How do western democracies cope with the challenge of societal diversity?

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In the modern era, the grand forces of modernism, liberalism and nationalism have opposed and minimized societal diversity in Western states. The Civil Rights Movement in the USA and the flow of millions of unassimilable immigrants, mostly Muslims, to Europe opened Western societies to cultural diversity. But liberal multiculturalism in the West consists mainly of endorsement of subcultures, non-discrimination and inclusion. It falls short of instituting consociational components like cultural autonomy and power-sharing. Fear and unease in the West increasingly give priority to majority over minority rights. While all Western democracies object to societal diversity, they differ in the way they handle it: liberal democracies deny it, consociational democracies institutionalize it and ethnic democracies partially allow and partially subordinate it. These three different strategies are evident in the way representative cases of Western democracies, namely the USA, Switzerland and Estonia, respectively, cope with societal diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-236
Number of pages22
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The author(s) 2018. Nations and Nationalism © ASEN/John Wiley & Sons Ltd 2018


  • cultural nationalism
  • liberal multiculturalism
  • majority rights
  • multiculturalism in Estonia
  • multiculturalism in Switzerland
  • multiculturalism in USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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