Culture and identity, community and survival: What is the cultural in multiculturalism?

Thomas K Fitzgerald
Vol 12, Number 1-2, p.75
Naisbitt and Aburdene (1990) make the futurist prediction that, worldwide, we can expect to see a renaissance of language and cultural assertiveness (Naisbitt & Aburdene 1990). Cultural diversity is \"in\"; monoculturalism passé. Although the \"discourse of futurology\" has from time to time confused culture and identity, Naisbitt and Aburdene (1990: 129) seem to recognise that, despite the levelling of culture by modem media, there will be a corresponding accent on tradition, symbolic or real, and identities - whether these identities are religious, cultural, national, linguistic, or racial in origin (1990: 147). However, they do not attempt to explain what sounds like a contradiction in this statement. Cultural differences, where these indeed exist, are important. Unfortunately, there is the tendency today to misinterpret and over-interpret such differences. So-called cultures are described in strokes so broad that noncultural differences (for example, communication styles and other social behaviours) are not fully explained. I argue in this article that linguistic and cultural assertiveness need not imply more cultural diversity. Furthermore, paradoxically there is a compensatory need to assert distinctive identities - most likely due to mediated communication influences - which parallels the homogenization of cultures throughout the world. Strictly speaking, it is not always culture that is at issue, but identities - with or without matching cultures.