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The Melting and the Pot: Assimilation and Variety in American Life

  • Author(s): Rumbaut, RG
  • Editor(s): Kivisto, P
  • et al.

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There has been never been a single American “melting pot;” that singular image will remain a deeply flawed one – sociologically as well as ideologically – unless and until it can be applied inclusively, interethnically and interracially. Nonetheless, as a matter of empirical fact, the possibilities of interminglings at every level of social and cultural life are today greater than ever in U.S. history, and thus a critical reconsideration of processes and outcomes of “assimilation” in American life is worth undertaking, along with a reevaluation of the master concept itself. In what follows I explore the evolution and elaboration of the concept in American social science, and offer some reflections on the ideology, and the sociology, of the “melting pot” as a master frame, as an idea and as an ideal, evocative of and vying with other images of the centripetal and centrifugal social forces that forge national union and diversity, “us” and “them.”

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