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Summary Article: Cultural Diversity
From The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences

The variety of different cultures within a single society or geographical area. This may be represented by a number of distinct personal characteristics, including (but not limited to) a mix of disparate languages, races, religions, and ethnicities within a single social group. The amount of cultural diversity may vary depending on the area of focus; when speaking of cultural diversity, one can refer to anything from a seemingly diverse workplace to a relatively heterogeneous nation-state. On the structural level, cultural diversity may be enforced through policies of multiculturalism, or the attempt to preserve specific cultural heritages within one society or state. These policies can be aimed at incoming immigrant groups or long-standing but egregiously disenfranchised minorities.

While proponents of multiculturalism believe that such strategies promote greater tolerance and respect for marginalized populations, opponents argue that multicultural agendas may actually lead to greater ethnic strife and social division. Another major argument has centered on the importance of cultural diversity in educational environments. According to many scholars, a diverse cultural environment can be both intellectually and socially healthy; students not only gain a variety of different perspectives in the classroom, but they also learn how to properly function with people from all different walks of life. Although not the only argument for affirmative action (nor even the most prominent one), advocates of cultural diversity thus often emphasize this beneficial aspect of such policies.

Businesses have also begun to stress the value of fostering cultural diversity. This includes not only employing people of different races and ethnicities (although this is certainly the primary concern) but also allowing qualified minority candidates into management or high-level positions. Indeed, many businesses have begun to offer seminars or workshops specifically tailored to celebrate and encourage greater cultural diversity in the workplace. For more information, see United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (n.d.) in the bibliography.

See also

Affirmative Action (political science, public administration), Discrimination

Copyright © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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