alien & sedition.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
  And Yet Civilization Survives

Is it just me, or does this seem rather overblown? John Leo writes that sociologist Robert Putnam (of "Bowling Alone" fame) is "very nervous" about releasing data he's accumulated suggesting that diversity reduces social cohesion within a community:
In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This proved true in communities large and small, from big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston to tiny Yakima, Washington, rural South Dakota, and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say that they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70 percent to 80 percent.

Diversity does not produce “bad race relations,” Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend “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.”
I live in one of those "diverse" places. Anyone "huddl[ing] unhappily" in front of the television (and how does Putnam know that they do it "unhappily"?) is missing out on a lot, but more to the point: when you think about it, how is this data so astonishing? Of course people living in small, homogeneous towns in the Dakotas feel they have more in common with their neighbors, and act accordingly. But -- and no offense meant to any readers in those states, honestly -- who wants to live in a small homegeneous town in the Dakotas? All I mean is, "to each his own" is a phrase that cuts more than one way.

And on another level: community cohesion and solidarity are important, but it's a diverse, cosmopolitan world, and aren't the kinds of cohesion and solidarity that can't/won't account for that fact often the kinds of cohesion and solidarity you don't want to see?

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"And Yet Civilization Survives"
not always!

Germans and Jews had lots of contact pre-WW2, so did slaves and slave-holders, Crips and Bloods, Hutus and Tutsis etc. etc.
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