FUTURE GENERATIONS may look back on Iraq and immigration as the two great disasters of the Bush presidency. Ironically, for a conservative administration, both of these policy initiatives were rooted in a multicultural view of the world.
Since the 1960s, multiculturalism, the idea that all cultures are essentially equal, has become a dominant feature of the political and intellectual landscape of the West. It has profoundly influenced Iraq War policy, the policy of democracy promotion, international development agendas and immigration policy, with consequences for the cultural composition of societies.
But multiculturalism rests on a frail foundation: Cultural relativism, the notion that no culture is better or worse than any other—it is merely different. That's doubtlessly good advice for cultural anthropologists doing ethnographic studies in the field. If one's goal is full understanding of a value system quite different from one's own, ethnocentrism can seriously distort the quest and the conclusions. But what if the objective is to assess the extent to which a culture nurtures values, attitudes and beliefs that facilitate progress toward democratic governance, social justice and an end to poverty, the goals of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights? The idea that some cultures are more nurturing than others of progress thus defined—and that this assumption can be measured and assessed—challenges the very essence of cultural relativism.[The End Of Multiculturalism, January, 2008]