Notes for January 21, 1999
Diversity in Society
Issues related to diversity and difference have become key aspects of contemporary sociological approaches and theorizing. Perhaps these have always been a key feature – Marx and Engels examined class differences and their origin; Durkheim was concerned with social order in a situation where differences based on the division of labour emerged; Weber provided an analysis of group formation, definition, and action; and earlier twentieth century sociology studied and theorized about ethnicity, class, and social organization.
In the current period however, there appears to be a greater concern with issues related to diversity and difference than there did in earlier sociological approaches. Among the types of terms, language, and approaches taken in contemporary sociology are:
- Diversity – ethnic and cultural.
- Difference and inequality.
- Difference troubles (Seidman).
- "New" voices and new sources of difference. Earlier unheard or not represented.
- Individuality and individual choice.
- Multiple sources of identity and group membership.
- New family forms or changed household structures.
Some of the sources of concern and attention may be:
- Perceptions of a change in traditional forms of social organization.
- Changes in social structures and traditional forms of social organization.
- Lack of representation for those not represented or heard previously.
- Demands for recognition of minority group identity (Kymlicka, p. 10).
- Concerns related to social cohesion, social order, and integration.
One of Kymlicka’s arguments in Multicultural Citizenship is that the various forms of diversity require analysis and recognition if the groups are to be accommodated in Canada. The recognition and extension of group rights is necessary so that individuals within these groups are able to fully participate in Canadian society, with rights that equal those of other citizens. For example, he opens his book noting that "Most countries today are culturally diverse" (p. 1). As evidence he cites that number of ethnic groups, language groups, independent states, and a set of what he considers divisive or potentially divisive issues such as land claims, language rights, educational policies, and national symbols. At the conclusion of Multicultural Citizenship, Kymlicka raises the issue of deep diversity – the situation Canada faces with (i) many diverse groups within the country, and (ii) diverse ways of belonging to the country.
This raises the issue of the meaning of diversity, the extent of diversity, how has diversity changed, what a definition of diversity, and how can diversity be measured. In Who Pays for the Kids? Folbre raises similar issues, although in a different way. She is concerned less with rights and more with individual and collective identities and actions. For example, she notes:
Membership in one given group (for example, women) is not necessarily any more important than membership in another given group (for example, African-Americans). Individuals cannot be located by a single set of coordinates, because they operate in many different collective dimensions, within many different chosen and given groups. Nor can they be located by a list of all the given groups to which they belong, by simply ‘adding up’ of separate positions. The interaction between different dimensions of collective identity affects the choices individuals make about which collective interests to pursue. (N. Folbre, Who Pays for the Kids? pp. 52-53).
This section of the notes raises a number of issues related to the extent and meaning of diversity, and changes in diversity. These issues and approaches are important in this section of the course and in the next section dealing with social reproduction. More generally, these are issues that are of concern in many parts of contemporary sociology.
1. Increased Diversity?
- What is the evidence for increasing diversity?
- Population trends. Different sources of immigration today, as compared with immigration in earlier periods. See data on immigration and population trends.
- Wide range of lifestyles. Contrast with traditional uniform lifestyles of specific groups in specific areas, e.g. Amish, Hutterites.
- Many languages, religions, cultural practices, dress, food.
- Increasing contact among different cultures. Communications, transportation, trade mean that these are expressed in Canada to a greater extent than in earlier periods.
- Much of the argument may be related to those of visible minorities, just as the focus was on non-British/non-French in the early twentieth century. (Racism, xenophobia, suspicion of newcomers).
- Multiculturalism, pluralism, and survival of various ethnic cultures.
- Political demands of various groups.
2. Increased Homogeneity?
- Dominant Anglo culture outside Quebec and French culture within Quebec.
- Globalization and global culture. Media, advertising, entertainment, commodities.
- Modernization, industrialization, rationalization. Ritzer’s McDonaldization of society.
- Social class developments similar across countries as a result of industrialization. Property and social class. One large division develops (proletariat and capitalist).
- Similar laws, rules, norms governing acceptable and desirable bounds of behaviour.
- Assimilation and integration of immigrants. All are "Canadians" by second or third generation. The increased diversity is only a temporary phenomenon.
- Citizenship rights similar. Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
3. Some Causes of Changes in Diversity and Homogeneity
- Increased trade, communications, transportation, and migration. The "diverse" cultures have presumably existed for a long time, and we were not aware of them, or did not have to interact with them until contact among these has been increased. The forms of contact may be quite different depending on whether people or goods move. See Williams, The Year 2000, p. 177. Note the importance of the unit of analysis here – issues related to changes in diversity are at some level below that of the world as a whole, usually at the national, regional, or local level.
- How is diversity created? Capitalism and markets. Focus on immigration may ignore the sources of emigrants. Emigrants have tended to come from countries in the early stages of industrialization, as they are displaced from traditional occupations and industries. Communities had often lived for a long time in relative isolation or limited contact with a few other communities, thereby developing a set of cultural practices that were different from other communities. The development of capitalism dislocated, relocated, and destroyed communities, peoples, and cultures. "Capitalist textile-production, ironmaking, mining, grain production and a host of other industrial processes set in train immigrations and emigrations, aggregations and depopulations on a vast scale" (Williams, p. 185).
- Origin and idea of the nation-state. The nation-state is of relatively recent origin, in previous eras there were a variety of political arrangements, ones that often disconnected politics from language and culture. Capitalist development and mercantilism led to the unification of territories that had previously been ruled by different rulers and had different cultures, often different languages. e.g. France had various regions, each with a different language (Occitan, Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, French) and a different culture, although they were generally considered as part of some French kingdom. Each of the European countries became unified and this was part of the era of the development of capitalism. Single markets, trade, and economy with a single set of laws that could be applied widely over a particular region like France. This meant the imposition of a single language that by the 20th century became dominant throughout each of these countries.
- Homogenizing influence of global capitalism. Multinational corporations, expansion of trade and financial flows. Questions of the relevance of the nation-state and its ability to exercise much control over economic actions now.
- New technologies, the internet, virtualization, cyberculture, and the virtual class. Kroker and Weinstein.
4. What is Diversity?
- Diverse cultural practices but similar ways of behaving. Kymlicka pp. 87-88 notes how Quebec today is probably much more similar to English Canada than it was before 1940. See examples on p. 88. And both parts of Canada are very similar to the United States. Same process in Western Europe. Liberalization and modernization have created countries and cultures that are similar to each other but at the same time have considerable diversity, perhaps increased diversity, within each country. Kymlicka notes that commentators have often assumed that the result of this similarity between, but diversity within cultures would be a decline in national identity and nationalism. But the result has often been the opposite, especially in Quebec.
- Diversity within cultures, between cultures, boundaries between cultures. Kymlicka notes the very different features of (i) two cultures living side by side with little cultural interaction (the two solitudes of French and English in Canada) and (ii) the effects of polyethnicity where aspects of different cultures are incorporated into a single culture.
- Good life, end values, modes of behaviour. Within countries and within cultures that are diverse, there are many different conceptions of what a good life means, and the diversity of such conceptions might be a way of defining diversity. At the same time, there may be a generally agreed upon set of shared values, especially political values. Another possibility is a shared conception of justice. Kymlicka notes that the Canadian Citizen’s Forum of 1994 found seven common values among Canadians – see p. 187.
- Another possibility, perhaps more sociological, is that there are generally agreed upon norms for action and interaction and for social and collective behaviour. This may have been Durkheim’s idea of the social forces that stood behind organic solidarity – agreed upon norms that are expressed in laws. These may not differ all that much between countries. In Canada the Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out a number of generally agreed up norms.
- Durkheim – mechanical and organic solidarity. Latter said to be associated with greater difference, individualism, etc. but Durkheim viewed it as also creating a new form of social unity.
Summary of Diversity
Diversity within and between. Increase in former and decline in latter – at least in some areas. Unit of analysis.
Note that diversity may increase in some ways and decline in others. For example, within society likely have more similar access to education and health resources today, but outcomes may be more different in variety of occupational results, or differences in lifestyle and cultural choices may be greater.
There is little doubt that ethnic diversity as expressed in languages, cultures, and skin colour have increased in Canada in recent years. Whether and how long this trend will continue is not clear and it depends on the extent and type of globalization that takes place in coming years. Large-scale population movements across national borders may continue and the nation-state itself may no longer be the major geographical unit for organizing society. If current trends continue, there will certainly continue to be greater contact and transmission of ideas, values, and cultures among the people of the world.
At the same time, there are strong homogenizing trends – the consumer culture of capitalism, multinational corporations, and the modernist force of industrialization. This creates societies that are more similar to each other, with some of the traditional cultural differences declining in importance or visibility. Within Canada and the United States there are some strong forces of homogenization for the newcomers – similar laws, rules, and norms, the English language (or French in Quebec), citizenship, and the desire to integrate and participate in the economy and society.
Further, the differences among the newcomers may seem to be greater than what they really are – the language and cultural differences are not inherent in the individuals, but are a result of having lived in a different culture. The newcomers themselves may retain much of their original culture, but the children of the newcomers and subsequent generations are likely to become integrated in a great variety of ways.
In summary, there are many forces for diversity and many forces for homogeneity. Both of these operate at the same time, and it is important to attempt to sort these out. Kymlicka notes that industrial countries have generally become more similar to each other, with each country having greater cultural diversity within the country. Note though that this is greater diversity within the framework of the dominant culture, rather than a variety of separate cultures being expressed within each of these countries.
Diversity in Population Trends in Canada
Canada’s Changing Immigrant Population (Statistics Canada, catalogue number 96-311E) notes "Immigration has played a role in creating a culturally diverse Canada" (p. 17) and titles the section "Greater Diversity in the Canadian Mosaic."
- Aboriginal population. The original population of what is now Canada was originally entirely First Nations, each with their own form of social organization, with their similarities and differences. The size of the population of aboriginal descent fell dramatically but has recently begun to rebound and now is probably around 2% of Canadian population. The main groups are status and non-status Indian, Inuit, and Métis, with many different First Nations – Cree, Huron, Ojibway, etc. Indian and Northern Affairs notes that there are 608 First Nations, comprising 52 Nations or cultural groups, with more than 50 languages. (http://www.inac.gc.ca/strenght/demogr.html, January 20, 1998).
- Charter Europeans – French. There were relatively few immigrants from France (perhaps only 10,000 French immigrants to New France) but New France had extremely high rates of natural population growth (excess of births over deaths). Those descended from French immigrants constitute approximately 25% of the population of Canada, although there was considerable inter-marriage with other groups.
- Charter Europeans – British. There were many more immigrants from the British Isles than from France, and this become the dominant group in numbers and in political and economic influence. By 1901, 57% of population was of British origin, 31% of French origin, and 12% of other origins (Driedger, The Ethnic Factor, p. 94). Today it is likely that between thirty and forty per cent of the population is of British origin. However, with extensive intermarriage between those of British and other origins, it is not clear how to count all of those with multiple ethnic origins.
- Multi-Europeans. These are those of European origin, but not of English or French ancestry. Multi-Europeans likely accounted for only about five per cent in 1871, but by 1981 they accounted for about one-third of the population (with 27% French origin and 40% British origin). These other Europeans came from practically all European countries and settled throughout Canada west of Quebec, and especially in the Prairies. Apart from aboriginal, French, and British, the diversity of cultures that existed in the first two-thirds of this century was primarily that of the various European cultures.
- Visible Minorities. There were very few people from outside Europe and the United States that came to Canada before 1960. Beginning in the 1960s, immigration regulations began to change and the Immigration Act of 1967 led to a major change in the nature of immigration to Canada. The adoption of the "point system" that evaluated potential immigrants for their education and skills resulted in increased immigrant numbers from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa. Initially fairly limited in total numbers, the bulk of immigrants to Canada in recent years has come from outside Europe. By 1996, 8.1% of the Canadian population identified themselves as of Asian, Arab, or African origin, with another 1.5% identifying themselves as of Latin American or Caribbean origin. The result is that there is approximately ten per cent of the population of Canada with non-European, non-aboriginal ancestry.
Under the Employment Equity Act of 1986, people of certain ancestry are recognized as visible minorities. From the 1996 Census Dictionary (Statistics Canada, catalogue number 92-531-XPE, p. 97), visible minorities are defined as "persons (other than Aboriginal persons), who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour. The categories listed (p. 98) are Chinese, South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Punjabi, Sri Lankan), Black (e.g., African, Haitian, Jamaican, Somali), Arab/West Asian (e.g., Armenian, Egyptian, Iranian, Lebanese, Moroccan), Filipino, South East Asian (e.g., Cambodian, Indonesian, Laotian, Vietnamese), Latin American, Japanese, Korean, or other. In the 1996 Census of Canada, 11.2 per cent of the population identified themselves as visible minorities. For Saskatchewan, 26,945 or 2.8 per cent of the population said they belonged to a visible minority.
- Result in 1999? The aboriginal population is approximately 2% (although DIAND notes Canadians of Aboriginal ancestry may be more than 4% of the Canadian population), with those of French ancestry about 25%, British 30-40%, other European 30-40%, and visible minorities 11-12%. For 1991 figures, see Statistics Canada, Canada’s Changing Immigrant Population, by Jane Badets and Tina W. L. Chui, Focus on Canada series, Ottawa, Statistics Canada, 1994, p. 20. Catalogue number 96-311E. In this table, note the differences in the distributions of immigrant ethnic origins from before 1961 and more recently. In particular, there are much larger percentages of recent immigrants from Asian, Arab, and African sources, compared to earlier periods.
The table, "Single and multiple ethnic origin responses, 1996 Census" shows the distribution of ethnic origins for the Canadian population in 1996 and for the provinces from Quebec to Saskatchewan. Note the difficulty of accurately determining ethnic origins because one-half of the Saskatchewan population states multiple origins and another ten per cent say they are of Canadian origin.
Immigration. In 1951, the ten leading source countries of immigrants were Britain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, France, U.S., Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Denmark. In 1998, they were China, India, Hong Kong, Philippines, Pakistan, Taiwan, Iran, Korea, United States, and Russia. Note that these ten leading countries accounted for about one-half of all immigrants to Canada. In the 1980s, immigration from Vietnam was also large and in the mid-1990s, there was considerable immigration from the countries that were part of the former Yugoslavia.
Also note the shift in birthplaces for the immigrant population of Canada, as registered in the 1996 Census. There has been a considerable increase in the number of recent immigrants from Asian countries, the Caribbean, and Latin America, and a considerable decline in the numbers from European countries.
Conclusion. As indicators of cultural diversity, the above figures have a number of problems associated with them. Immigrants may not identify themselves with the country of their origin or may not take on the culture that many may assume is associated with that country. The statistical approach in terms of population structure does provide some indication of increasing cultural diversity, but the meaning of the numbers must also be considered.
Notes for January 21, 1999.
Back to Sociology 304 – Winter, 1999