Well, yes and no

Ken Livingstone offered a Millian version of multiculturalism in the Indy yesterday.

Multiculturalism versus its opponents is simply one manifestation of the age-long struggle between liberty and its opponents. It is not about personal differences of opinion but between the values of an open and a closed society.

Yes but which side is for the values of the open society and which is for those of the closed? Things don’t necessarily line up the way Livingstone claims.

The foundations of liberalism and multiculturalism were outlined with great clarity in what is justifiably the most famous political essay in British history, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty…Every individual who exists is unique, and wishes to pursue their life in a different way. The individual must be able to choose for themselves…Multiculturalism has nothing to do with an assertion that there are no universal values. The very statement that people should be able to do only such things that do not interfere with others is clearly an assertion of a universal value. It merely states that insofar as they do not interfere with others, people should be able to choose freely which values they wish to pursue and they may not have these imposed on them…What is prohibited is one group or person imposing their will on others…Female genital mutilation is another such imposed act of violence and equally should not be tolerated.

Good; admirably clear and forthright; but that’s not actually what everyone understands by multiculturalism, and that’s why multiculturalism has opponents who are in fact not enemies of the open society. There are cultures – and they are neither few nor obscure – which do not agree that all individuals must be able to choose for themselves; on the contrary. That being the case, multiculturalism does not have quite the same freedom-loving ring to it that Livingstone seems to think it does.

Update: article in Guardian about Livingstone’s attack on Trevor Phillips.

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