Social capital: E Pluribus Unum
Robert Putnam, in his study, E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century, pointed out that social networks have value, ethnic diversity will increase, but in the short run, will challenge solidarity, successful diverse societies create new forms of solidarity, and a broader sense of 'we' must be created to for a diverse society to succeed.
Social Networks Have Value
- Networks are valuable, first, to people who are in the networks.
- Citing studies of Granovetter, Burt, and Lin, the study presents that lifetime income is powerfully affected by the quality of networks.
- "In the language of economics," Putnam claims, "social networks often have powerful externalities."
- Although networks have powerful effects on getting things done, there is no guarantee what gets done will be socially beneficial, such as the case of the Al Qaeda network.
Ethnic Diversity, With Its Advantages, Will Increase
- Immigration has risen significantly across the developed nations of the world over the last five decades.
- Putnam suggests "creativity is enhanced by immigration and diversity," citing studies of Simonton, Webber & Donahue, Williams & O’Reilly, and more.
- In general, immigration is associated with drastic economic growth.
- Immigration helps offset the fiscal effects of aging populations of advanced countries.
- Immigration enhances development of sending countries "partly because of remittances from immigrants to their families back home and partly because of the transfer of technology and new ideas through immigrant networks. "
Ethnic Diversity Challenge Social Solidarity
- Putnam suggests that "diversity might actually reduce both in-group and out-group solidarity" and calls it the 'constrict theory,' a term suggested by colleague Abby Williamson.
- Previously, there were two opposing perspectives on the effects of diversity on social connections, namely ‘contact hypothesis’ and ‘conflict theory.’ The former argues that diversity fosters inter-ethnic tolerance and social solidarity, with in-group bridging to out-group, while the latter suggests that diversity fosters out-group distrust and in-group solidarity, with in-group bonding more.
- Robert presented evidence from the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey in 2000, which has a sample size of about 30,000, to back his theory.
- Putnam graphed and analyzed the survey data from "geo-coded" respondents and observed that "people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — that is, to pull in like a turtle. "
- The pattern, according to the study, persists even after testing every conceivable artifactual explanation for the finding, such as self-selection, demographic sensitivity, contextual variation, non-linearity, and inequality.
Successful Immigrant Societies Create New Forms of Social Solidarity
- In the long run, "successful immigrant communities create new forms of social solidarity," dampening the negative effects of diversity by building more inclusive identities.
- The author provided the United States Army as an example of how it "has become a relatively color-blind institution."
- Putnam also mentioned the Italian and Polish Catholics, Russian Jews and other 'races' who immigrated to America a century ago, and how the grandchildren of the immigrants and locals became "comfortable in one another's presence."
- The study also cited the historical complete racial segregation in churches and how the younger generations constructed "religiously based identities that cut across conventional identities."
- "We need to work toward bridging, as well as bonding."
Broader Sense of ‘We’
- To create a broader sense of 'we,' Putnam suggests tolerance for difference and more opportunities for meaningful interaction among ethnic lines.
- The study also recommends expanding public support for training immigrants to acculturate.
- Long-term benefits of immigration and diversity are felt more at the national level. Thus, "there is a strong case for national aid to affected localities."
- "Locally-based programs to reach out to new immigrant communities are a powerful tool for mutual learning," studies suggest.
- E Pluribus Unum, which means "Out of many, one" in English, is the motto on the Great Seal of the United States.
Reception and Criticism
- John Goncalves, a teacher and unity & diversity coordinator from Wheeler School, wrote in his critique that "Putnam’s study, E Pluribus Unum, suggests that the greater the diversity in the community, the more misery."
- The University at Buffalo Associate Professor of Philosophy Ryan Muldoon argued in his paper titled The Paradox of Diversity, that Putnam's new 'we' proposal, "in its attempt to reconstruct a homogeneous society out of a diverse one, is unlikely to succeed. By trying to make diversity more palatable, it reduces the benefits one gets from diversity."
- In the article by Kenneth Newton and Dietlind Stolle, the authors seem to concur with Robert Putnam's findings that "mixed societies may generate their own social, economic, and political problems, but there is nothing inevitable or unavoidable about these."
- Etsuko Kinefuchi concluded that "policies that affirm racial and ethnic diversity are necessary" to realize Putnam's broader sense of "we" in his study, Challenges of E Pluribus Unum: Ethnic and Racial Diversity and Public Policy.