Scottish Universities Insight Institute : a development from the institute for advanced studies

a development from the institute for advanced studies


Pluralism in Crisis

Scope and themes of the programme

Multiculturalism is experiencing difficult times. In the past twenty years, a number of prominent supporters of multiculturalism have recognised that determinedly multicultural systems can collapse under stress. Increasingly, diverse Western states have appeared to lose solidarity and political will in the face of competing multiculturalist discourses and, beyond the more affluent West, ethnic federations have disintegrated in protracted conflict. The optimistic multiculturalism of the late twentieth century has been equally challenged in the wake of global economic and ecological crises, and under the pressures created by the ongoing conflicts between NATO powers and radical anti-Western insurgents and terrorists. These global phenomena have altered attitudes towards sharing, entitlement and competing values, stoking tensions between religious, ethnic and political groups at the national level. Pluralists face practical and intellectual challenges from those who doubt both its effectiveness and justice, and this programme examines the resources pluralists have recently offered to promote the development of policies that are sensitive to the new tensions, and to address the divergent policy contexts in which the limits of pluralism are under debate.

This IAS programme will examine instances of pluralism from across the social and natural sciences in order to better understand the roles of diversity, complexity, scarcity and resilience in successful pluralist systems. It will look to the natural world for lessons on how diverse and complex systems cope under pressure, and will explore various methods available to policymakers, practitioners and theorists alike for describing and understanding pluralist systems. It will bring a trans-Atlantic team of academics together with representatives from international organizations, national policy-makers and diversity specialists for a rigorous examination of key contemporary challenges faced in policy-making for multicultural societies. Through three conference and workshop meetings across the summer of 2010, participants will contribute to a new interdisciplinary assessment of the state of the field and future research directions, and will provide briefing materials tailored for policy-makers, non-governmental stakeholders and a broader public. Events for North American participants will be held in parallel at Cornell University, and proceedings will be linked up by virtual conferencing technology.


To learn more about the programme, find out how to participate and contribute, please contact Darragh Hare or George Wilkes.


  • Pluralist Responses
  • Pluralism Workshop, July 2010
  • Glen Plumb lecture

Programme report

The final report on the Pluralism in Crisis programme is available for download as a PDF. The Document library also includes presentations and transcripts of talks given during the programme.

Programme team

This programme is organised by:

Key dates

Workshop 1, 24-25 May 2010 – Framing Pluralisms
Workshop 2, 23-24 June 2010 – Pluralist Responses to Crisis
Conference, 27-29 July 2010 – Pluralism in Crisis