Thomas, Paul (2015) Book Review of Ethnic Diversity and Social Cohesion: Immigration, Ethnic Fractionalisation and Potentials for Civic Action by Merlin Schaeffer, Farnham: Ashgate, xi +pp.180, £60 (hardback) ISBN 978-1409469384. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38 (8). pp. 1466-1468. ISSN 0141-9870

The relationship between ethnic diversity and social cohesion has long been a question of interest for both academics and policy-makers. In recent years, in the era of increasing ‘super-diversity’ and the associated ‘crises of multiculturalism’ (Lentin, A. and Titley, G. 2011, The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age, London: Zed), this question has taken on renewed urgency for many western democracies. Indeed, as Merlin Schaeffer identifies in his opening chapter, ‘The entire literature on ethnic diversity and social cohesion is engaged in a dispute on the question of whether ethnic diversity is one of the contextual factors eroding trust and engagement’ (2014:12). Symbolic of this has been the work of Robert Putnam. His broader findings about the importance and possibilities of ‘social capital’ found a cross-over audience, exciting interest amongst politicians and media commentators, but his findings on the, apparently initially negative, relationship between increased ethnic diversity and levels of trust in neighbourhoods, have been more troubling. Such findings have been used in different countries to attack both further immigration and even the existence per se of significant ethnic diversity. For instance, in the UK, David Goodhart suggested a direct and negative relationship between increased ethnic diversity and the social solidarity that necessarily underpins the welfare state.

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