The Corner

Diversity vs. Civility


Prof. Putnam gives us a depressing little glimpse of his own mindset at the end of that piece:

Prof Putnam stressed, however, that immigration materially benefited both the ‘importing’ and ‘exporting’ societies, and that trends ‘have been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed’.   In an oblique criticism of Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, who revealed last week he prefers Muslim women not to wear a full veil, Prof. Putnam said: ‘What we shouldn’t do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us.’

[Derb]  That raises many questions in my mind.  For example:

—What if we’re happy with the current us, and would prefer not to change?  Whence comes the moral imperative to “construct a new us”?

—It may indeed be the case that “trends” (I suppose the Prof. means the trends towards incivility he’s recorded) are “socially constructed.”  Then again, it may not be.  Possibly there are adamant features of universal human nature at work here.  We don’t know. 

A left-liberal academic like Prof. Putnam naturally hopes that these things are “socially constructed”–that human beings are so malleable that once we get the social engineering right, diversity and civility can co-exist.  He does not, however, know this, and neither does anyone else.  Nor does anyone know the contrary thing.  These matters of social group dynamics are not understood–though, with advances in the human sciences, we may soon have a better handle on them.

Until that day arrives, perhaps we should at least contemplate the possibility that Prof. Putnam’s wishful thinking may not be a sound basis for public policy, especially for immigration policy.


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