Construct New “Us”– or Hell on Earth

10 10 2006

UPDATE from author’s site:
“The 10/8/06 Financial Times had two misleading articles on this research ‘Study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity’. . . they painted a highly distorted view of our research. For a thoughtful rejoinder, read Financial Time’s editorial on this topic, ‘No Veil on Debate’, 10/10/06.”
From that editorial: “There is overwhelming evidence from around the world that extremists benefit when mainstream politicians refuse to address subjects of public concern…The debate on how to address it, in every country where different communities seek to live happily side-by-side, must continue.”

Nance has been reading the Financial Times and maybe I should follow her example:

. . .A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University’s Robert Putnam, one of the world’s most influential political scientists. His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.

This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it “would have been irresponsible to publish without that”.

The core message of the research was that, “in the presence of diversity, we hunker down”, he said. “We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”

Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in

Los Angeles, “the most diverse human habitation in human history”, but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where “diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians’ picnic”.

When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. “They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” said Prof Putnam. “The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching.”

British Home Office research has pointed in the same direction and Prof Putnam, now working with social scientists at Manchester University, said other European countries would be likely to have similar trends.

His 2000 book, Bowling Alone, on the increasing atomisation of contemporary society, made him an academic celebrity. Though some scholars questioned how well its findings applied outside the US, policymakers were impressed and he was invited to speak at Camp David, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

Prof Putnam stressed, however, that immigration materially benefited both the “importing” and “exporting” societies, and that trends “have been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed”.

In an oblique criticism of Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, who revealed last week he prefers Muslim women not to wear a full veil, Prof Putnam said: “What we shouldn’t do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us.”

Copyright 2006 Financial Times



3 responses

10 10 2006

Driving Favorite Daughter to college this morning I heard Glenn Beck on talk-radio describing a book written by a gay man who went to Denmark for freedom to marry his partner and intending to become a citizen. But after a year living there (says Beck) he instead wrote, “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within” about the demographic death being bred there.
First I’d heard, anybody know more?

Just from Googling I see the author Bruce Bawer previously published “Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity” and that he has a dead-serious blog here.

23 10 2006

It’s an honor to have you visit, Professor Putnam! Thanks for looking around while you were here and taking the time to leave a friendly word — and if you need a new group to which you can apply the diversity-effect theory, I suggest homeschoolers. We are quite diverse (on any scale you could imagine) and also distrustful of each other. Strong causal correlation seems plausible to me! 🙂

28 04 2008
Happy Birthday Harper Lee, Boss Boost to Barack Obama « Cocking A Snook!

[…] characters we care enough about to “step into their skin” for a little while and begin to understand, and become better ourselves for it. ENDORSEMENT: […]

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