Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Robert Putnam and Diversity

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam on the problems and benefitsof diversity:

Ethnic diversity will increase substantially in virtually all modern societies over the next several decades, in part because of immigration. Increased immigration and diversity are not only inevitable, but over the long run they are also desirable. Ethnic diversity is, on balance, an important social asset, as the history of my own country demonstrates.

In the short to medium run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity challenge social solidarity and inhibit social capital. In support of this provocative claim I wish to adduce some new evidence, drawn primarily from the United States. In order to elaborate on the details of this new evidence, this portion of my article is longer and more technical than my discussion of the other two core claims, but all three are equally important.

In the medium to long run, on the other hand, successful immigrant societies create new forms of social solidarity and dampen the negative effects of diversity by constructing new, more encompassing identities. Thus, the central challenge for modern, diversifying societies is to create a new, broader sense of ‘we’.

Putnam, Robert D. (2006) "E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century." Scandinavian Political Studies 30, 137-74

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