The main difference between assimilation and multiculturalism is that assimilation is a process where minority cultural groups within a mainstream culture come to reflect the mainstream group in terms of their values, beliefs, and behaviours, while multiculturalism is a process where the mainstream culture acknowledges and accepts the cultural, ethnic, or racial differences and identities of the minority groups for their uniqueness.
Multiculturalism and assimilation are two different approaches taken to achieve equality and social cohesion between minority and mainstream socio-cultural groups. However, behind these two concepts, there stand two completely opposite ideologies.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Assimilation
– Definition, Features
2. What is Multiculturalism
– Definition, Features
3. Similarities Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism
– Definition, Features
4. Difference Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism
– Comparison of Key Differences
What is Assimilation
Assimilation or cultural assimilation is the process within which the minority or subcultural groups residing inside the mainstream political group begin to adapt and resemble the behaviours, values, and cultural beliefs of the dominant group. Moreover, cultural assimilation is a concept that is quite similar to the process of acculturation.
The process of cultural assimilation can take place as a sudden or a gradual shift based on the social circumstances of the group. However, full cultural assimilation takes place when the members belonging to the subcultures become imperceptible from those of the mainstream cultural group.
It’s important to note that cultural assimilation never promises social alikeness. For instance, different bars placed between cultures (mainly by the dominating culture), such as geographical barriers, resulting in the subcultures never receiving equal social treatment. Furthermore, it is noticeable that cultural assimilation sometimes occurs spontaneously when a culture willingly and naturally acquires the mainstream cultural patterns. But sometimes, it is often forcibly imparted by the mainstream culture on the subcultures.
What is Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism is a social process where the mainstream culture acknowledges and accepts the cultural, ethnic, or racial differences of the minority groups. This cultural acknowledgement can take place in different forms: recognized for the cultural contributions of the subcultures towards the cultural life of the mainstream political community, as a request for special legal protection for certain cultural groups, or as autonomous rights of governance for specific cultures.
Multiculturalism is a consequence of cultural pluralism prevailing in modern democracies. Most significantly, it is a way of paying back the subcultural groups for previous discriminations, exclusions, and oppression. Most modern democratic societies include members with diverse cultural practices and viewpoints.
Many minority cultural and social groups were subjected to oppression and were excluded from mainstream society due to the mismatch of the socio-cultural identities in the past. Multiculturalism came to being as a response to this issue and attempts to include the views and contributions of diverse socio-cultural members of society while maintaining respect for their differences. Furthermore, multicultural societies do not demand subcultures to assimilate into the dominant culture.
Similarities Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism
- Multiculturalism and assimilation involve a majority/mainstream culture and minority culture(s).
- Both are two different approaches that help to achieve equality and social cohesion between minority and mainstream socio-cultural groups.
Difference Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism
Assimilation is a social process where minority groups or cultures within a mainstream culture come to reflect the mainstream group in terms of their values, beliefs, and behaviours, whereas multiculturalism is a process where a mainstream culture acknowledges and accepts the cultural, ethnic or racial differences of the minority groups for their uniqueness.
Method of Achievement
While assimilation involves reducing differences, multiculturalism recognizes and valorizes those differences.
There is no dominant culture within multiculturalism, but a dominant culture is visible within assimilation.
In brief, assimilation demands the minority cultures within the mainstream culture to acquire the mainstream cultural values, beliefs, and behaviours. However, multiculturalism seeks socio-cultural integration through acknowledgement and acceptance of the cultural, ethnic, or racial differences and identities of the minority groups. Thus, this is the main difference between assimilation and multiculturalism. When it comes to the global level, we can observe how both these processes, assimilation and multiculturalism, function at different levels.
1. “Multiculturalism.” An Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.