The discussion so far suggests that the political dimension of a society is of considerable relevance to the sociological understanding of race relations and this is as true for multi-cultural Britain today as it was for the imperial order considered in the last chapter. Issues or problems of race and ethnic relations are discussed and solutions sought in a variety of institutions of civil society, but the resolution of such problems is generally pursued within the political system. Of course, sometimes these problems are deliberately avoided, often because a political system may not have the capacity or will to address them, or their avoidance may serve powerful interests. As we noted in Chapter 2, the attitude of the imperial British state towards the multiplicity of peoples throughout the empire was important in shaping the patterns of race relations that developed. But in post-imperial Britain, the unitary state has not discouraged these groups’ adaptive political capabilities. Thus, whilst society may be described as multi-cultural, the state remains the traditionally unified construction it became from the seventeenth century. To be sure, in the late 1970s there were talks of devolution of state power to Celtic Britain, and in October 1997 the Blair government conducted two referenda in Scotland and Wales to gain support for such devolution.
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