Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Equal Opportunity in a Pluralistic Society

James W. Nickel

The United States has never been culturally or religiously homogeneous, but its diversity has greatly increased over the last century. Although the U.S. was first a multicultural nation through conquest and enslavement, its present diversity is due equally to immigration. In this paper I try to explain the difference it makes for one area of thought and policy – equal opportunity – if we incorporate cultural and religious pluralism into our national self-image. Formulating and implementing a policy of equal opportunity is more difficult in diverse, pluralistic countries than it is in homogeneous ones. My focus is cultural and religious diversity in the United States, but my conclusions will apply to many other countries – including ones whose pluralism is found more in religion than in culture.