Sunday, December 22, 2013

Important research: diversity is incompatible with community

Liberals believe that solidarity is based not on relatedness between a group of people but on otherness. It is with the marginalised other that we are to achieve solidarity.

And so liberals envisage diverse communities which express communal solidarity: diversity is our strength is the liberal mantra.

Some years ago Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard University cast doubt on the liberal project when he discovered that diversity and solidarity don't go well together:
The evidence that diversity and solidarity are negatively correlated comes from many different settings.

Professor Putnam found that there was less trust in highly diverse communities and that individuals tended to "hunker down" in such communities:
Diversity does not produce ‘bad race relations’ or ethnically-defined group hostility, our findings suggest. Rather, 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.

Now another important research project has come to similar conclusions. Two researchers from the University of Michigan, Zachary Neal and Jennifer Watling Neal, decided to test whether it was possible to build diverse and cohesive communities.

The answer? A clear no:
After 20 million-plus simulations, the authors found that the same basic answer kept coming back: The more diverse or integrated a neighborhood is, the less socially cohesive it becomes, while the more homogenous or segregated it is, the more socially cohesive.

Their simulations of more than 20 million virtual “neighborhoods” demonstrate a troubling paradox: that community and diversity may be fundamentally incompatible goals. As the authors explain, integration “provides opportunities for intergroup contact that are necessary to promote respect for diversity, but may prevent the formation of dense interpersonal networks that are necessary to promote sense of community.”

And this:
These findings are sobering. Because homophily and proximity are so ingrained in the way humans interact, the models demonstrated that it was impossible to simultaneously foster diversity and cohesion “in all reasonably likely worlds.” In fact, the trends are so strong that no effective social policy could combat them, according to Neal. As he put it in a statement, “In essence, when it comes to neighborhood desegregation and social cohesion, you can't have your cake and eat it too.”

In brief, these researchers are now convinced that you can either have diversity (desegregation) or social cohesion. One or the other.

The journalist covering the story suggested to the researchers that it might still be possible to have diversity at a city level rather than a neighbourhood one:
On a more positive note, it may be possible to have such sorting by neighborhoods and still have diverse cities. I asked Neal whether he thought that cities that were made up of a federation or mosaic of distinct neighborhoods were more likely to succeed than ones comprised of several more fully mixed neighborhoods.

That would, at least, give some room for distinct communities to exist. The traditionalist ideal, however, is to enact the same principle at a global level, in other words, to enjoy the diversity of distinct national cultures. It's more realistic to have cultures maintain themselves at the national level rather than a neighbourhood one.

However, credit to the researchers and to the journalist for accepting the scientific findings that you build community (solidarity) on the basis of like qualities or relatedness (homophily) rather than on diversity. Right now, getting the underlying principle right is what is most important.

One final point. In traditional communities, in which solidarity is based on forms of relatedness, there is still a diversity of sorts. Such communities have a deep sense of solidarity but there is still diversity based on distinct class and regional cultures. That remains the best way to reconcile the enjoyment of both diversity and community.


  1. "...a troubling paradox: that community and diversity may be fundamentally incompatible goals."

    I'm not sure the word "paradox" means what they think it means.

  2. "...a troubling paradox: that community and diversity may be fundamentally incompatible goals."

    How is that a paradox? Most sensible people have always known that "diversity" and "community" are mutually exclusive.

    Australia's early political elite certainly understood that homogeneity was the key to successful nation-building.

    To quote Australian urban anthropologist Frank Salter:

    "Cross-cultural comparisons reveal the wisdom of Australia's first prime minister Edmund Barton who believed that ethnic homogeneity must be the cornerstone of Australian nation-building. More ethnically homogeneous nations are better able to build public goods, are more democratic, less corrupt, have higher productivity and less inequality, are more trusting and care more for the disadvantaged, develop social and economic capital faster, have lower crime rates, are more resistant to external shocks, and are better global citizens, for example by giving more foreign aid. Moreover, they are less prone to civil war, the greatest source of violent death in the twentieth century."

    Salter has noted that "multi-ethnic societies are often confronted with the problem of discrimination and group conflict." He has also pointed out that it is often the original majority group who suffer the most as a result of immigration-induced diversity.

    Salter again:

    "They [the original majority] are pushed out of areas of employment and business; they suffer from the higher rates of crime often shown by immigrant communities; they become the minority is poorer suburbs; and they sense a threat to their continuity as a people belonging to a particular place. They observe that the newcomers have a different group identity, one that excludes them, and that where there were few, now there are many. They sense, sometimes with justification, that they are losing their country."

    "When Diversity Meets Ethnic Kinship: Interesting Times?", The Independent Australian, Issue No. 16, Spring 2008

    Tragically, diversity worship, driven by anti-white, anti-Anglo sentiment, is now so firmly entrenched in Australia that no amount of social upheaval, ethnic crime or community fragmentation will slow the multicultural onslaught.

    Oh, and before the multiculturalists stamp it out, Merry Christmas everybody!

  3. "More ethnically homogeneous nations are better able to build public goods, are more democratic"

    In fact democracy can only work in ethnically homogeneous nations.