Social solidarity as a problem for cosmopolitan democracy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

42 Scopus citations


The idea of a melting pot was proposed as a description of the United States in the early twentieth century. An era of high immigration had brought together speakers of different languages, followers of different religions, people raised in different cultures. But, said the playwright who coined the phrase, in America all would be remade in a new common culture. Each would be free to pursue a new individual destiny. By the 1970s, some worried patriots were writing of “the rise of the unmeltable ethnics” (Novak 1973). And some happier patriots were celebrating the salad bowl instead of the melting pot, mixture without loss of distinction. In other words, America remained diverse and maintaining cultural distinctions and ethnic solidarities – rather than melting them away in the assimilationist pot – had become a positive goal. Now, nearly a hundred years after the phrase was popularized in the Teddy Roosevelt era, the melting pot has returned as an ideal – perhaps it would be better to say a fantasy, an imaginary solution to problems people do not want to tackle in really concrete ways. It appears not only in straightforward talk of the importance of assimilation in the United States; it appears also in a new global form, in talk of cosmopolitanism, world culture, and global citizenship. It is given expression also in the image of a post-racial society, as though racial mixture and intermarriage were quickly and easily producing the solution to racism without actually ever having to confront it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIdentities, Affiliations, and Allegiances
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780511808487
ISBN (Print)9780521867191
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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