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Pluralism, American

Joseph Gerteis

Subject Cultural Studies
Sociology » Government, Politics, and Law

Place Northern America » United States of America

Key-Topics pluralism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Pluralism refers to the condition of living amid diversity and also to a positive appreciation for that condition. The many similar metaphors describing America as a “melting pot” of different cultures or a “nation of nations” recognize both the historical fact of diversity and its role in shaping the American national character (see Kohn 1961 ). “What then is the American, this new man?” asked Jean de Crèvecoeur in an often-quoted passage from Letters from an American Farmer (1782): “He is either a European or the descendent of a European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country … Here individuals are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world” (cited in Gleason 1980 : 33). Crèvecoeur emphasized both ethnic difference and cultural solidarity. From the many come one ; into the melting pot go many different elements, but out comes a single, homogenized alloy. However clearly this new, emergent solidarity appears in such formulations, it has never been taken for granted. The fact of difference has always been central to the American national self-image, yet there has also been a persistent tension between the recognition and appreciation of difference and a desire for a coherent national culture. By 1915, Horace Kallen painted this tension as one of the central issues for American ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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