Those who follow the grand pronouncements of Western mainstream politicians will be familiar with a certain fashionable mantra: ‘diversity is our strength’. When our leaders care to explain what they mean by this, among myriad meaningless platitudes, they essentially claim that large-scale (read: unlimited) immigration from Africa and Asia is an inherent good for Western societies, making our future all the more promising. In fact, they suggest that mass immigration from the third world may be the antidote to all our ills: economic, social and spiritual.
However, at the risk of giving offence (today’s ‘original sin’), we might allow ourselves to ask a basic question: is ‘diversity’ really a strength? If so, it should be relatively easy to demonstrate how, should it not? With this in mind, we turn to an important concept: ‘social capital’.
‘Social capital’ is defined as the ‘amount of mutual trust, social cooperation and willingness to sacrifice for the common good in a group.’ Examples may include the extent to which mothers allow their children to play outside, the strength of bonds and sense of community in a neighbourhood, and willingness to pay taxes to the government (local or national). And, according to a leading American social scientist, Robert Putnam, ‘social capital’ is one of the first things we lose as our societies become more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.
Putnam, who is considered on the political left, initially published his work on ‘social capital’ to widespread praise from various socialist thinkers and liberals – however, this was short-lived, as when Putnam began to dig deeper, he was forced to concede that ‘diversity’ was not necessarily a strength and as the ethnic make-up of a society widens, the amount of social capital declines. Bad news certainly for proponents of multiculturalism and mass immigration, who – like our politicians – see no evil, hear no evil, and say no evil when it comes to this issue.
Putnam’s studies demonstrate that it is precisely when different ethnicities live together (or are forced to live together) that social capital shared between them is measurably eroded. The effect results in groups living apart with ghettoization and ethnically-concentrated towns and cities. So-called ‘white flight’ is a perfect illustration of this, where people of European descent move from areas that have become progressively non-white, or ‘diverse’, wishing to still live around their own people – people like themselves.
The practical effects of declining social capital certainly aren’t limited to neighbourhoods or other communities at large. Putnam has also stated that ‘across workgroups in the United States, as well as in Europe, internal heterogeneity is generally associated with lower group cohesion, lower satisfaction and higher turnover.’ ‘Diversity’ in the workplace seems to result in causing the same kind of tension and fracturing, which then requires more resources and effort to overcome – if indeed it can be overcome.
Ultimately, Putnam’s study (which included over 30,000 people from a number of cultural and ethnic backgrounds) concluded that the decline of ‘social capital’ means:
- The more diversity – the less democracy. Conflict between cultures and ethnicities leads to intolerance and radicalization.
- The more diversity – the less social progress and positive change. A cauldron of cultures and ethnicities entails a lack of faith in grass roots movements, innovation and healthy transformation; there is less and less room for cooperation.
- The more diversity – the less social activity. Due to the breakdown of social capital, people living in diverse areas are less socially active than people in homogenous societies, not wishing to mix and get to know people as much.
- The more diversity – the less enthusiasm for life. Due to the erosion of social capital, people have less faith in themselves, their community, the future and their nation.
All of this is can be seen as the logical result of Globalisation. The promises of an interconnected world made up of free-acting individuals have now given way. Instead, the reality consists of de-rooted and atomized Westerners struggling to contend with robust cultures from the global South (and perhaps ultimately being replaced in their own homelands). Distrust and enmity are fostered between them and otherwise potentially peaceful cultural exchanges become ones of suspicion and violence.
Although the long-term consequences of declining ‘social capital’ remain to be seen, one thing’s for sure: the future well-being of European (and European-derived) countries will largely depend on its survival. We underestimate its importance our – possibly mortal – peril.