” (Hacker, 2011) - that is, changing how markets distribute rewards in the first place. This includes policies such as higher minimum wages, laws to facilitate union organizing and collective bargaining, or strengthened labour activation policies.Footnote 25 It could also include more radical proposals for “stakeholder grants” (Ackerman & Alstott, 1999) and “property-owning democracy” (Rawls, 1971), aimed at giving everyone a “fair stake” in society, and equalizing the assets that people bring to the market.Footnote 26 Relying exclusively on post-hoc redistribution creates a double jeopardy: the rich are inclined to believe they have ‘earned’ their income, and to doubt the deservingness of welfare recipients. As Hacker notes, progressive reformers need to focus on market reforms that encourage a more equal distribution of economic power and rewards even before government collects taxes or pays out benefits. This is not just because pre-distribution is where the action is. It is also because excessive reliance on redistribution fosters backlash, making taxes more salient and feeding into the conservative critique that government simply meddles with “natural” market rewards (Hacker, 2011)
I’m sympathetic to such proposals, which surely would reduce the scope for negative deservingness judgements regarding immigrants, and which in any event are intrinsically desirable from a liberal egalitarian perspective. However, I do not believe that these reforms are a full answer to the challenge of inclusive solidarity. One obvious problem is sequencing. Once it’s up and running, a stakeholder society that prioritizes predistribution over redistribution may minimize perceptions of free-riding and economic burden, but how do we get from here to there?
Moreover, I do not believe that perceptions of economic burden are the primary obstacle to inclusive solidarity. Several studies of the sources of anti-immigrant attitudes find that while immigrants are seen as both economic and cultural threats, the cultural threat is the more powerful factor. For example, most people would rather have fewer immigrants who are a net drain on the welfare state than have large numbers of immigrants who are net contributors to the welfare state (Sniderman & Hagendoorn, 2007; Sides & Citrin, 2007). This is confirmed by Edward Koning’s comparative analysis of welfare chauvinism, which shows that the desire to withhold benefits from immigrants is not correlated with actual levels of welfare dependence. Even low levels of welfare dependence can be mobilized to justify welfare chauvinism if politicians present the recipients as a cultural threat, while quite high levels of welfare dependence may not trigger welfare chauvinism if politicians do not frame this as an issue of cultural threat (Koning, 2013). In short, the perception of economic burden is an effect of perceptions of cultural otherness, not vice versa.
If true, this suggests that redesigning the welfare state to minimize opportunities for deservingness judgements is not sufficient. We need to directly tackle perceptions of cultural “otherness”, and to support perceptions of shared membership. But how should we do this? Here we see a clear fork in the road, with a choice between coercive civic integration and liberal multiculturalism.
In a peculiar and perhaps perverse way, some of the coercive and paternalistic “civic integration” policies spreading throughout Europe can be seen as a response to this challenge.Footnote 27 While part of the impetus for these policies is simple xenophobia, other defenders of these policies may sincerely believe that they can help overcome deservingness judgements to achieve inclusive solidarity. If immigrants are forced to learn the national language and to take integration classes and perform public service in return for welfare, this may counteract the image of not belonging and not reciprocating. If immigrants are seen as not complying with an ethic of social membership, well then let’s force them to comply!
I have elsewhere argued that such policies – when mandatory – involve a level of coercion and paternalism that is illiberal, and so normatively illegitimate (Kymlicka, 2012).Footnote 28 But for our purposes, a deeper problem is that this approach is self-defeating. When the state claims that these polices must be mandatory in order to be effective, then it in fact confirms public suspicions that immigrants, left to their own devices, are by inclination uninterested in belonging, and unwilling to contribute and reciprocate. To counteract deservingness judgements, we need instead to create opportunities for immigrants to voluntarily indicate their sense of belonging, civic friendship and reciprocity.
Moreover, these civic integration policies arguably bring nationhood into the story in the wrong way. Nationhood works best when it is deep in the background, as a taken-for-granted presupposition of social life, such that it can indeed be “invisible”. The invisibility of nationhood may be a methodological sin in social science, but it is arguably a social virtue. For when nationhood is highlighted or primed – when it is taken from the back of people’s minds to the front of their minds – there is evidence that it triggers xenophobia. This is one of the results of what are called “mere mention” experiments. In these experiments, one group of respondents is asked “do you believe immigrants deserve this or that right”. Another group of people are asked the same question, but with a national prime: they are asked: “You are Dutch: do you believe immigrants deserve X”. The “mere mention” of nationhood produces systematically harsher answers.Footnote 29 Coercive civic integration policies are, in effect, repeated iterations of these mere mention tests: repeatedly poking and prodding immigrants, asking “are you Dutch yet?”. This perhaps explains why the evidence to date suggests that civic integration policies are not overcoming exclusionary forms of solidarity (Goodman & Wright 2015; Gundelach & Traunmüller, 2014).
What is the alternative? I would suggest that we need to develop a form of multiculturalism that is tied to an ethic of social membership: that is, a form of multiculturalism that enables immigrants to express their culture and identity as modes of participating and contributing to the national society. A solidarity-promoting multiculturalism would start from the premise that one way to be a proud and loyal Canadian is to be a proud Greek-Canadian or Vietnamese-Canadian, and that the activities of one’s group – be they religious, cultural, recreational, economic or political – are understood as forms of belonging, and of investing in society, not only or primarily in the economic sense, but in a deeper social sense, even (dare I say it?) as a form of nation-building.
Indeed if there is one thing to be said on behalf of Canadian multiculturalism, it is precisely this: multiculturalism in Canada has always been seen, by both immigrants and native-born citizens, as a means of contributing to society, and indeed a form of nation-building.Footnote 30 It is a means of staking a claim to social membership, in part by seeking the accommodations needed to participate more fully and effectively, but also of fulfilling the responsibilities of social membership. I do not think this is unique to Canada: I see the same link between multiculturalism and national contribution in Australia (Levey, 2008, 2016) or Scotland (Hussain & Miller 2006).
This, I think, is the most promising avenue for inclusive solidarity – a multicultural liberal nationalism, if you will. I believe it is more promising than relying on the vagaries of power politics or an appeal to universal humanitarianism or on coercive civic integration. I emphasize, however, once again, that this is highly speculative. We do not have the sort of evidence needed to confirm the reciprocal impacts of multiculturalism, national solidarity, and the welfare state. And even if the evidence existed, it would just push the question back. If multicultural nationhood is the precondition of inclusive solidarity, what are the preconditions of multicultural nationhood?Footnote 31
And here, as a last word, let me enter a word of caution, particularly in light of the theme of this conference. I believe that multicultural nationhood is both a normatively attractive ideal, and a potential source of inclusive solidarity, and that we have at least some partial instantiations of this ideal in the real world. But the cases I’ve mentioned – Canada, Australia and Scotland – share an important feature. They are societies whose immigrants have traditionally been seen as permanent residents and future citizens. Or at any rate, their policies of multicultural nationalism are built on this assumption. And this assumption is partly what makes the model of multiculturalism-as-national-contribution powerful and plausible: permanent residents and future citizens have a clear self-interest in investing in society, becoming members, and contributing to it. It is far less clear that this model of multiculturalism works for temporary migrants, and indeed both Canada and Australia have recently been struggling with the question or whether or how their multiculturalism policies apply to temporary migrants.
Some people believe that the very distinction between permanent and temporary migration is breaking down, and that we will soon be living in a world of “superdiversity” with a multitude of legal statuses that are neither wholly temporary nor wholly permanent, but rather have varying degrees and levels of conditionality and precariousness (Vertovec, 2007, 2016). I am far from sure that such a world is desirable. I am even less sure what would be the source of solidarity in such a world of liquid mobility.