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Robert Putnam on the Negative Effects of Diversity

Summary:
Robert D. Putnam’s paper “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty‐First Century” (2007) should be required reading for multiculturalist leftists. From the abstract:“Ethnic diversity is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration. In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities. Illustrations of becoming comfortable with diversity are drawn from the US military, religious institutions, and earlier waves of American immigration.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007.00176.x/abstractPutnam (2007: 137) begins by asking how increasing ethnic diversity and multiculturalism in the Western world affect social cohesion, or what Putnam calls “social capital,” in terms of social “reciprocity and trustworthiness.

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Robert D. Putnam’s paper “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty‐First Century” (2007) should be required reading for multiculturalist leftists.

From the abstract:

“Ethnic diversity is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration. In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities. Illustrations of becoming comfortable with diversity are drawn from the US military, religious institutions, and earlier waves of American immigration.”
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007.00176.x/abstract
Putnam (2007: 137) begins by asking how increasing ethnic diversity and multiculturalism in the Western world affect social cohesion, or what Putnam calls “social capital,” in terms of social “reciprocity and trustworthiness.”

High levels of social cohesion (or social capital) lead to societies with much better outcomes with respect to everything from economic, social, and health outcomes to happiness (Putnam 2007: 138).

Putnam is of course a multiculturalist liberal: he thinks mass immigration and ethnic diversity are desirable and a social asset in the long run (Putnam 2007: 138).

However, Putnam argues that in the short run mass immigration and diversity break up social cohesion and inhibit social capital (Putnam 2007: 138).

Let us examine Putnam’s analysis of ethnic diversity and its negative consequences below:

(1) Putnam (2007: 141–142) first notes that the “contact hypothesis” (beloved by liberals) argues that diversity enhances inter-ethnic tolerance and social solidarity.

Unfortunately, says Putnam, most empirical studies refute the “contact hypothesis” and actually provide evidence for the “conflict theory”: the latter being that

“ … diversity fosters out-group distrust and in-group solidarity. On this theory, the more we are brought into physical proximity with people of another race or ethnic background, the more we stick to ‘our own’ and the less we trust the ‘other’ …” (Putnam 2007: 142).
Putnam cites an impressive range of studies in support of this as follows: Blumer 1958; Blalock 1967; Giles and Evans 1986; Quillian 1995 and 1996; Brewer and Brown 1998; Taylor 1998; Bobo 1999; Bobo and Tuan 2006.

Now Putnam does conclude that even the “conflict theory” is not exactly correct. But his own conclusions and thesis are even worse than the “conflict theory,” as we will see below.

(2) in terms of workgroups, as the internal diversity of groups increases (whether in terms of age, ethnicity, etc.), the more one finds lower group cohesion and lower satisfaction. Putnam cites evidence from both the US and Europe: Jackson et al. 1991; Cohen and Bailey 1997; Keller 2001; Webber and Donahue 2001.

(3) evidence from many nations shows that, as ethnic diversity increases, the more social trust falls (see Newton and Delhey 2005; Anderson and Paskeviciute 2006). Even worse, empirical studies relating to local regions of the US, Australia, Sweden, Canada and Britain show that rising ethnic diversity is accompanied by falling social trust and sometimes even falling investment in public goods (see Poterba 1997; Alesina et al. 1999; Alesina and La Ferrara 2000, 2002; Costa and Kahn 2003;Vigdor 2004; Glaeser and Alesina 2004; Leigh 2006; Jordahl and Gustavsson 2006; Soroka et al. 2007; Pennant 2005).

(4) even in the Third World, diversity brings deleterious effects. Studies show that in Pakistan, with rising clan or religious differences, this diversity is corrected with the failure of the maintenance of collective infrastructure (see Karlan 2002; Miguel and Gugerty 2005; Khwaja 2006).

(5) in behavioural experiments involving things like the prisoners-dilemma or ultimatum games, with a greater diversity of players, the more players are likely to cheat and defect (see Putnam 2007: 143).

(6) from his own reading of the evidence, Putnam himself suggests that increasing diversity may actually decrease both in-group social cohesion and out-group solidarity, a thesis which he labels “constrict theory” (Putnam 2007: 144). The evidence for this is given below in (7).

(7) Putnam cites the “Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey,” which was conducted in the Unites States in 2000 with a sample size of about 30,000 people (Putnam 2007: 144).

The results of this study are devastating to liberal multiculturalism: it shows that as diversity rises in a community and ethnic homogeneity is reduced, so inter-racial trust falls (Putnam 2007: 147). So it turns out:

“Inter-racial trust is relatively high in homogeneous South Dakota and relatively low in heterogeneous San Francisco or Los Angeles. The more ethnically diverse the people we live around, the less we trust them. This pattern may be distressing normatively, but it seems to be consistent with conflict theory.” (Putnam 2007: 147).
Even more devastating is the evidence that, as diversity rises, the more people tend to distrust their neighbours and even people like themselves, even of the same ethnic group or race (Putnam 2007: 148–149).

(8) Increasing ethnic diversity also leads to all sorts of other deleterious consequences, as follows:

(1) decreasing confidence in government and the news media;

(2) lower frequency of voting registration;

(3) decreasing expectation that others will provide cooperation necessary for collective action;

(4) fewer people participating in community projects;

(5) less giving to charity;

(6) fewer close friends;

(7) less happiness and the perception of a lower quality of life;

(8) more disengagement from the world and more time spent watching television (Putnam 2007: 149–150).

(9) In short,
“Diversity seems to trigger not in-group/out-group division, but anomie or social isolation. In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ – that is, to pull in like a turtle.” (Putnam 2007: 149).
Putnam concludes that these findings support his own “constrict theory” of the negative consequences of diversity (Putnam 2007: 149).

While diversity does not necessarily increase inter-ethnic hatred,

“… inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbours, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television. Note that this pattern encompasses attitudes and behavior, bridging and bonding social capital, public and private connections. Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us.” (Putnam 2007: 150–151).
The findings are also true regardless of poverty, economic inequality, or the affluence of a community (Putnam 2007: 153, 157). Even though some differences exist, they are generally true even with respect to men and women, liberal and conservative people, whites and non-white people, and even young people and older generations (Putnam 2007: 153–154).

Increasing diversity per se always seems to have the same negative effect (Putnam 2007: 153).

Most notably, the negative effects of diversity are very clear and significant amongst liberals as well (Putnam 2007: 154), despite the widespread myth that liberals love diversity.

And even amongst young people the somewhat more receptive attitude to diversity may be nothing but a passing phase of life (Putnam 2007: 155).

Though Putnam does not discuss the issue, it seems rather obvious that greater diversity is more likely to destroy the chances for a democratic socialist society, a vision so beloved by the left.

If anything, democratic socialism requires a high trust and hence highly homogeneous society. Diversity is more likely to reduce people to atomised, isolated people, disconnected and distrustful of the people around them.

Another issue not in Putnam’s paper is this: do the negative consequences of diversity also include a lowering of the birth rate? Maybe it does in some minor way or maybe not, but it is an interesting question, nevertheless.

Putnam’s liberal spin on all this emerges from p. 159 of the paper.

In the long run, Putnam contends, America will be able to overcome the terrible, divisive effects of increasing ethnic diversity. At first, he appears to endorse the melting pot assimilation model of liberal nationalism as the solution (Putnam 2007: 160–161).

However, Putnam stumbles badly when he discusses the history of American immigration as a model for how to solve the diversity conundrum (Putnam 2007: 162). As I have shown here, the degree of ethnic diversity in American history is grossly exaggerated and a subject of liberal myth-making. Before the 1960s, most immigrants were Europeans and mostly Christians (albeit of different denominations). These immigrants were from broadly compatible European cultures, and the increasing negative effects of diversity back then (Putnam 2007: 162) were more easily solved in the long run by the melting pot model of assimilation. But that model may not work with profoundly different Third World cultures that mass immigration brings into the West today. Even more importantly, as Putnam himself notes, the era of mass immigration into America was largely halted from 1924 to 1964 (Putnam 2007: 162), to give time for assimilation to proceed. Today mass immigration is unending, even accelerating, and there is no halt in sight.

So, in short, what is the hard evidence Putnam can provide that in the long run everything will be alright with accelerating mass immigration and diversity?

Well, it turns out that it’s all based on a “hunch” that Putnam has:

“Nevertheless, my hunch is that at the end we shall see that the challenge is best met not by making ‘them’ like ‘us’, but rather by creating a new, more capacious sense of ‘we’, a reconstruction of diversity that does not bleach out ethnic specificities, but creates overarching identities that ensure that those specificities do not trigger the allergic, ‘hunker down’ reaction.” (Putnam 2007: 163–164).
Well, I am sorry, that is not good enough. What if your hunch is wrong?

The hand-waving assertion that, in the long run, everything will be just fine with multiculturalism and mass immigration is nothing but faith-based social science. In Europe, we are already seeing the failure and the beginning of the collapse of this extreme multiculturalist faith.

So what if the pessimistic critics of mass immigration policy are correct?:

My own conclusion is this: the evidence seems clear that the regressive left obsession with diversity and mass immigration is doing horrendous harm to the possibility for an effective Social Democratic vision for the Western world with left heterodox economic policies, and, above all, to the possibility of a democratic socialism, which entails a high trust and, whether leftists like it or not, a highly homogeneous society.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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Lord Keynes
Realist Left social democrat, left wing, blogger, Post Keynesian in economics, but against the regressive left, against Postmodernism, against Marxism

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