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Diversity and Democratic Politics: An Introduction

  • Allison Harell (a1) and Dietlind Stolle (a2)

Abstract. In recent years, there has been increasing popular and academic debate about how ethnic and racial diversity affects democratic politics and social cohesion in industrialized liberal democracies. In this introduction, different interdisciplinary theoretical approaches for understanding the role of diversity for intergroup relations and social cohesion are reviewed and four extensions to the current literature are proposed. These include taking advantage of a comparative framework to understand how generalizable the consequences of diversity are. A comparative country approach also helps to reveal which policies might be able to mitigate any potential negative consequences of diversity. Most importantly, we propose that the research in this area should include other aspects of social cohesion beyond measures of generalized trust, such as solidarity, attitudes about the welfare state and redistributive justice, as well as political and social tolerance. Finally, research on the effects of diversity might gain more insights from taking less of a majority-centric approach to include the effects on various minority groups as well.

Résumé. Ces dernières années ont procuré un sol fertile au débat populaire et universitaire autour des effets de la diversité ethnique et raciale sur la politique démocratique et sur la cohésion sociale dans les démocraties libérales industrialisées. Dans cette introduction, nous passons en revue diverses approches théoriques interdisciplinaires permettant de clarifier le rôle de la diversité dans les relations entre les groupes et dans la cohésion sociale et nous proposons quatre ajouts à la littérature courante. Nous suggérons, entre autres, de tirer profit d'un cadre comparatif pour comprendre à quel point les conséquences de la diversité sont généralisables. Une étude comparative des pays aide également à cerner les politiques qui pourraient atténuer les conséquences négatives potentielles de la diversité. Par-dessus tout, nous avançons que la recherche dans ce domaine devrait inclure d'autres aspects de la cohésion sociale à part les mesures de la confiance généralisée, des aspects tels que la solidarité, les attitudes envers l'État-providence et la justice redistributive, ainsi que la tolérance politique et sociale. Finalement, la recherche sur les effets de la diversité pourrait devenir plus instructive en adoptant une approche moins centrée sur la majorité afin d'inclure également les effets sur divers groupes minoritaires.

Corresponding author
Allison Harell, 138 Union Street, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, ON Kl& 3N6,
Dietlind Stolle, 855 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Department of Political Science, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 2T7,
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