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    Who wants cultural diversity?


    by Sunny on 11th April, 2008 at 8:59 am    

    Is it better for a country if its people shared similar customs or traditions? In many ways that question goes to the heart of many debates we have in this country, right? The people who think the country is going to hell in a hand-cart usually do so because they’re worried about people who might look or act somewhat differently to them.

    So a bunch of scientists decided to do a study asking that question: “It is better for a country if almost everyone shares the same customs and traditions?” for Americans and Europeans.

    The result (pdf) is somewhat surprising. Seen as somewhat insular and inward looking, the Americans actually come out the best - with less than 30% agreeing that cultural homogeneity was a good thing.

    So you’d think that the more open a country to immigration, as America is, the more open they are to diversity. Well, Switzerland comes next, and then Sweden, and then Germany (!!!). UK is way down the list.
    See this chart
    In many ways this also shatters the theory, advanced a lot by David Goodhart of Prospect magazine, that a culturally homogeneous country such as Sweden may want to preserve that sense of identity. It actually looks like the Swedes are more open minded than the Brits on diversity. Who would have thought eh?
    (via the Monkey Cage)
    There’s also a chart on who wants religious diversity, again the results are very curious.



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    21 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. cjcjc — on 11th April, 2008 at 9:23 am  

      But what are “customs and traditions” in this case?

      Are we talking about eating or not eating certain foods, or about equality of the sexes?

      “Seen as somewhat insular and inward looking, the Americans…”

      Seen by whom? Guardianista idiots and or people who have never been there I assume.

      “Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

      For reasons much debated, America seems to have the better knack of making their immigrants Americans first and xxxxx-Americans second.

    2. bananabrain — on 11th April, 2008 at 10:14 am  

      perhaps the reason that brits (particularly white, english brits) have trouble with this is that they aren’t entirely sure what their own customs and traditions are, seeing as they’ve been told for so long that they are a bunch of racist imperialist whatevers, plus there are a huge variety of customs and traditions here, everything from that which comes from being a city-based capitalist to being a rural agriculturalist or a WWC socialist etc etc. americans have a pretty good idea of the *overarching* culture, which is far more homogeneous to start with than ours is. i’d hazard a guess that the germans and swiss (both being, like the americans, long-established federations) have a better idea of how to do “federal” institutions than we do, seeing as ours stem in the most part from our historical-imperial legacy rather than from shared culture.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    3. Boyo — on 11th April, 2008 at 10:48 am  

      I thought the comment at the top of page 4 of the report - about how “ironically” immigrants were better integrated in the US and Canada because they had less comprehensive welfare systems was an important point.

      I’ve long thought that immigrants come here to work, and if they work then they are generally obliged to work with everyone else, whom they can see as little different from themselves, rather than living off benefits in cultural ghettos and whining about how hard done by they are, etc.

      My immigrant forefathers had to get on with it, and look at me - PERFECTLY integrated!

      As to being uncertain about culture in the UK, to some extent I agree, and particularly because the liberal conspiracy has made many ordinary Britons feel ashamed to express and be proud about their culture. They’re labelled ignorant racist chavs. At family gatherings and the like, how often have I heard the “I’m not racist but…” before an auntie or uncle moans that “they come over here, they should abide by our rules etc”. Actually, this is a victory for the PC Police, who have succeeded in attaching shame to English cultural values to the extent that people have to apologise in advance. On the other hand, I think most indigenous Britons know precisely who they are - they’re just afraid to say so. And it aint got nothing to do with federalism!

    4. Heresiarch — on 11th April, 2008 at 11:53 am  

      When you say that the Americans “come out best” you’re not being entirely objective, are you? The Americans show lower levels of support for the proposition that cultural homogeneity is a good thing.

      Moreover, looking at the charts reveals a somewhat different result from your assertion. The UK doesn’t come “way down the list” at all: it is actually bunched with a whole group of countries somewhere in the “liberal” half of the graph. It is, marginally, “lower down” than some others, but that is well within the margin of error. The country that is really at the bottom, with twice as many demanding cultural and religious conformity than in countries like Britain, is Greece.

    5. Magazines Newspapers Comics News » Blog Archive » Who wants cultural diversity? — on 11th April, 2008 at 12:12 pm  

      […] Town of Vivian, Louisiana wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIs it better for a country if its people shared similar customs or traditions? In many ways that question goes to the heart of many debates we have in this country, right? The people who think the country is … Related links to this post : […]

    6. Dave — on 11th April, 2008 at 12:14 pm  

      Indeed, the UK shows up as less obviously prejudiced in its average responses than most of the continental European nations surveyed. Very far from being a model of informed tolerance [whatever that would be] but very far also from being an outlier of bigoted prejudice and suspicion.

    7. MaidMarian — on 11th April, 2008 at 12:25 pm  

      ‘The people who think the country is going to hell in a hand-cart usually do so because they’re worried about people who might look or act somewhat differently to them.’

      Spot on, but I don’t think that per se this is about immigration or diversity or even race. These people would worry about hoodies on street corners whether they were white, black, brown or green.

      I feel that diversity is a bit of a red herring. The issue is integration and that is not mutually exclusive with diversity. This I suspect is why the Polish Plumber and at once be a symbol for Daily Mail froth and have a full order book. The plumber is an immigrant may bring diversity but at the same time is integrated into the society/economy etc. I imagine it is a similar story with immigrant care-home workers.

      There is no conflict between diversity and integration. However I do believe that it is for the individual to make efforts to integrate into civil society - however difficult that may be.

    8. Mike — on 11th April, 2008 at 1:36 pm  

      Who wants cultural diversity?

      Er,… not me, that’s for sure.

      Robert Putnam’s groundbreaking research into the effects of immigration on ’social capital’ brings into question the entire notion that ‘diversity’ is a strength and not a weakness.

      Basically, the more ethnically diverse the neighbourhood, the less likely we are to trust our neighbour, regardless of his or her ethnicity. And what follows is a long list of negative consequences, which include less confidence in local government and the media, lower voting registration (though higher participation in protest), less volunteering, fewer close friends, lower rates of happiness and perceived quality of life and more time spent watching television.

    9. soru — on 11th April, 2008 at 1:48 pm  

      So you’d think that the more open a country to immigration, as America is, the more open they are to diversity. Well, Switzerland comes next,

      Switzerland is extremely un-open to immigration - it is the home of the ‘third-generation illegals’, people with grand-parents who moved into the country before WWII. Not only were they born in the country, their parents were too, and they still don’t have citizenship rights, can’t vote (including on citizenship rules). It’s really only one step away from apartheid, and the EU keep taking them to court over it.

      As for Sweden immigration is currently at new record highs:

      Preliminary data showed 96,800 people will have migrated to the Nordic country by year-end, up 48% compared to the year before, it said in a statement.

      In other words, Swedish immigration is as close to zero as makes no difference.

      Time for another theory?

      I suspect a homogoneous, successful country, with low immigration, probably wants to spice things up a bit. A country in political crisis with low legitimacy will tend to cling to what it knows. Countries in the middle are in the middle.

    10. Tim Footman — on 11th April, 2008 at 3:18 pm  

      Soru, that’s 96,800 into a population of little more than 9 million. Which means more than one percent of the population consists of people who’ve entered the country in the last 12 months. There are higher figures elsewhere, but I hardly think that’s as negligible as you suggest.

    11. Dalbir — on 11th April, 2008 at 3:22 pm  

      I have never lived in a mono-cultural environment. The thought of living like that seems bizzare. Hell, even the place from where my parents hail (Panjab) was/is very diverse in terms of ethnicity and beliefs.

      I get a feeling that behind the increasing fear of natives is the realisation that “immigrants” here may prove somewhat of an obstacle to their dicking around the world resurrecting “the greatest empire in the world”.

      I notice that skin colour seems to play a significant role in people accepting immigrants or not. As evidence I notice that despite a MASSIVE influx of Polish and Eastern Europeans their isn’t that hardcore open hatred that characterised the 70s and 80s in reaction. Maybe the British are reluctantly accepting change?

      But relating this to another thread about the BNP, I would say non white (especially “asian”) citizens need to be careful of the activity of such groups. They are plain opportunists and will use any excuse to push for conflict. This will be easier to achieve if the country goes through something like a harsh recession. Essentially be ready to battle scapegoating from those with malicious intent.

    12. Boyo — on 11th April, 2008 at 3:39 pm  

      Darn it, you’ve found me out - back to the drawing-board for resurrecting the greatest empire in the world, then.

    13. Dalbir — on 11th April, 2008 at 3:51 pm  

      ———————
      Darn it, you’ve found me out - back to the drawing-board for resurrecting the greatest empire in the world, then.
      ———————

      Yes it was great for the assholes who created it. Not for the rest of the monkeys though.

    14. Sunny — on 11th April, 2008 at 3:52 pm  

      In response….

      cjcjc:
      Seen by whom? Guardianista idiots and or people who have never been there I assume.

      By the fact they have such low passport takeup rates.

      rather than living off benefits in cultural ghettos and whining about how hard done by they are, etc.

      Not sure about the ghettoes bit - America has plenty of ethnic segregation on geographical grounds.

      before an auntie or uncle moans that “they come over here, they should abide by our rules etc”.

      Which is the law, and by and large they do.

      Heseriarch
      The Americans show lower levels of support for the proposition that cultural homogeneity is a good thing.

      Yes, and to me thats a good thing :)

      The country that is really at the bottom, with twice as many demanding cultural and religious conformity than in countries like Britain, is Greece.

      I didn’t say Britain was crap, only it was halfway down the list.

      MaidMarian
      There is no conflict between diversity and integration. However I do believe that it is for the individual to make efforts to integrate into civil society - however difficult that may be.

      Agreed!

      Robert Putnam’s groundbreaking research into the effects of immigration on ’social capital’ brings into question the entire notion that ‘diversity’ is a strength and not a weakness.

      Putnam is pro-diversity by the way!

    15. sonia — on 11th April, 2008 at 4:23 pm  

      yeah for the first comment. Humans do have shared customs and traditions! eating sleeping fighting making love

    16. Anas — on 11th April, 2008 at 5:13 pm  

      cultural diversity rocks, I love meeting people from different countries. it’s boring just to live in a culturally homogeneous society.

    17. sonia — on 11th April, 2008 at 5:16 pm  

      it depends to what extent people think things are shared, and what extent things are ‘different’. and what people mean by homogeneity. for example, we all eat food and enjoy eating food, that is an integral social custom for humans. now what you eat and how you prepare it might be different from place to place, and you might see it as a commonality, or a difference. of course people are different, and at the same time, share many things!

    18. fugstar — on 11th April, 2008 at 5:23 pm  

      robert putnam and ‘ground breaking research’ in the same sentence hahahah.

    19. pv — on 11th April, 2008 at 6:51 pm  

      I really don’t see this survey says very much at all.
      It begs all sorts of questions.

      For one thing, your attitude to ‘different customs and traditions’ may depend on how much you feel your nation has already gone down that route. If you feel secure that you are already in a homogeneous nation you may not feel nearly so apprehensive about the alternative, because you have so much room for increasing diversity while still remaining in reality quite homogenuous.

      The survey also appears to say nothing about what the respondents concept of ’shared values’ are - some may have a much broader and more liberal definition of such values in mind, while others may be thinking of something very tightly defined. Some may think it involves having the ‘right’ religion, others merely that it means ‘not wanting to blow us up’.

      Finally the US is inevitably going to be different because its population density is a tiny fraction of most of the rest of those countries. Different groups are much more able to physically separate themselves.

      The objective reality of behaviour seems to be different from these professed attitudes - the US doesn’t, in reality, accept any more legal immigrants than the UK does, relative to existing population (and takes far fewer, relative to size of the country).

      Switzerland is notorious for making it extremely difficult for foreigners to gain citizenship.

    20. jeet — on 12th April, 2008 at 6:56 am  

      Goodhart’s thesis is that there is a negative correlation between the ethnic diversity of a society and the strength of its welfare state, not that culturally homogenous countries want to preserve that sense of identity.

      Don’t misrepresent Goodhart, Sunny.
      It’s beneath you and you’re usually so good about such things.

    21. halima — on 12th April, 2008 at 11:52 am  

      agree with 20. I engaged recently with Prospect on this same debate - though it was more about the welfare state and implications for supporting groups in context of limited resources. Goodhart has a long-standing position on this issue.

      Agree also that Putnam is a progressive force for social cohesion and finding commonality between groups by, in fact, investing and building in bridging capital - between different groups who otherwise don’t mix. His arguments point to a strengthened community and voluntary sector, mutual associations, to bring back notion of ‘community’ and trust in local neighbourhoods.

      They sound like pretty good ideas to me.

      The difficulty I find with debates about whether cultural diversity is good or bad is this: societies will always evolve - taking difference along with them, trick is to manage them, conflict, is a fact of life, and resolving conflict, which is the business of politics, is a part of society and government relations. Presumably our governments and democratic institutions should be up to the challenge - not just do diversity with emotive motives.



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