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The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe:
A History
Rita Chin

Hardcover | 2017 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691164267
384 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400884902 |
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A history of modern European cultural pluralism, its current crisis, and its uncertain future

In 2010, the leaders of Germany, Britain, and France each declared that multiculturalism had failed in their countries. Over the past decade, a growing consensus in Europe has voiced similar decrees. But what do these ominous proclamations, from across the political spectrum, mean? From the influx of immigrants in the 1950s to contemporary worries about refugees and terrorism, The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe examines the historical development of multiculturalism on the Continent. Rita Chin argues that there were few efforts to institute state-sponsored policies of multiculturalism, and those that emerged were pronounced failures virtually from their inception. She shows that today's crisis of support for cultural pluralism isn't new but actually has its roots in the 1980s.

Chin looks at the touchstones of European multiculturalism, from the urgent need for laborers after World War II to the public furor over the publication of The Satanic Verses and the question of French girls wearing headscarves to school. While many Muslim immigrants had lived in Europe for decades, in the 1980s they came to be defined by their religion and the public's preoccupation with gender relations. Acceptance of sexual equality became the critical gauge of Muslims' compatibility with Western values. The convergence of left and right around the defense of such personal freedoms against a putatively illiberal Islam has threatened to undermine commitment to pluralism as a core ideal. Chin contends that renouncing the principles of diversity brings social costs, particularly for the left, and she considers how Europe might construct an effective political engagement with its varied population.

Challenging the mounting opposition to a diverse society, The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe presents a historical investigation into one continent's troubled relationship with cultural difference.

Rita Chin is associate professor of history at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Guest Worker Question in Postwar Germany and the coauthor of After the Nazi Racial State.


"Lucidly written and resourcefully argued, [The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe] is a superb example of a scholarly intervention in a public debate dominated by unexamined prejudice. . . . Chin asks, ‘what exactly do Europeans imagine as a replacement for multiculturalism? How will they come to terms with multiethnic diversity moving forward?’ Chin offers no simple answers, but her questions have never seemed more urgent as Europeans (and Americans) seem to move forward to their grim past."--Pankaj Mishra, New York Times Book Review

"Chin . . . has produced a well-researched and readable study of policies toward immigrant communities in Great Britain, France, and, to a lesser extent, Germany, from immediately after WWII to the present. . . . She clearly explains how the key consideration for policy makers shifted from their countries’ economic conditions to fear of radical Islam. This trend started with the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie and took full effect after 9/11 and the July 2005 London attacks. In a fine concluding chapter Chin notes flaws both in versions of 'multiculturalism' that foster a view of ethnic communities as homogenous and in the exclusion of immigrant minorities from national narratives."--Publishers Weekly

"[A] lucid and erudite overview of the debate."--Malise Ruthven, Financial Times


"Rita Chin's indispensable and timely book brilliantly analyzes the ideological obfuscation involved in the claim by Western Europeans, on the right and left, that ‘multiculturalism' has failed. Instead, Chin suggests, it was never really tried. Exploring the roots of past racism and its new secularist forms today, Chin casts a sobering and troubling look at the intolerance of difference in Europe."--Samuel Moyn, author of Christian Human Rights

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction The Multicultural and Multiculturalism 1
1 The Birth of Multicultural Europe 23
2 Managing Multicultural Societies 80
3 Race, Nation, and Multicultural Society 138
4 Muslim Women, Sexual Democracy, and the Defense of Freedom 192
5 The “Failure” of Multiculturalism 237
Epilogue The Future of Multicultural Europe? 287
Notes 307
Suggestions for Further Reading 347
Index 353

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