The Epic Ideological Struggle of Our Global Era: Multiculturalism versus Homogenization


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service


We live in a global era! This is a fact misunderstood, denied, distorted, or ignored, or used to for advantage by those with power and privilege. Our lives and fortunes are interdependent. Single, isolated events, once unknown or disregarded, now generate and multiply ripples across the world. Notions of direct Aristotelian cause-effect relations among events are inaccurate. Complex Galilean relations of simultaneous and interactive understanding of events and forces are required. Causal explanations informed by ideologies seeking control and domination through uniformity can only result in conflict. Epic ideological struggles are at hand.

Amid our global era, dominated in thought and action by a few nations, we are witnessing a struggle between homogenization versus heterogeneity. Uniformity versus differences is appearing at all levels. It is a struggle for diversity versus imposed identity. While past decades were defined as struggles for world domination between communism and capitalism, our global era has given rise to ideological struggles across technological, political, religious, and economic efforts to establish a mass global society – a world order – promoting and sustained by “homogenization.”

For those seeking control, uniformity, and conformity, differences – diversity — in a mass society are seen as sources of distraction and disruption. Mass surveillance, monitoring, and archiving are prefer uniformity. Individual and group variations are being compelled to yield privacy, rights, and variations in live styles to pressures for an ordered and planned society – homogenized in all areas. Within this context, multiculturalism, as an ideology, is considered a foe.

Uniformity, Conformity, Compliance: The New Orthodoxy

Developments in information processing and technologies are exercising powerful influences on social, economic, political, and moral systems. They are enabling and facilitating forces in power to control and dominate variation — diversity — favoring efficiency and compliance with uniformity. Differences are targets for imposing order. They are considered sources of “chaos” or error to be subdued and integrated into a homogenized world in which “order” is the ethos. But chaos is the fruit of diversity – and diversity, is the source and expression of life itself. Efforts after order – rooted in the assertion of control by those with power, wealth, and position, serve narrow interests. Ultimately, oppression emerges as arbiter.

The inability of those in positions of power to challenges to their preferred ideology of “homogeneity,” is the major struggle of our times – an ideological struggle being imposed upon the world of variation, in favor of an ideology of uniformity unsuited for our global era. The myriad of differences in thought, appearance, and ways-of-life in varied expressions, face extinction from the massive power invested in monolithic and monopolistic proportions in different industries and services including Big Ag, Big Education, Big Energy, Big Government, Big Medicine, Big Phar, and Big Military. The excessive proportion eliminates efforts after change in locations of power. There is an inherent ideology in all these “Bigs” – an ideology favoring dominance and control. There is no room for variation!

Multiculturalism: A Competing Ideology

Multiculturalism is an ideology. An ideology is a systematic set of beliefs that articulate and define a preferred or favored vision of a way-of-life or governance or social formation. In many known ideologies, specific assumptions, premises, and historical foundations and arguments are advanced to promote and defend the ideologies adoption or empowerment. Uses are often made of symbols, myths, and historical events and forces to enhance the appeal of ideologies, sometimes bringing them to mythic proportions. Scores of ideologies exist, especially within the economic, social, and political areas of thought and action. These ideologies often blend into one another in a bewildering confluence eluding an easy identification of the ideology’s history, foundations, and purposes.

Examples of ideologies shaping individual and nation behavior include capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism, feminism, Zionism, Marxism, militarism, libertarianism, state-ism, and anarchism. These examples embody different disciplinary (e.g., philosophy, economic, history, theology) and societal sectors (e.g., government, judicial, military, education, religion/faith-based) areas. Often times, they co-opt religious/faith based, moral, and media resources to further support goals and ambitions. Nothing is as powerful as beliefs rooted in self-righteous justification in the cause of god or a supreme being. The use of force, violence, vilification, valorization, and legal advantages to promote “causes” is not uncommon. The concentration of power in an ideology’s movement can lead to excessive control and domination, gathering force as they become “crusaders” buoyed by good intentions and purpose.

The ideology of Multiculturalism is based on an appreciation and promotion of diversity among various cultural, ethnic, and racial groups. Multiculturalism considers diversity an essential resource for survival because it adds the virtues of resiliency derived from variation, alternatives, and choices in belief, behavior and world views. It keeps options open. Fowers and Davidov (2006), wrote a “glowing” tribute entitled the “Virtue of Multiculturalism,” endorsing the essential need for Multiculturalism. There is both implicit and explicit recognition “cultural” diversity” reflects “life’s” diversity by expanding horizons of possibilities. When Octavio Paz, Mexican Noble Prize winner in Literature, claimed, “Life is diversity, death is uniformity,” Paz was calling attention to the fact diversity is the very nature of life — an expression and revelation of life’s abundant manifestations and displays. Marsella (2011) shares this view, and has written of Lifeism, an ideology positioning “humans” as a part of life, rather than life’s dominant and preferred expression.

Multiculturalism as an ideology evolved in response to the events, forces, and personalities of the turbulent years and tears of change and social upheaval between the 1950-1980 years. The post WWII years, witnessed major socio-political changes and upheavals in the United States and the world, converging and consummating in new awareness and appreciation of the importance of diversity, justice, inclusion, political correctness, and the politics of identity. All found support in a multicultural ideology respecting human rights, equality, and dignity.

Multiple and Varied Cultures

These years experienced major cultural changes and massive social movements. There was a rising awareness — consciousness — “culture” was a critical concept, and a major force in shaping individual and collective behavior. It became clear that “culture” was too critical to be reserved for esoteric studies of exotic tribes by anthropologists. Culture was present in the lives of all human beings both internally and externally. Table 1 lists some major social, economic, and political events, forces, and people shaping the emergence of contemporary Multiculturalism as an ideology.

Table 1:

Examples of Forces, Events, and People Associated with Multiculturalism

(Circa Post WW II Period – alphabetical order)

  • Assassinations and Overthrows
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Consciousness of Ideologies
  • Counter-Culture Movements
  • Developments in Information and Communication Technologies
  • Drug Subcultures (e.g., Marijuana, Cocaine, Hallucinogens)
  • Ethno-Cultural Conflicts/Ethnic Cleansing
  • Fall of Berlin Wall
  • Feminist Revolution
  • Globalization
  • Liberation Psychologies
  • Massive International Migrations Waves
  • New Political Alliances and Unions (e.g., EU, NATO)
  • New World Order Efforts
  • Post Modernism
  • Racial Protests and Riots
  • Post WWII Colonial Wars and Liberations (Africa, India, Indonesia)
  • Refugee and IDP Problems
  • Vietnam War, Balkan Wars,
  • Wars and Conflicts in Middle-East and West Asia
  • War on Poverty (Johnson Era)

Understanding Culture

Although culture had long been a topic of study, especially in anthropology and history, social upheavals of the 1950-1980s brought an acute awareness of the socio-political contexts of culture. There was a liberating recognition “culture!” Colonialism was revealed, not as an inevitable unfolding of change as “civilized” progress, but as invasive and exploitive abuses to control and suppress of mind, behavior, and social position formations. Minority populations, conquered people, and occupied nations understood the cultural relativism, and the possibilities of release and escape from the chains of dominant social, political, and economic orders. The term “culture” was applied with accuracy and regularity as a noun/adjective: the culture of poverty, the culture of racism, the culture of violence, the culture of oppression, the culture of colonialism, the culture of war. Culture was no longer confined to an ethnic tradition or identity; it was recognized as a complex clustering of self-perpetuating historical, societal, and moral forces, shaping and being shaped, by hidden ethoses, institutions, and definitions of personhood (e.g., “institutional racism”).

Culture was now to be studied, understood, and scrutinized as an explanation for grasping and understanding past, present, and future. Social, political, and economic, leaders with insights into the abuses of history maintained in dominant cultures challenged sources of domination and control. Leaders became lightning rods for social change – voices crystallizing protests, and illuminating abuses and violence inherent in power asymmetries. It was a time for change in the social fabric and the moral order.

The tolls of raising consciousness regarding marginalized people brought violence and death to many leaders. Consider the examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Caesar Chavez, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Black Panthers, Ignacio Martin-Baro, as well as elected national leaders considered threats to existing Western social orders, including Mossadegh in Iran, Allende in Chile, Mandela in South Africa, Zapata in Mexico, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. Here William Blum’s (2004) book, Killing Hope, Stephen Kinzer’s (2006) book, Overthrow, and Chalmers Johnson (2010), book, Dismantling the Empire, become essential reading – harbingers of our future, by acknowledging past crimes and offenses. The social, economic, and political roots of “culture became the path to for understanding injustice and resisting oppression. Multiculturalism became an ideology for correcting for history’s abuses. Colonization is always colonization of mind (Goodman & Gorski, 2014).

Multiculturalism in Counseling, Psychology, and Psychiatry

It was only a matter of time for revolutionary thinkers including Paulo Friere (1997) in his volumes on pedagogies, Ignacio Martin-Baro (1994), in his volume Writings for a Liberation Psychology, recognized the inherent abuses associated within Western psychologies of political domination, repression, and control. Tod Sloan (1997) acknowledged this reality when he concluded Western psychology was a source for perpetuating “Westernization” as an ideology, replete with its ill-suited values and methods for a changing world?

Multiculturalism is about asymmetries in power. It shapes accepted codes of behavior and ethics. Multiculturalism is an ideology seeking changes in the social condition. “Multiculturalism” would require human service professional and scientific organizations (e.g., American Counseling Association, American Psychological Association, and American Psychiatric Association), and individual practitioners to reconsider their ethical and professional standards training, research, and practice. More than three decades ago, Pedersen and Marsella (1982), questioned whether APA ethics were suited to the emerging world of a global era. Their publication caused consternation as it became obvious existing professional ethical codes empowered and legitimized bias and abuse. Many new fields of practice and inquiry emerged amid the times including:

  • Critical psychology
  • Cross-cultural counseling
  • Cross-cultural psychology
  • Cultural psychology
  • Culture and psychopathology/mental health
  • Ethno-cultural psychology
  • Ethnic and racial psychologies (e.g., American Indian Psychology, Asian psychology, Black psychology, Hispanic Psychology)
  • Global-community psychology
  • Indigenous psychology
  • International psychology
  • Multicultural psychology
  • Post-modern psychology
  • Psychological anthropology
  • Racial psychology
  • Social Justice counseling
  • Transcultural mental health
  • Transcultural psychiatry

Multiculturalism, in its counseling, psychology, and psychiatry manifestations, does not ignore the issue of “power” in social relations and the human condition. Rather, it acknowledges and emphasizes the role of the distribution of “power” in every domain of human activity. All relations are ultimately about power and its distribution. Even those areas claiming immunity from political interference and power distribution are, in fact, subject to it by guiding thought and practices according to the preferences, wishes, and concerns of those in power. This includes the role, function, and meaning of science. It was all about liberation! Watkins and Shulman (2008), describe this as well anyone I have read. A new vocabulary or lexicon emerged, each term carrying with it the denotation and connotation of emancipation:

Civility                          Inclusion-Exclusion
Colonization               Justice
Conformity                 Orthodoxy
Decency                       Other
Dignity                         Pluralism
Diversity                     Political Correctness
Equality                     Power
Empathy                    Pride
Ethnocentrism        Racism
Freedom                   Social Order
Hegemony               Social Responsibility
Homogeneity          Tradition
Humiliation            Uniformity

 The term “inclusive” became popular to describe to the importance of “including” people – giving them access and acceptance – because they had been ignored or denied a spectrum of opportunities and services. The playing field was being expanded, but it did not guarantee those in power would yielded their largesse. We know that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and this was the case in our nation and around the world as Western political and economic dominance pursued hegemony, and the consequences of this for social responsibility (e.g., Finkel & Moghaddam, 2005; Mustakova-Possardt, et al, 2013)

With hegemony came abuses of invading and occupying another nation — often a third- world nation — by imposing and infusing cultural values and traditions. It was a new way to conquer and control using American popular culture as the strategy for control and domination (i.e., individualism, consumerism, commodification, competition, materialism, celebritization, corruption, technology). This was now the pathway for forcing a “homogenization” of world cultures. Differences existed, but efforts were made to deny them because they challenged the hegemony of those in power. The task for the government/corporate system was invasion by “cultural” conquest, and “colonization of mind” (e.g., Goodman & Gorski, 2014).

Amidst an ocean of ideological struggles in a global era, it is clear “Multiculturalism” was, and is, the essential ideology for a global era! Accepting and implementing this ideology among individuals, groups, and nations remains the task of our times. In contrast to homogenization, the preferred ideology of those in power and position seeking control and domination, Multiculturalism embraces the reality of life’s diversity and differences – the beauty of variation. All other ideologies “pale” in complexion, complexity, and comparison.

References and Suggested Readings

American Psychological Association (2003; Recent Revisions). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research practice, and organization change for psychologists. American Psychologist, 58, 377-402.

Blum, W. (2004). Killing hope: US Military and CIA interventions since WWII. Monroe ME: Common Courage Press.

Fowers, E., & Davidov, B. (2006). The virtue of multiculturalism: Personal transformation, character, and openness to the other. American Psychologist, 61, 581-594.

Finkel, N, & Moghaddam, F. (2005). The psychology of rights and duties. Washington DC: American Psychological Association

Freire, P. (1997). Pedagogy of the oppressed. NY: Continuum Press.

Goodman, R., & Gorksi, P. (Eds.) (2014). Decolonizing “multicultural” counseling through social justice. NY: Springer SBM

Kinzer, S. (2006). Overthrow: America’s century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq. NY: Times Books (Henry Holt).

Johnson, C. (2010). Dismantling the empire: America’s last best hope. NY: Metropolitan Books.

Marsella, A.J. (2006). Justice in a global age: Becoming counselors to the world. International Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 19, 121-132.

Marsella, A.J. (2009). Diversity in a global era: The context and consequences of differences. International Counseling Psychology Quarterly,22, 119-136.

Marsella, A.J. (2011). Nonkilling psychology and lifeism: I am what am. In J. Pim & D. Christie (Eds.) Nonkilling Psychology (pp. 361-378). Honolulu, Hi: Center for Global Non-Violence.

Martin-Baro, I. (See A. Aron & S. Corne (Eds.) (1994). Writings for a liberation psychology. Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Press. (Detailed listing of Ignacio Martin-Baro’s writings).

Moghaddam, F. (2008). Multiculturalism and intergroup relations: Psychological implications for democracy in global context. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Mustakova-Possart, E, Lyubansky, M., Basseches, M., & Oxenberg, J. (2013). Toward a socially responsible psychology for a global era. NY: Springer SBM.

Pedersen, P. (1999). Multiculturalism as a fourth force. Philadelphia, PA: Brunner & Mazel.

Pedersen, P. (2004). 110 Experiences for multicultural learning. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Pedersen, P. & Marsella, A.J. (1982). The ethical crisis in cross-cultural counseling and psychotherapy. Professional Psychology, 13, 492-500.

Sloan, T. (1996). Psychological research methods in developing countries. In S. Carr & J. Schumaker (Eds.) Psychology and the developing world. NY: Praeger.

Watkins, M., & Shulman, H. (2008). Toward psychologies of liberation. NY: Palgrave/McMillan.


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known nationally and internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 15 edited books, and more than 250 articles, chapters, book reviews, and popular pieces. He can be reached at


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