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Beyond the Melting Pot


BEYOND THE MELTING POT (Glazer and Moynihan). In this 1963 work, subtitled The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City, the sociologists Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan sought to explain the persistence of ethnic affiliation in New York City, and by implication the United States, long after "distinctive language, customs, and culture" had been lost (p. 17). What impeded the absorption of ethnic groups into "a homogeneous American mass" (p. 20)? Material necessity wed to sentimental attachment, Glazer and Moynihan maintained—a combination of "history, family and feeling, interest, [and] formal organizational life" (p. 19).

In its day the book was praised for denying the inevitability and desirability of cultural homogenization and for regarding ethnicity as a historical, hence a changing, artifact—staples of contemporary multiculturalism. The book was criticized for allegedly elevating ethnicity over class, for conflating ethnicity and race, and for maligning the African American family. Glazer and Moynihan had anticipated, if inadequately, the first two objections. The last raised the vexing problem of fact and value. Were the authors describing or evaluating African American institutions? Thus inadvertently Beyond the Melting Pot helped transform a subtle discussion about ethnic distinctions into a bald discourse about racial differences. As a result an undeniably progressive book became tainted with an aura of reaction.


Glazer, Nathan. We Are All Multiculturalists Now. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Glazer, Nathan, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City. 2d ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1970. This second edition includes a noteworthy introduction written by Glazer ten years after he initially undertook the project.

Sollors, Werner, ed. Theories of Ethnicity: A Classical Reader. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Jonathan M.Hansen

See alsoAfrican American Studies ; New York City ; Sociology .

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