One of the outcomes of a variety of cultures and subcultures is that minority groups tend to be controlled by the dominant cultures because the latter has the power and uses affluence to take over the smaller cultural societies. With a diverse culture, an exchange and sharing of cultural values and attitudes take place.
Some cultures may adapt certain cultural beliefs from other groups and modify them to embed it in their own cultural orientation. Some cultures retain their cultural identity despite the exposure and immersion with other cultures. These are a few of the effects of dynamism of culture and its diverse characteristic.
The concept of cultural diversity brings us to the main subject of this article which is cultural pluralism. The term ‘cultural pluralism’ is used to describe a condition wherein smaller entities or minorities participate in the more dominant or larger society but keep their identities intact.
Even with the dynamic situation, cultural differences are distinctly maintained. The word “pluralism” describes the existence of diversity in the society in many aspects. In the cultural aspect, cultural pluralism describes the occurrence of diversity among cultures.
A Pluralistic Society
How is a pluralistic society described or illustrated? What characterizes a pluralistic society? It is a society where various cultural groups interact with each other while maintaining a degree of tolerance for each other. It is also a society where various cultures can coexist without having to go through conflicts and it is also where minority groups can sustain their customs.
In a broader sense, all societies are plural. Diversity is everywhere plus the reality that it is inescapable in all social lives. Every human being is unique and every culture is unique as well.
Culture is naturally dynamic and evolving, and the more it evolves, the more diverse every culture becomes. A pluralistic society is open to these changes but is not obliged to adapt to alternative cultural forms.
One example of cultural pluralism is the acceptance of Indian yoga sessions in another country, a Chinese calligraphy class in the United States, or the introduction of Latin salsa dancing in an Asian country. Such practices can only be taught or exercised in a largely predominant society with a pluralist culture.
Cultural Pluralism and Multiculturalism
Cultural pluralism is sometimes mistaken for multiculturalism. In fact, some researchers and experts view them as the same concept. But one thing for sure, both conditions precede the concept of assimilation which is closely similar but has an underlying difference.
Actually, both cultural pluralism and multiculturalism are defined in almost the same way in which various minority cultures are accepted in dominant societies with due respect to diversity. But there are distinguished differences between the two. On a public sphere or talking about the treatment of individuals, people are treated equal in a common pluralist society while in multiculturalism, the public sphere focuses more on cultural negotiation where no group of society will dominate any culture.
Another difference is that cultural pluralism goes for equality of opportunity and freedom of association. On the other hand, multiculturalism requires affiliation and cultural recognition.
Cultural Pluralism versus Structural Pluralism
Another concept compared with cultural pluralism is the structural pluralism. In cultural pluralism, societies can interact and individuals can interrelate without having to give up their cultural identities to the larger society and they get to uphold their identities through communication instead of segregation.
Structural pluralism does not recognize the existence of cultural diversity but to the occurrence of separate patterned social relationships in a particular society. According to Milton Gordon who identified the differences of the two concepts, structural pluralism focuses on the existence of separate cultural groups in a society with each group having a network of organizations or other groups that allow for certain limitations in the intercultural relationships.
Cultural pluralism is more of relational, while structural pluralism is a relativist. What is the difference between these two concepts? The former conceives the thought that people and cultural societies are interdependent and upholds equality among individuals as well as respect for the rights and freedom of each culture.
Structural pluralism, as per Gordon, is socially dysfunctional or prone to conflict. But cultural conflict may also be possible in pluralism, only that there is more respect in each culture so conflicts are easy to deal with.