Is multiculturalism against diversity

Many people fear a completely open society. Aren't you asking too much?

The world is a diverse place. Our societies are diverse. There is a tendency to think that diversity is something new, brought about by mass migration. But European societies have always been diverse.

Aren't they particularly diverse right now?

No. The idea that Europe used to be more homogeneous is a type of historical amnesia. An example: The cultural gap between factory workers in the 19th century and the factory owners of that time was much larger than the gap between a 16-year-old youth with Turkish roots and a 16-year-old of German descent today. Because of the music they listen to, the clothes they wear, the football clubs they support. This brings people closer to one another in a way that was previously unimaginable. Workers and the rural poor were literally perceived as racially different by the upper classes.

Some on the right-hand side express in a very sharp tone the feeling that diversity is becoming destructive, that it is harming Germany.

This fear takes two forms. There are the nativists. They are afraid that immigration will destroy the national structure of a country, the Germanness, the British or French character. On the other hand, there is the multicultural argument: diversity is good, but must be protected in order to keep conflicts as small as possible. It is precisely the conflicts that lead to political engagement.

Are cultural conflicts good? Aren't they tearing society apart?

The world is a messy, dingy place, full of conflict and difficulty. But the grub is good. We are politically and culturally challenged by the difficulties. If we were all the same, we wouldn't clash. Diversity is not good for its own sake, but because it allows us to broaden our horizons. We compare different views, values, beliefs and lifestyles, evaluate them and then decide what is better and what is worse. This is how political dialogue arises. That can help to find a universal language of togetherness.

But why then does it feel that society is particularly fragmented today?

In part, it's because the focus on markets has fragmented societies. But partly also in what I call the narrowing of the political sphere. The distinction between left and right has characterized politics in the past. That has disappeared and it has changed the meaning of solidarity.

What do you mean?

In the past, roughly speaking, there were two ways of expressing belonging to a group: identity politics and solidarity politics. Identity politics means building identity on the basis of categories such as race or nation or culture. Solidarity politics is about seeing people as part of a collective because they all want to achieve a political or social goal.

Where is the problem?

Identity politics separates. Solidarity politics connects. Through a common goal, beyond race or gender or sexuality or religion or culture or nation. But solidarity policy has suffered badly over the past two or three decades. Today identity politics seems to be the only possible form of collective politics for many. Solidarity is no longer thought of politically - as a collective effort to implement certain political ideals - but it is thought of ethnically or culturally.

But why is that bad? People fight together for more justice. Most of them in many different fields.

The question people ask is no longer so much: What society do we want to live in? You ask yourself the question: who are we? Of course these questions are closely related, but what happened is this: the framework within which we want to make sense of the chaos of the world is not liberal or conservative or social democratic or socialist. But he's Muslim, white, black, German or European. That's a big change. The rise of identity politics plays a big role in how we see the world today: that we perceive diversity as problematic.

Are identity and politics opposites?

The relationship between identity and politics is not easy. Politics was supposed to open up the field of vision beyond the narrowness of the supposedly fixed identities.

To have You an example of this?

A personal one: When I was growing up, my experiences with racism made me politicized. In Great Britain there was racism then that no longer exists today. This racism drew me to politics. It was politics that made me realize that social justice meant more than fighting the great injustice I was exposed to through racism. It was only through politics that I became aware of the principles of the Enlightenment, of human rights. And I found that I could find more solidarity and togetherness with those who were different from me in terms of culture and ethnicity, but who shared my values. Politics has not only confirmed my identity, but has helped me to develop beyond this identity.

Solidarity has also come under pressure because today we live in an individualized working world in which the collective only exists as a so-called team, which as such should achieve the best possible work results.

People work much more fragmented, that's true. And there are more and more people who work under precarious conditions, on the fringes of the world of work, so to speak. The power of the trade unions has waned, social democracy has collapsed, and the influence of political parties and organizations in general. All around the world. They have been replaced by sectarian movements based on religion or ethnicity. Or define yourself through your anti-migration and anti-Islam course.

Your compatriot, the singer Morrissey, said: 'I want Germany to be German. I want France to be French. If you try to do everything multicultural, you end up with no culture at all. '

What is German culture, please? What are we seeing right now? Or what was 50 years ago? Or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago? 1000 years ago? What is French culture? What muslim? There is no point in talking about German culture as if it were something fixed. Cultures only exist as what people actually do. A German culture is thus defined as what those who see themselves as Germans do at a certain point in time.

So you can't protect cultures?

Cultures are always changing. Those who argue that cultures are immutable make themselves gatekeepers of those cultures. They give themselves the authority to say what is German or Muslim or Jewish or British. I don't think we should accept anyone as a gatekeeper. Culture is what we all create together.

Do you believe in a cosmopolitan culture in a few hundred years? A world culture? Based on the principles of the Enlightenment, for example?

No. The point is that cultures have always influenced each other. That they have always changed. Any culture that did not change died. Every living culture finds answers to the world. No matter whether it is the German culture, the Jewish culture or the Muslim culture. What I care about: We have to be open to this interaction.

But where does what you ask for lead to? What is at the very end when your point of view prevails? Are the cultures merging?

No, it doesn't all merge. I want an open, liberal society in which people are not treated differently because of their skin color, ethnicity or culture or their beliefs, or in which opinions are suppressed because they are considered inedible. But that does not mean that there are no longer any differences.