This article explores the empirical support for the two rival perspectives of diversity and postmaterialism, each of which predicts different patterns and trends of social solidarity in the Western world. The diversity perspective holds that ethnocultural heterogeneity undermines social solidarity, and consequently expects social solidarity to be weaker in more heterogeneous societies. In the diversity logic, social solidarity should have declined in Western societies as these societies have become more diverse due to continuous immigration. Postmaterialism theory, by contrast, posits a positive link between postmaterialism and social solidarity, and would expect social solidarity to have increased because of rising levels of postmaterialism across the Western world. This article found no relation between diversity and social solidarity at either the individual or the national level in cross-sectional analyses of WVS and EVS survey data. Neither was the diversity argument supported by trend data on opinions about the poor. The positive relations between postmaterialism and social solidarity on the other hand did confirm the postmaterialism perspective. Still, as postmaterialism contributed little to explaining the variance in social solidarity at the individual level and as there was no connection between postmaterialism and social solidarity at the macro-level, it can be questioned whether the solidaristic sentiments expressed by postmaterialists are sufficiently deep and lasting to underpin robust welfare policies.
- Ethnic diversity
- Welfare state
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)