Both multiculturalism and melting pot are terms that relate to the subject of diversity in society. These are two different outlooks on cultural diversity. The main difference between multiculturalism and melting pot theories is whether separate cultural groups should be encouraged or whether a country should have one basic cultural norm.
The concept of diversity as a melting pot with people more or less adhering to one cultural norm is said to have preceded the idea of multiple cultures within societies. The main idea of a melting pot is that all of the people in a society would blend together to form one basic cultural norm based on the dominant culture. Critics of this view often suggest that this thinking creates intolerance for cultural differences and favors only the status quo, or dominant culture. Italian political scientist, Giovanni Sartori, disagrees with this criticism. Sartori stresses that many different cultural identities in one country leads to separation and ghettoes.
American historian Francis Fukuyama disagrees with Sartori. According to Fukuyama, society should consist of many different types of social and cultural lifestyles. He sees this multiculturalism as positive for society while Sartoris sees it as negative. Neither multiculturalism nor a melting pot model of diversity is perfect and the effects of the model chosen by a country also depend on legislation or lack thereof.
For example, is a person allowed to wear traditional clothing rather than a uniform at a job that requires its workers to wear one standard uniform? If the traditional dress is allowed in the spirit of multiculturalism, those that agree with Sartori would probably say that this would cause friction and set the person apart even more from his or her peers. Those that agree with Fukuyama, on the other hand, are likely to say that if the cultural dress is not allowed, the person would feel forced to assimilate, or go along with the beliefs and traditions of the dominant culture and not feel fully like himself or herself.
Some Western countries such as the United States had more of a melting pot mentality about diversity before changing to a more multicultural policy by the 1980s. Many factors lead to changes in decisions about whether to back the melting pot approach or the multicultural aspect. Tensions between dominant and other cultures and questions about what constitutes equality are common motivators to rethink a society’s position on cultural diversity.