Polish Americans: Status Competition in an Ethnic Community

Polish Americans: Status Competition in an Ethnic Community

Polish Americans: Status Competition in an Ethnic Community

Polish Americans: Status Competition in an Ethnic Community

Excerpt

I find it impossible to write a personal preface within the normal space allotted for such presentations. After all, it took years of several lives to collect all the data and, hopefully, insights.

Much of the literature on the immigrants to America, ethnic communities, assimilation, the hyphenated-Americans, and so forth, has been simplistic and biased. This applies to the writings of early sociologists just as much as to the various commissions appointed to investigate the situation early in the twentieth century (see Jones, 1960). A major source of the bias among sociologists was an idealization of the stable village or small community, of Gemeinschaft or primary relations, and of total cooperation involving good, happy, and passively adapted people. From such a vantage point, what was happening in the centers of American cities as they were filling with millions of former villagers was bewildering, even repugnant, warranting predictions of disaster and doom. The sociologists who studied the newly forming ethnic communities in America came from other backgrounds; Park from a small town and a newspaperman's interest in deviancy and dramatic evidences of disorganization, Wirth as a refugee from intelligentsian Germany far removed from the Russian-Jewish Ghetto, Thomas with a concern for dramatically maladjusted people, Znaniecki accustomed to relatively stabilized cities and villages, and Zorbaugh, Thrasher, and the many other urbanologists with attention focused on problems and the contrasts between the Gold Coast and the Slum (Zorbaugh, 1929).

The observers of immigrant communities in the early years of this century were not looking for a social structure or a gradually emerging fabric, but for indices of a lack of organization and even of disorganization of prior social systems (Thomas and Znaniecki's major theme of 1918-1920 revolved around this point, but so did the works of the other men). Sociologists who followed were really more concerned with life in the Street Corner Society (Whyte, 1943) and the processes of assimilation (Drachsler, Democracy and Assimilation, 1920; Smith, Americans in the Making, 1939, etc.) than in the over-all social system the groups had created. Wirth The Ghetto (1928) is a partial exception to this general-

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