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Publication Detail
Ethnic Heterogeneity, Ethnic and National Identity, and Social Cohesion in England
  • Publication Type:
    Chapter
  • Authors:
    Wiertz DCWM, Bennett M, Parameshwaran M
  • Publisher:
    Routledge
  • Publication date:
    2015
  • Pagination:
    123, 142
  • Chapter number:
    7
  • Editors:
    Koopmans R,Lancee B,Schaeffer M
  • Book title:
    Social Cohesion and Immigration in Europe and North America — Mechanisms, Conditions, and Causality
Abstract
This chapter investigates to what extent ethnic identity and national identity mediate the relationship between ethnic heterogeneity and social cohesion in England. Scholars argue that a shared superordinate national identity is necessary to foster trust, cooperation, and solidarity among diverse sub-groups in a society (Miller 1995; Reeskens and Wright, 2012). Some commentators assert that ethnic heterogeneity undermines the trust and solidarity necessary for cohesive societies (cf. Goodhart, 2013; Scheffer and Waters, 2011) because it reinforces separate ethnic (subordinate) identities rather than promotes a shared national (superordinate) identity. In line with such arguments, social identity theory suggests that ethnic heterogeneity can lead individuals to identify more strongly with other ethnic in-group members rather than with members of society more broadly, which could thereby restrict the development of a shared superordinate identity and therefore harm social cohesion. As such, besides the mechanisms discussed in Chapter 1, the strength of ethnic and national identities represents an additional mechanism that may explain the relationship between ethnic heterogeneity and social cohesion. Indeed, we argue that several of the previously discussed mechanisms could operate via the strength of ethnic and national identification. Reasoning along the lines of social identity theory, as outlined in Chapter 1, increasing ethnic heterogeneity represents a threat to original national cultures, making people lose their general sense of belonging, as they are confronted with increased ethnic and cultural diversity in their surroundings. Looking for security and familiarity, people in response develop stronger feelings of identification with their own ethnic group, at the cost of their identification with the nation, to which they feel less akin and in which they find it harder to recognise themselves. These stronger identifications with one’s own ethnic group and the concomitant weaker feelings of sharing a national identity may subsequently dilute social cohesion. At first, this may predominantly manifest itself in terms of more negative attitudes towards and fewer contacts with ethnic out-group members, but in the longer run this may extend to ethnic in-group members as well, leading to a more general retraction from social life (cf. Putnam, 2007). A similar chain of events is a crucial building block in the arguments developed by many critics of multiculturalism (cf. Goodhart, 2013; Scheffer and Waters, 2011). However, contrary to this bleak narrative, there is reason to believe that social cohesion can be maintained in the presence of stronger ethnic identities. The common identity model, for example, suggests that individuals can simultaneously uphold both strong subordinate as well as strong superordinate group identities, thereby reducing in-group bias and intergroup conflict (Gaertner et al., 1993). According to this model, there is no inevitable trade-off between ethnic and national identity. It therefore remains the question whether ethnic heterogeneity does indeed raise the salience of subordinate in-group identities and correspondingly decreases the salience of superordinate overarching identities, and whether these changes in turn reduce levels of social cohesion. This chapter addresses this question and examines to what extent the strength of ethnic and national identities can explain the relationship between ethnic heterogeneity and social cohesion. We test whether higher levels of ethnic heterogeneity are associated with a stronger sense of ethnic identity, and whether a stronger sense of ethnic identity is associated with lower levels of social cohesion. We simultaneously test whether higher levels of ethnic heterogeneity are associated with a weaker sense of national identity, and whether a weaker sense of national identity is associated with lower social cohesion. In doing so, we investigate two dimensions of ethnic heterogeneity and three measures of social cohesion, as the relationships between our concepts of interest are likely to depend on how they are conceptualised.
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