Melting pot

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Alternate meaning: crucible (science)

The melting pot is a metaphor for the way in which homogeneous societies develop, in which the ingredients in the pot (people of different cultures and religions) are combined so as to lose their discrete identities to some degree, yielding a final product which has a more uniform consistency and flavor, and which is quite different from the original inputs. The term gained popularity in describing ethnicity in the United States after the metaphor was used in the 1908 play that modernized Romeo and Juliet <ref>http://www.pbs.org/destinationamerica/usim_qz1b.html</ref> where the protaginist declared "Understand that America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming! A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians—into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American."

This process is sometimes equated with cultural assimilation, but the two are not necessarily the same; the "melting pot" metaphor implies both a melting of cultures and intermarriage of ethnicities, while cultural assimilation often occurs without intermarriage. For example, many groups in the United States such as US-born Japanese-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and Armenian-Americans tend to be fully culturally integrated into American culture and institutions, yet have not, for the most part, intermarried with other ethnicities.

"…whence came all these people? They are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes... What, then, is the American, this new man? He is neither an European nor the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. . . . The Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of populations which has ever appeared." -Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer.

In the United States, where the term melting pot is still commonly used, despite being largely disregarded by modern sociologists as outdated, the idea of pluralism has largely replaced the idea of assimilation.<ref>Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.</ref><ref name="Dealing with Diversity">Adams, J.Q., Pearlie Strother-Adams (2001). Dealing with Diversity. Chicago, IL: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. 0-7872-8145-X.</ref><ref>Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970</ref> Alternate models where immigrants retain their native cultures such as the 'salad bowl' <ref>Joyce Millet, Understanding American Culture: From Melting Pot to Salad Bowl. culturalsavvy.com. Accessed 28 June 2006.</ref> or the 'symphony'<ref>Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.</ref> are more often used by prominent sociologists to describe how cultures and ethnicities mix in the United States.

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[edit] Origins of the term

The first mention of the melting pot in American literature may be found in the writings of Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur. In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782) Crevecoeur writes, in response to his own question, "What then is the American, this new man?" that the American is one who "leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world."

Popular use of the melting-pot metaphor is believed to have derived from Israel Zangwill's play The Melting Pot, which was first performed in Washington, D.C. in 1908. The play was an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, set by Zangwill in New York City.

The melting pot idea is most strongly associated with the United States, particularly in reference to "model" immigrant groups of the past. Past generations of immigrants in America, it is argued by some, became successful by working to shed their historic identities and adopt the ways of their new country. Typically immigrants absorbed the ways of the "host" society, while loosening to a varying degrees their connection to their native culture.

[edit] Melting pot vs. multiculturalism

Since the 1960's, most academic research in Sociology and History has disregarded the melting pot theory for describing interethnic relations in the United States and other counties<ref>Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.</ref><ref name="Dealing with Diversity">Adams, J.Q., Pearlie Strother-Adams (2001). Dealing with Diversity. Chicago, IL: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. 0-7872-8145-X.</ref><ref>Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970</ref>. The theory of multiculturalism offers alternative analogies for ethnic interaction including salad bowl theory, or, as it is known in Canada, the cultural mosaic. In the 1990's, political correctness in the U.S. emphasized that each ethnic and national group has the right to maintain and preserve their cultural distinction and integrity, and that one doesn't need to assimilate or abandon their heritage in order to blend in or merge into the majority European/Anglo-Saxon/American society.

In the multicultural approach, each "ingredient" retains its integrity and flavor, while contributing to a successful final product. In recent years, this approach has been officially promoted in traditional melting-pot societies such as Australia, Canada and Britain, with the intent of becoming more tolerant of immigrant diversity[citation needed].

The decision of whether to support a melting-pot or multicultural approach has developed into an issue of much debate within some counties. For example, the French and English government and populace are currently debating whether Islamic cultural practices and dress conflict with their attempts to form culturally unified counties [1] [2]

[edit] Multiculturalist view of the melting-pot theory

Multiculturalists typically support loose immigration controls and programs such bilingual education and affirmative action (or positive discrimination), which offer certain privileges to minority and/or immigrant groups.

Multiculturalists claim that assimilation can hurt minority cultures by stripping away their distinctive features. They point to situations where institutions of the dominant culture initiate programs to assimilate or integrate minority cultures.

Although some multiculturalists admit that assimilation may result in a relatively homogenous society, with a strong sense of nationalism, they warn however, that where minorities are strongly urged to assimilate, there may arise groups which fiercely oppose integration. With assimilation, immigrants lose their original cultural (and often linguistic) identity and so do their children. Immigrants who fled persecution or a country devastated by war were historically resilient to abandoning their heritage once they had settled in a new country.

Multiculturalists note that assimilation, in practice, has often been forced, and has caused immigrants to have severed ties with family abroad. In the United States, the use of languages other than English in a classroom setting has traditionally been discouraged. Decades of this policy may have contributed to the fact--lamented by multiculturalists--that more than 80 percent of Americans speak only English at home. While an estimated 60 million U.S. citizens are of German descent, forming the largest ethnic group of American citizens, barely one million of them reported speaking German in their homes in the 2000 Census.

[edit] Assimilationist view of the melting-pot theory

Whereas multiculturalists tend to view the melting-pot theory as oppressive, assimilationists view it as advantageous to both a government and its people. They tend to favor controlled levels of immigration—enough to benefit society economically, but not enough to profoundly alter it. Assimilationists tend to be opposed to programs that, in their view, give out special privileges to minorities at the expense of the majority.

Assimilationists tend to believe that their nation has reached its present state of development because it has been able to forge one national identity. They argue that separating citizens by ethnicity or race and providing immigrant groups "special privileges" can harm the very groups they are intended to help. By calling attention to differences between these groups and the majority, the government may foster resentment towards them by the majority and, in turn, cause the immigrant group to turn inward and shun mainstream culture. Assimilationists suggest that if a society makes a full effort to incorporate immigrants into the mainstream, immigrants will then naturally work to reciprocate the gesture and adopt new customs. Through this process, it is argued, national unity is retained.

Assimilationists also argue that the multiculturalist policy of freer immigration is unworkable in an era in which the supply of immigrants from third world countries seems limitless. With immigrants often coming from multiple points of origin, it may be excessively expensive to meet their needs. From an employment perspective, they note that job markets are often tight to begin with and that expecting large amounts of newcomers to find work each year is unrealistic. Allowing high levels of immigration, it is argued, will inevitably lead to widespread poverty and other forms of disadvantage among immigrants. The melting-pot theory works best, in their view, when the "ingredients" are added in modest increments, so that they can be properly absorbed into the whole.

[edit] Rebirth of the melting pot theory?

The melting pot theory of ethnic relations shares many similarities with an approach to ethnicity in Western countries: whiteness studies. This discipline examines the 'social construction of whiteness'. For example, over time, groups such as Italians and the Irish, who were once treated as minority groups and distinct "races" in American society and who suffered from job and other forms of discrimination have become accepted as 'white' more recently.

[edit] A Compromise between Multiculturalists and Assimilationists?

There also exists a view that attempts to reconcile some of the differences between multiculturalists and nationalists. Proponents of this view propose that immigrants need not completely abandon their culture and traditions in order to reach the goal that the melting pot theory seeks. This reasoning relies on the assumption that immigrants can be persuaded to ultimately consider themselves a citizen of their new nation first and of their nation of birth second. In this way, they may still retain and practice all of their cultural traditions but "when push comes to shove" they will put their host nation's interests first. If this can be accomplished, immigrants will then avoid hindering the progress, unity and growth that assimilationsts argue are the positive results of the melting pot theory - while simultaneously appeasing some of the multiculturalists.

This compromised view also supports a strong stance on immigration, English as primary language in school with the option to study foreign languages. (A consensus on affirmative action does not currently exist.) Proponents of this compromise claim that the difference with this view and that of the assimilationists is that while their view of the melting pot essentially strips immigrants of their culture, the compromise allows immigrants to continue practicing and propagating their cultures from generation to generation and yet sustain and instill a love for their host country first and above all. Whether this kind of delicate balance between host and native countries among immigrants can be achieved remains to be seen.

[edit] The melting pot in pop culture

The melting pot remains a stock phrase in American political and cultural dialogue. The general perception of its process and effects can be summed up in "The Great American Melting Pot" song from Schoolhouse Rock!. [3]

The British soul group Blue Mink released a song in 1970 entitled "Melting Pot".

[edit] Melting pot in Israel

In the early years of the state of Israel the term melting pot was not a description of a process, but an official governmental doctrine of assimilating the Jewish immigrants that originally came from varying cultures. (See Jewish ethnic divisions) This was performed on several levels, such as educating the younger generation (with the parents not having the final say) and (to mention an anecdotal one) encouraging and sometimes forcing the new citizens to adopt a Hebrew name.

Today the reaction to this doctrine is ambivalent; some say that it was a necessary measure in the founding years, while others claim that it amounted to cultural oppression. It is generally not practiced today as there is no need - the mass immigration waves at Israel's founding have declined, and so pluralism has taken its place as a generally accepted principle.

[edit] Soviet Union

The Soviet people (Russian: Советский народ) was an ideological epithet for the population of the Soviet Union. The Soviet government promoted the doctrine of assimilating all peoples living in USSR into one Soviet people, accordingly to Marxist principle of Fraternity of peoples.

The effort lasted for the entire history of the Soviet Union, but did not succeed, as evidenced by developments in most national cultures in the territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

[edit] Quotations

Man is the most composite of all creatures.... Well, as in the old burning of the Temple at Corinth, by the melting and intermixture of silver and gold and other metals a new compound more precious than any, called Corinthian brass, was formed; so in this continent,--asylum of all nations,--the energy of Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks, and all the European tribes,--of the Africans, and of the Polynesians,--will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature, which will be as vigorous as the new Europe which came out of the smelting-pot of the Dark Ages, or that which earlier emerged from the Pelasgic and Etruscan barbarism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry, 1845

No reverberatory effect of the great war has caused American public opinion more solicitude than the failure of the 'melting-pot.' The discovery of diverse nationalistic feelings among our great alien population his come to most people as an intense shock.

Randolph Bourne, from Atlantic Monthly, 118 (July 1916), 86-97

[edit] See also

Look up melting pot in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

[edit] External links

[edit] References

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de:Schmelztiegel

fr:Melting pot he:כור היתוך ja:人種のるつぼ nl:Melting pot

Melting pot

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