I Distrust Robert Putnam
By Arnold Kling
I think that an academic web site should consist of links to papers, not self-promotion. Putnam’s page does the reverse. About his latest PR success, it says,
Robert D. Putnam gave a talk on this issue as the Skytte Prize lecture, to be published in Scandinavian Political Studies in early 2007. The talk emphasized three key points: 1) increased diversity and immigration are essential and generally strengthen advanced nations; 2) but in the short-term, diversity/immigration challenges community cohesion; and 3) longer-term, successful immigrant societies overcome these challenges by reducing the importance placed on ethnic and racial differences and by building a broader conception of the “we”. This can be done through popular culture, education, national symbols, or common experiences (like national service). The 10/8/06 Financial Times had two misleading articles on this research…By focusing almost exclusively on the 2nd of the 3 points above and painting it in an apocalyptic light, it painted a highly distorted view of our research.
But if Putnam did not want the second point emphasized, then he should not have used sound bites like “The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined.”
Putnam is positioning his research in ways to maximize sensationalist coverage, and then complaining about sensationalist coverage.
As to the substance of the research, I want to examine it so that I can see what he is using to measure “trust.” Maybe “trust” is simply rational skepticism. Until I see the research, I remain quite skeptical about what it means.
UPDATE: Read Barkley Rosser’s comment on “bridging capital” vs. “bonding capital,” in the comments to this post.