There is a widely shared view that the appeal of multiculturalism as a public policy has suffered considerable political damage. In many European states the turn to “civic” measures and discourses has been deemed more suitable for the objectives of minority integration and the promotion of preferred modes of social and political unity. It is therefore said that the first decade of the new century has been characterized by a reorientation in immigrant integration policies—from liberal culturalist to the “return of assimilation” (Brubaker, 2001), on route to a broader “retreat from multiculturalism” (Joppke, 2004). In this article, we argue that such portrayals mask a tendency that is more complicated in some cases and much less evident in others. To elaborate this, we offer a detailed account of the inception and then alleged movement away from positions in favor of multiculturalism in two countries that have adopted different versions of it, namely the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and two countries that have historically rejected multiculturalism, namely Denmark and Germany. We argue that while there is undoubtedly a rhetorical separation between multiculturalism and civic integration, the latter is in some cases building on the former, and broadly needs to be understood as more than a retreat of multiculturalism. Taking seriously Banting and Kymlicka’s argument that understanding the evolution of integration requires the “the mind-set of an archaeologist,” we offer a policy genealogy that allows us to set the backlash against multiculturalism in context, in manner that explicates its provenance, permutations, and implications.
- civic integration