Immigration and the Nation-State: The United States, Germany, and Great Britain

By Christian Joppke | Go to book overview

5 'Race' Attacks the Melting-Pot: The United States

The United States has never had public policies and institutions specifically designed to integrate immigrants, leaving this process to the self-regulating forces of economy and society. 1 There also has never been agreement about the meaning of integration. In response to the late ninteenth-century immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, two competing models of integration emerged. One stipulated the abandonment of the immigrant's ancestral ways and the acceptance of a new American identity. It was canonized in Israel Zangwill's notion of America as 'the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming' (in Gordon, 1964 : 120). While in line with America's founding myth of a non-ethnic, politically constituted new nation, the melting-pot model has always been sociologically naïve. In theory, it stipulated the bi-directional adjustment of immigrants and receiving society. In reality, it meant the uni-directional assimilation of immigrants into an already established Anglo-American culture. At the height of World War I, the assimilationist bent of the melting-pot model found its expression in a hysterical Americanization campaign, directed particularly against the culturally assertive and politically suspicious immigrants of German origins. In response to the ensuing ethnicization of American national identity, a number of liberal intellectuals formulated a counter-model of integration, commonly referred to as 'cultural pluralism'. 2 It stipulated the maintenance of immigrant ethnicity, conceiving of the United States as a 'federation of nationalities' (Kallen, 1915) or—somewhat paradoxically—an 'international nation' (Bourne, 1916). Through defending the ethnicity of immigrants, cultural pluralists sought to vindicate the originally non-ethnic, political meaning of American nationhood, which had been lost in the assimilationist transmutation of the melting-pot model.

The conflict between melting-pot assimilationists and cultural pluralists betrays a fundamental uncertainty about the meaning of

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Immigration and the Nation-State: The United States, Germany, and Great Britain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Immigration and the Nation-State iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1: Immigration and the Nation-State 1
  • Part I Embattled Entry 15
  • 2: A Nation of Immigrants Again 23
  • 3: Not a Country of Immigration 62
  • 4: The Zero-Immigration Country 100
  • Part II Multicultural Integration 139
  • 5: 'Race' Attacks the Melting-Pot 147
  • 6: From Postnational Membership to Citizenship 186
  • 7: Between Citizenship and Race 223
  • 8: Conclusion 260
  • Appendix: Interviews 319
  • References 322
  • Index 349
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