Date: Mon, 26 Jun 1995 13:18:49 -0500

[Benay Blend <BLEND@ALPHA.NSULA.EDU> asks:]

Recently I was asked during an interview for a position teaching ethnic studies courses to define "pluralism" and "diversity" and then give the difference implied in the meanings of the two terms.

I wasn't aware that this was an historiographical debate, and so

would like some input as to how others would have responded to this

question in case it is posed to me again. Thanks in advance,

Benay Blend

Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 15:38:38 -0500

[Jim Castelli <> writes:]

I'm not familiar with whatever academic debate may be going on, but I would distinguish them this way:

* "diversity" describes a fact, the existence of different cultures, races, religions, etc.

* "pluralism" is a value system that celebrates diversity, tolerance, and shared values.

It's possible to acknowledge diversity while opposing pluralism; "I know those people are different, but I want to convert them."

Jim Castelli

Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 20:52:38 -0500

Reply-To: H-NET List on Ethnic History <H-ETHNIC@MSU.EDU>

Sender: H-NET List on Ethnic History <H-ETHNIC@MSU.EDU>

[Rick Perlstein <Perlstein@AOL.COM> writes:]

Actually, as I've heard it, "pluralism" refers to nineteen-fifties-ish melting pot ideology: We love all kinds of folks, as long as they act American. The World War II platoon movie. "Diversity" is more of a 90s attempt to narrate the Great American Sald Bowl: A separate Black war movie, Hispanic war movie, etc.

Rick Perlstein

Date: Thu, 29 Jun 1995 05:44:40 -0500

Reply-To: H-NET List on Ethnic History <H-ETHNIC@MSU.EDU>

Sender: H-NET List on Ethnic History <H-ETHNIC@MSU.EDU>

[Larry Greil <fgreil@BIGVAX.ALFRED.EDU> writes:]

In the sociological and anthropological literature on ethnicity, pluralism is used in several different ways. Most American writers seem to use the term the way Milton Gordon used it-to refer either to the condition of multiple groups existing side by side in relative harmony or to the ideology that says that groups ought to exist side by side in relative harmony. There is a competing, minority, usage (which I prefer), found in the works of J.S. Furnivall and M.G. Smith, among others, which calls a society pluralist if it has multiple sets of duplicatory institutions. By this definition, South African Apartheid, Dutch "pillerization," and Swiss "cross-cutting cleavages" would all be examples of pluralism. In this version of pluralism, groups may or may not be equal. Pluralism has also been used to refer to the view of Riesman, Dahl, and others that American democracy is characterized by competing centers of power which counter-balance one another. Pluralism is one of those terms that seems to be meaningful until we actually start asking people what we mean by it.

Larry Greil