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The image of the United States as melting pot was popularized by the 1908 play The Melting Pot.

The melting pot is a metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements "melting together" into a harmonious whole. It is particularly used to describe the assimilation of immigrants to the United States; the metaphor was popularized by the 1908 play The Melting Pot by Israel Zangwill, though similar images had been used in the 19th century.

The desirability of assimilation and the melting pot model is challenged by multiculturalism, which asserts that cultural differences within society are valuable and should be preserved, proposing the alternative metaphor of the salad bowl – different cultures mix, but remain distinct.


Origins of the term

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the metaphor of a "crucible" or "(s)melting pot" was used to describe the fusion of different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures. It was used together with concepts of America as an ideal republic and a "city upon a hill" or new promised land. It was a metaphor for the idealized process of immigration and colonization by which different nationalities, cultures and "races" (a term that could encompass nationality, ethnicity and race) were to blend into a new, virtuous community, and it was connected to utopian visions of the emergence of an American "new man". The exact term "melting pot" came into general usage in 1908, after the premiere of the play The Melting Pot by Israel Zangwill.

Prior to Zangwill, the first use in American literature of the concept of immigrants "melting" into the receiving culture are found in the writings of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782) Crevecoeur writes, in response to his own question, "What then is the American, this new man?" that the American is one who "leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world."

"…whence came all these people? They are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes... What, then, is the American, this new man? He is neither a European nor the descendant of a European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. . . . The Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared." − J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer.

In 1845, Ralph Waldo Emerson, alluding to the development of European civilization out of the Great Migration of the Dark Ages, wrote in his private journal of America as the Utopian product of a culturally and racially mixed "smelting pot", but only in 1912 were his remarks first published. In his writing, Emerson explicitly welcomed the racial intermixing of whites and non-whites, a highly controversial view during his lifetime. Though during the Chinese wave of immigration into the U.S., despite his explicit welcome, Ralph Waldo Emerson along with Theodore Roosevelt expressed that the Chinese did not possess equal humanity with whites,[citation needed] an opinion much less explicit and much more common for a man of his stature at this time.

In 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner also used the metaphor of immigrants melting into one American culture. In his essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History, he referred to the "composite nationality" of the American people, arguing that the frontier had functioned as a "crucible" where "the immigrants were Americanized, liberated and fused into a mixed race, English in neither nationality nor characteristics."

In his 1905 travel narrative The American Scene, Henry James refers to cultural intermixing in New York City as a "fusion, as of elements in solution in a vast hot pot."[1].

The exact term "melting pot" came into general usage in the United States after it was used as a metaphor describing a fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities in the 1908 play of the same name, first performed in Washington, D.C., where the immigrant protagonist declared:

"Understand that America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your fifty groups, your fifty languages, and histories, and your fifty blood hatreds and rivalries. But you won't be long like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you've come to – these are fires of God. A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians—into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American."[2]

In The Melting Pot, Zangwill combined a romantic denoument with a utopian celebration of complete cultural assimilation. The play was an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, set by Zangwill in New York City. The play's immigrant protagonist David Quixano, a Russian Jew, falls in love with Vera, a fellow Russian immigrant who is Christian. Vera is an idealistic settlement house worker and David is a musical composer struggling to create an "American symphony" to celebrate his adopted homeland. Together they manage to overcome the old world animosities that threaten to separate them. But then David discovers that Vera is the daughter of the Tsarist officer who directed the pogrom that forced him to flee Russia. Horrified, he breaks up with her, betraying his belief in the possibility of transcending religious and ethnic animosities. However, unlike Shakespeare's tragedy, there is a happy ending. At the end of the play the lovers are reconciled.

Reunited with Vera and watching the setting sun gilding the Statue of Liberty, David Quixano has a prophetic vision: "It is the Fires of God round His Crucible. There she lies, the great Melting-Pot--Listen! Can't you hear the roaring and the bubbling? There gapes her mouth, the harbor where a thousand mammoth feeders come from the ends of the world to pour in their human freight." David foresees how the American melting pot will make the nation's immigrants transcend their old animosities and differences and will fuse them into one people: "Here shall they all unite to build the Republic of Man and the Kingdom of God."

Zangwill thus combined the metaphor of the "crucible" or "melting pot" with a celebration of America as an ideal republic and a new promised land. The prophetic words of his Jewish protagonist against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty allude to Emma Lazarus's famous poem The New Colossus (1883), which celebrated the statue as a symbol of America's democracy and its identity as an immigrant nation[3].

United States

The melting pot idea is most strongly associated with the United States, particularly in reference to "model" immigrant groups of the past. Past generations of immigrants to the United States, it is argued by some, became successful by working to shed their historic identities and adopt the ways of their new country. Typically immigrants absorbed the ways of the "host" society, while loosening to varying degrees their connection to their native culture. This "Ellis Island" version of the "melting pot" narrative, equating the melting pot with the mixing of Euro-American immigrants, has been criticized because it overlooks the history of African-Americans, who came to North America mainly as slaves through the Atlantic slave trade, and Native Americans, who were wiped out, displaced or enslaved during the European colonization of the Americas.

The "melting pot" process has been equated with cultural assimilation and acculturation. The "melting pot" metaphor implies both a melting of cultures and intermarriage of ethnicities, yet cultural assimilation or acculturation can also occur without intermarriage. Thus African-Americans are fully culturally integrated into American culture and institutions. Yet more than a century after the abolition of slavery, intermarriage between African-Americans and other ethnicities is much less common than between different white ethnicities, or between white and Asian ethnicities. Intermarriage between whites and non-whites, and especially African-Americans, has long been a taboo in the United States, and was illegal in many US states (see anti-miscegenation laws) until 1967[4].

Whiteness and the US melting pot

The melting pot theory of ethnic relations, which sees American identity as centered upon the acculturation or assimilation and the intermarriage of white immigrant groups, has been analyzed by the emerging academic field of whiteness studies. This discipline examines the 'social construction of whiteness' and highlights the changing ways in which whiteness has been normative to American national identity from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, European immigration to the US became increasingly diverse and increased substantially in numbers. Southern and Eastern European immigrant groups such as the Italians, Jews, Russians and Poles entered the nation as future citizens eligible, as "free white persons," for naturalization under the racially restrictive Naturalization Act of 1790. Nonetheless, these immigrants were regarded by many as not only culturally but also "racially" distinct from Anglo-Saxon and other Northern-European, Protestant Americans. In America, non-Protestant European immigrant groups such as the Russians, Italians and Jews suffered from forms of discrimination, but they did enjoy political freedom. These groups gradually became accepted as fellow 'white' Americans, and eventually assimilated into mainstream white American culture. By contrast, non-white immigrants received less acceptance in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. Asian immigrants of various other ethnic groups such as Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Filipinos were ruled to be non-white and banned from marrying whites in several states where existing anti-miscegenation laws were expanded to include them. After a number of conflicting rulings in American courts, Punjabi people and others from British India were also judged to be non-whites (see Racial classification of Indian Americans). In the late 19th and early 20th century, the immigration of Asians was banned or severely restricted, through laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act.

In the early twentieth century, the meaning of the recently popularized concept of the melting pot was subject to ongoing debate which centered on the issue of immigration. The debate surrounding the concept of the melting pot centered on how immigration impacted American society and on how immigrants should be approached. The melting pot was equated with either the acculturation or the total assimilation of European immigrants, and the debate centered on the differences between these two ways of approaching immigration: "Was the idea to melt down the immigrants and then pour the resulting, formless liquid into the preexisting cultural and social molds modeled on Anglo-Protestants like Henry Ford and Woodrow Wilson, or was the idea instead that everyone, Mayflower descendants and Sicilians, Ashkenazi and Slovaks, would act chemically upon each other so that all would be changed, and a new compound would emerge?"[4].

Those demanding "Americanization" and "Anglo-conformity" from the immigrants regarded America as an Anglo-Saxon nation and demanded that the immigrants would culturally assimilate. Others favoring acculturation envisioned an America that would change culturally due to the impact of immigration. Not only was the way the immigrants should integrate into US society contested, there was also controversy over which and how many immigrants should be allowed in. Many Americans, the so-called Nativists, wanted to severely restrict access to the melting pot. They felt that far too many "undesirable", because in their view culturally and (especially according to eugenicists) "racially" inferior, non-"Nordic" Americans from Southern and Eastern Europe had already arrived. The Immigration Act of 1924 severely restricted immigration from outside of Northern and Western Europe and attempted to encourage immigration from Britain, Ireland, and Germany, while discouraging immigration from Poland, Italy, and Russia.

Non-white Americans, on the other hand, were for centuries not regarded by most white Americans as equal citizens and suitable marriage partners, and did therefore not fit into melting pot discourses at all. Intermarriage between Anglo-Americans and white immigrant groups was acceptable as part of the melting pot narrative. But when the term was first popularized in the early twentieth century, most whites did not want to accept non-whites, and especially African-Americans, as equal citizens in America's melting pot society. Native Americans in the United States enrolled in tribes did not have US citizenship until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, and were subjected to government policies of enforced cultural assimilation, which was termed "Americanization".

The mixing of whites and blacks, resulting in multiracial children, for which the term "miscegenation" was coined in 1863, was a taboo, and most whites opposed marriages between whites and blacks. In many states, marriage between whites and non-whites was even prohibited by state law through anti-miscegenation laws. As a result two kinds of "mixture talk" developed:

As the new word--miscegenation--became associated with black-white mixing, a preoccupation of the years after the Civil War, the residual European immigrant aspect of the question of [ethnoracial mixture] came to be more than ever a thing apart, discussed all the more easily without any reference to the African-American aspect of the question. This separation of mixture talk into two discourses facilitated, and was in turn reinforced by, the process Matthew Frye Jacobson has detailed whereby European immigrant groups became less ambiguously white and more definitely "not black"[4]

By the early 20th century, many white Americans accepted that American culture was heavily influenced by African-American culture, but although they increasingly accepted and even celebrated this acculturation, most whites did not accept marriages between white Americans and African-Americans. Reflecting on American culture in an afterword to his play, Israel Zangwill recognized this, writing: "However scrupulously and justifiably America avoids intermarriage with the Negro, the comic spirit cannot fail to no note that while clothing, commercializing, and Christianizing the ex-African, has given 'rag-time' and the sex-dances that go with it, first to America, and then to the rest of the white world."

Many African-American intellectuals have commented on and analyzed the paradox that white Americans long regarded many elements of African-American culture quintessentially "American", while at the same time treating African-Americans as second-class citizens. White appropriation, stereotyping and mimicking of black culture played an important role in the construction of an urban popular culture in which European immigrants could express themselves as Americans, through such traditions as blackface, minstrel shows and later in jazz and in early Hollywood cinema, notably in The Jazz Singer (1927).

Analyzing the "racial masquerade" that was involved in creation of a white "melting pot" culture through the stereotyping and imitation of black and other non-white cultures in the early 20th century, historian Michael Rogin has commented: "Repudiating 1920s nativism, these films [Rogin discusses The Jazz Singer, Old San Francisco (1927), Whoopee! (1930), King of Jazz (1930)] celebrate the melting pot. Unlike other racially stigmatized groups, white immigrants can put on and take off their mask of difference. But the freedom promised immigrants to make themselves over points to the vacancy, the violence, the deception and the melancholy at the core of American self-fashioning."[5].

Since the Second World War, the idea of the melting pot has become more racially inclusive in the United States, gradually extending also to acceptance of marriage between whites and non-whites. This trend towards greater acceptance of ethnic and racial "minorities" by "WASPs" (Anglo-Americans and other, mainly Protestant Americans of Northern European descent) was first evident in popular culture in the combat films of the Second World War, starting with Bataan (1943). This film celebrated solidarity and cooperation between Americans of all races and ethnicities through the depiction of a multiracial American unit at a time when the armed forces were still racially segregated.

Historian Richard Slotkin sees Bataan and the combat genre that sprang from it as the source of the "melting pot platoon", a cinematic and cultural convention symbolizing in the 1940s "an American community that did not yet exist", and thus presenting an implicit protest against racial segregation. However, Slotkin points out that ethnic and racial harmony within this platoon is predicated upon racist hatred for the Japanese enemy: "the emotion which enables the platoon to transcend racial prejudice is itself a virulent expression of racial hatred. ... The final heat which blends the ingredients of the melting pot is rage against an enemy which is fully dehumanized as a race of 'dirty monkeys.'" He sees this racist rage as an expression of "the unresolved tension between racialism and civic egalitarianism in American life."[6].

Since the successes of the American Civil Rights Movement and the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allowed for a massive increase in immigration from Latin America and Asia, intermarriage between white and non-white Americans has been increasing. The taboo on marriage between whites and African Americans also appears to be fading. In 2000, the rate of black-white marriage was greater than the rate of Jewish-Gentile marriage (between Jewish Americans and other whites) in 1940.

Melting pot, cultural pluralism, multiculturalism

The concept of multiculturalism was preceded by the concept of cultural pluralism, which was first developed in the 1910s and 1920s, and became widely popular during the 1940s. The concept of cultural pluralism first emerged in the 1910s and 1920s among intellectual circles out of the debates in the United States over how to approach issues of immigration and national identity.

The First World War heightened tensions between Anglo-American and German-Americans. The war and the Russian Revolution, which caused a "Red Scare" in the US, also fanned feelings of xenophobia. During and immediately after the First World War, the concept of the melting pot was equated by Nativists with complete cultural assimilation towards an Anglo-American norm ("Anglo-conformity") on the part of immigrants, and immigrants who opposed such assimilation were accused of disloyalty to the United States.

The newly popularized concept of the melting pot was frequently equated with "Americanization", meaning cultural assimilation, by many "old stock" Americans. In Henry Ford's Ford English School (established in 1914), the graduation ceremony for immigrant employees involved symbolically stepping off an immigrant ship and passing through the melting pot, entering at one end in costumes designating their nationality and emerging at the other end in identical suits and waving American flags[7][8]. However, not all "old stock" Americans believed that immigrants could be assimilated. Supporters of Anglo-Saxonism and 100 percent Americanism, such as Milton Gordon and Henry Pratt Fairchild believed in the cultural superiority of white Anglo-Americans to non-whites and the new immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, and perceived acculturation and intermarriage with Southern and Eastern European immigrants as a threat to Anglo-Americans. Opposition to the absorption of million of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe was especially strong among eugenicists such as scientists Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, who believed in the "racial" superiority of Americans of Northern European descent as member of the "Nordic race", and therefore demanded immigration restrictions to stop a "degeneration" of America's white racial "stock". They believed that complete cultural assimilation of the immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe was not a solution to the problem of immigration because intermarriage with these immigrants would endanger the racial purity of Anglo-America. According to eugenist criminologist Edward A. Ross, such intermarriage (often termed "amalgamation") would lead to "race suicide". The controversy over immigration faded away after immigration restrictions were put in place with the enactment of the Johnson-Reed Act in 1924.

In response to the pressure exerted on immigrants to culturally assimilate and also as a reaction against the denigration of the culture and "race" of non-Anglo white immigrants by Nativists, intellectuals on the left such as Horace Kallen, in Democracy Versus the Melting-Pot (1915), and Randolph Bourne, in Trans-National America (1916), laid the foundations for the concept of cultural pluralism. This term was coined by Kallen. Randolph Bourne, who objected to Kallen's emphasis on the inherent value of ethnic and cultural difference, envisioned a "trans-national" and cosmopolitan America. The concept of cultural pluralism was popularized in the 1940s by John Dewey.

In the United States, where the term melting pot is still commonly used, despite being largely disregarded by modern sociologists as an outdated and diffuse term, the ideas of cultural pluralism and multiculturalism have largely replaced the idea of assimilation.[9][10][11]. Alternate models where immigrants retain their native cultures such as the 'salad bowl'[12] or the 'symphony'[9] are more often used by prominent sociologists to describe how cultures and ethnicities mix in the United States. Nonetheless, the term assimilation is still used to describe the ways in which immigrants and their descendants adapt, such as by increasingly using the national language of the host society as their first language.

Since the 1960s, most of the research in Sociology and History has disregarded the melting pot theory for describing inter ethnic relations in the United States and other counties[9][10][11]. The theory of multiculturalism offers alternative analogies for ethnic interaction including salad bowl theory, or, as it is known in Canada, the cultural mosaic. In the 1990s, political correctness in the U.S. emphasized that each ethnic and national group has the right to maintain and preserve its cultural distinction and integrity, and that one doesn't need to assimilate or abandon one's heritage in order to blend in or merge into the majority European/Anglo-Saxon/American society.[citation needed]

In the multicultural approach, each "ingredient" retains its integrity and flavor, while contributing to a successful final product. In recent years, this approach has been officially promoted in traditional melting-pot societies such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, with the intent of becoming more tolerant of immigrant diversity[citation needed].

The decision of whether to support a melting-pot or multicultural approach has developed into an issue of much debate within some countries. For example, the French and British governments[13] and populace are currently debating whether Islamic cultural practices and dress conflict with their attempts to form culturally unified countries.

Multiculturalist view

Multiculturalists typically support loose immigration controls and programs such as bilingual education and affirmative action, which offer certain privileges to minority and/or immigrant groups.

Multiculturalists claim that assimilation can hurt minority cultures by stripping away their distinctive features. They point to situations where institutions of the dominant culture initiate programs to assimilate or integrate minority cultures.

Although some multiculturalists admit that assimilation may result in a relatively homogeneous society, with a strong sense of nationalism, they warn however, that where minorities are strongly urged to assimilate, there may arise groups which fiercely oppose integration. With assimilation, immigrants lose their original cultural (and often linguistic) identity and so do their children. Immigrants who fled persecution or a country devastated by war were historically resilient to abandoning their heritage once they had settled in a new country.

Multiculturalists note that assimilation, in practice, has often been forced, and has caused immigrants to have severed ties with family abroad. In the United States, the use of languages other than English in a classroom setting has traditionally been discouraged. Decades of this policy may have contributed to the fact—lamented by multiculturalists—that more than 80 percent of Americans speak only English at home. While an estimated 60 million U.S. citizens are of German descent, forming the largest ethnic group of American citizens, barely one million of them reported speaking German in their homes in the 2000 Census.

Assimilationist view

Whereas multiculturalists tend to view the melting-pot theory as oppressive, assimilationists view it as advantageous to both a government and its people. Some tend to favor controlled levels of immigration—enough to benefit society economically, but not enough to profoundly alter it. Assimilationists tend to be opposed to programs that, in their view, give out special privileges to minorities at the expense of the majority.

Assimilationists tend to believe that their nation has reached its present state of development because it has been able to forge one national identity. They argue that separating citizens by ethnicity or race and providing immigrant groups "special privileges" can harm the very groups they are intended to help. By calling attention to differences between these groups and the majority, the government may foster resentment towards them by the majority and, in turn, cause the immigrant group to turn inward and shun mainstream culture. Assimilationists suggest that if a society makes a full effort to incorporate immigrants into the mainstream, immigrants will then naturally work to reciprocate the gesture and adopt new customs. Through this process, it is argued, national unity is retained.

Assimilationists also argue that the multiculturalist policy of freer immigration is unworkable in an era in which the supply of immigrants from third world countries seems limitless. With immigrants often coming from multiple points of origin, it may be excessively expensive to meet their needs. From an employment perspective, they note that job markets are often tight to begin with and that expecting large amounts of newcomers to find work each year is unrealistic. Allowing high levels of immigration, it is argued, will inevitably lead to widespread poverty and other forms of disadvantage among immigrants. The melting-pot theory works best, in their view, when the "ingredients" are added in modest increments, so that they can be properly absorbed into the whole.

A compromise between multiculturalists and assimilationists?

There also exists a view that attempts to reconcile some of the differences between multiculturalists and assimilationists. Proponents of this view propose that immigrants need not completely abandon their culture and traditions in order to reach the goal that the melting pot theory seeks. This reasoning relies on the assumption that immigrants can be persuaded to ultimately consider themselves a citizen of their new nation first and of their nation of birth second. In this way, they may still retain and practice all of their cultural traditions but "when push comes to shove" they will put their host nation's interests first. If this can be accomplished, immigrants will then avoid hindering the progress, unity and growth that assimilationsts argue are the positive results of the melting pot theory—while simultaneously appeasing some of the multiculturalists.

This compromise view also supports a strong stance on immigration and a primary language in school with the option to study foreign languages. (A consensus on affirmative action does not currently exist.) Proponents of this compromise claim that the difference with this view and that of the assimilationists is that while their view of the melting pot essentially strips immigrants of their culture, the compromise allows immigrants to continue practicing and propagating their cultures from generation to generation and yet sustain and instill a love for their host country first and above all. Whether this kind of delicate balance between host and native countries among immigrants can be achieved remains to be seen.

Use in other regions

South Asia

South Asia has a long history of inter-ethnic marriage dating back to ancient history. Various groups of people have been intermarrying for millennia in South Asia, including groups as diverse as the Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman peoples. Greeks, Huns, Persians, Arab, Turkic, Mongols (Mughals), and European women were taken as wives by local Indian men and vice-versa. On account of such diverse influences, South Asia in a nut-shell appears to be a cradle of human civilization. Despite invasions in its recent history it has succeeded in organically assimilating incoming influences, blunting their naive unsustainable wills for imperialistic hegemony and maintaining its strong roots and culture. These invasions however brought their own racial mixing between diverse populations and South Asia is considered an exemplary "melting pot" (and not a "salad bowl") by many geneticists for exactly this reason.However, South Asian society has never been completely free of ethnic strife and exploitation, and some groups have chosen to remain separate from mainstream social life. The divisiveness of the Caste System in India has permeated to every facet of the society. Ethnic conflicts in Pakistan between Baloch, Pashtun and Sindhis, as well as the racial genocide of Bengalis by Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities are other impediments to the melting pot thesis.


Brazil has long been a melting pot for a wide range of cultures. From colonial times Portuguese Brazilians have favoured assimilation and tolerance for other peoples, and intermarriage was more acceptable in Brazil than in most other European colonies. However, Brazilian society has never been completely free of ethnic strife and exploitation, and some groups have chosen to remain separate from mainstream social life. Brazilians of mainly European descent (Portuguese, Italian, German, Spanish, etc) account for more than half the population, although people of mixed ethnic backgrounds form an increasingly larger segment; roughly two-fifths of the total are mulattoes (mulatos; people of mixed African and European ancestry) and mestizos (mestiços, or caboclos; people of mixed European and Indian ancestry). Portuguese are the main European ethnic group in Brazil, and most Brazilians can trace their ancestry to an ethnic Portuguese or a mixed-race Portuguese.


In the early years of the state of Israel the term melting pot (כור היתוך) (also known as "Ingathering of the Exiles" - קיבוץ גלויות ) was not a description of a process, but an official governmental doctrine of assimilating the Jewish immigrants that originally came from varying cultures. (See Jewish ethnic divisions) This was performed on several levels, such as educating the younger generation (with the parents not having the final say) and (to mention an anecdotal one) encouraging and sometimes forcing the new citizens to adopt a Hebrew name.

Activists such as the Iraq-born Ella Shohat that an elite which developed in the early 20th Century, out of the earlier-arrived Zionist Pioneers of the Second and Third Aliyas (immigration waves) - and who gained a dominant position in the Yishuv (pre-state community) since the 1930s - had formulated a new Hebrew culture, based on the values of Socialist Zionism, and imposed it on all later arrivals, at the cost of suppressing and erasing these later immigrants' original culture.

Proponents of the Melting Pot policy asserted that it applied to all newcomers to Israel equally; specifically, that Eastern European Jews were pressured to discard their Yiddish-based culture as ruthlessly as Mizrahi Jews were pressured to give up the culture which they developed during centuries of life in Arab and Muslim countries. Critics respond, however, that a cultural change effected by a struggle within the Ashkenazi-East European community, with younger people voluntarily discarding their ancestral culture and formulating a new one, is not parallel to the subsequent exporting and imposing of this new culture on others, who had no part in formulating it. Also, it was asserted that extirpating the Yiddish culture had been in itself an act of oppression only compounding what was done to the Mizrahi immigrants.

Today the reaction to this doctrine is ambivalent; some say that it was a necessary measure in the founding years, while others claim that it amounted to cultural oppression.[14] Others argue that the melting pot policy did not achieve its declared target: for example, the persons born in Israel are more similar from an economic point of view to their parents than to the rest of the population.[15] The policy is generally not practised today though as there is less need for that - the mass immigration waves at Israel's founding have declined. Nevertheless, one fifth of current Israel's Jewish population have immigrated from former Soviet Union in the last two decades; The Jewish population includes other minorities such as Haredi Jews; Furthermore, 20% of Israel's population is Arab. These factors as well as others contribute to the rise of pluralism as a common principle in the last years.


The expansion of Muscovy and later of the Russian Empire throughout 15th to 20th centuries created a unique melting pot. Though the majority of Russians had Slavic ancestry, different ethnicities were assimilated into the Russian melting pot through the period of expansion. Assimilation was a way for ethnic minorities to advance their standing within the Russian society and state - as individuals or groups. It required adoption of Russian as a day-to-day language and Orthodox Christianity as religion of choice.

Throughout the centuries of eastward expansion of Russia Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples were assimilated and included into the emerging Russian nation. This includes Mordvin, Udmurt, Mari, Tartar, Chuvash, Bashkir, and others. Surnames of many of Russia's nobility (including Suvorov, Kutuzov, Yusupov, etc) suggest their Turkic origin. Groups of later, 18th and 19th century migrants to Russia, from Europe (Germans, French, Italians, Poles, Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Jews, etc) or the Caucasus (Georgians, Armenians, Ossetians) also assimilated within several generations after settling among Russians in the expanding Russian Empire.

Soviet Union

The Soviet people (Russian: Советский народ) was an ideological epithet for the population of the Soviet Union. The Soviet government promoted the doctrine of assimilating all peoples living in USSR into one Soviet people, accordingly to Marxist principle of Fraternity of peoples.

The effort lasted for the entire history of the Soviet Union, but did not succeed, as evidenced by developments in most national cultures in the territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Use in popular culture

The melting pot remains a stock phrase in American political and cultural dialogue. The general perception of its process and effects can be summed up in "The Great American Melting Pot" song from Schoolhouse Rock!.[16]

In 1969 the song "Melting Pot" was released by the UK band Blue Mink. The lyrics espouse how the world should become one big melting pot where different races are to be mixed, 'churning out coffee coloured people by the score' referring to the possible pigmentation of children after such Miscegenation.

On The Colbert Report, an alternative to the melting pot culture was posed on The Word called "Lunchables", where separate cultures "co-exist" by being entirely separate and maintaining no contact or involvement (see also NIMBY).


Man is the most composite of all creatures.... Well, as in the old burning of the Temple at Corinth, by the melting and intermixture of silver and gold and other metals a new compound more precious than any, called Corinthian brass, was formed; so in this continent,--asylum of all nations,--the energy of Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks, and all the European tribes,--of the Africans, and of the Polynesians,--will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature, which will be as vigorous as the new Europe which came out of the smelting-pot of the Dark Ages, or that which earlier emerged from the Pelasgic and Etruscan barbarism.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry, 1845, first published 1912 in Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson with Annotations, Vol. IIV, 116
No reverberatory effect of the great war has caused American public opinion more solicitude than the failure of the 'melting-pot.' The discovery of diverse nationalistic feelings among our great alien population has come to most people as an intense shock.
Randolph Bourne, Trans-National America, in Atlantic Monthly, 118 (July 1916), 86-97
Blacks, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, etcetera, could not melt into the pot. They could be used as wood to produce the fire for the pot, but they could not be used as material to be melted into the pot.[17]
—Eduardo-Bonilla Silva, Race: The Power of an Illusion

See also


  1. ^ James, Henry (1968). The American Scene. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. , p. 116
  2. ^ As quoted in Gary Gerstle American Crucible; Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, 2001, p. 51. Hirschman, C. America's Melting Pot Policy Reconsidered, Annual Review of Sociology, 9, 1983, 397-423 (p.397).
  3. ^ "Take the Quiz". Destination America. PBS. September 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  4. ^ a b c Hollinger, David A. (December 2003). "Amalgamation and Hypodescent: The Question of Ethnoracial Mixture in the History of the United States". The American Historical Review (Indiana University) 108 (5): 1363–90. doi:10.1086/529971. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  5. ^ Rogin, Michael (December 1992). "Making America Home: Racial Masquerade and Ethnic Assimilation in the Transition to Talking Pictures". The Journal of American History (Organization of American Historians) 79 (3): 1050–77. doi:10.2307/2080798. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  6. ^ Slotkin, Richard (Fall 2001). "Unit Pride: Ethnic Platoons and the Myths of American Nationality". American Literary History (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 13 (9): 469–98. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  7. ^ "Ford English School". Automobile in American Life and Society. University of Michigan - Dearborn. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  8. ^ "Immigration". University of Nancy. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  9. ^ a b c Milton, Gordon. Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford University Press date=1964. 
  10. ^ a b Adams, J. Q.; Strother-Adams, Pearlie (2001). Dealing with Diversity. Chicago, IL: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co. ISBN 0-7872-8145-X. 
  11. ^ a b Glazer, Nathan; Moynihan, Daniel P. (1 January 1970). Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians and Irish of New York City (2nd ed.). Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 026257022X. 
  12. ^ Millet, Joyce. "Understanding American Culture: From Melting Pot to Salad Bowl". Cultural Savvy. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  13. ^ Cowell, Alan (2006-10-15). "Islamic schools at heart of British debate on integration". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  14. ^ 'Melting pot' approach in the IDF was a mistake, Haaretz
  15. ^ Yitzhaki, Shlomo and Schechtman, EdnaThe “Melting Pot”: A Success Story? Journal of Economic Inequality, Vol; 7, No. 2, June 2009, pp; 137-151. Earlier version by Schechtman, Edna and Yitzhaki, Shlomo, Working Paper No. 32, Central Bureau of Statistics, Jerusalem, Nov. 2007, i + 30 pp.
  16. ^ "The Great American Melting Pot". School House Rock. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  17. ^ "Episode 3 The House We Live In (transcript)", Race: The Power of an Illusion,, retrieved 5 Feb 2009 

External links

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