Monday, July 23, 2007

Getting Along?

Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and often mentioned when we talk about communities, is the guru of "social capital" which basically refers to all the ways that people form relationships in their community or not. Communities with high social capital seem to also have better economies, more education, less crime and so on.

Recently the NYT had an article on his recent research which to his surprise showed that more ethnically diverse neighborhoods had more isolation and less trust than more homogeneous ones. In other words they had less social capital Not only did the residents not trust those of other groups, they did not trust members of their own group either. For those of us believing in diversity this is perplexing news.

What does it mean? Obviously no one knows, and lots of people have opinions. Maybe it just means that diversity is harder than we thought. The best way to convince yourself that not all Muslims are terrorists is to meet Muslims who are good citizens and neighbors. Of course, that goes for any other group. But it apparently is not going to just happen. We are going to have to work at it. And it won't always be comfortable.

1 comment:

Jann Mirchandani said...

Excellent post. And very timely.

Moving outside of our comfort zone is not easy for most of us. But it is certainly a worthy goal given the cost of failure.