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The American Kaleidoscope
preview of book The American Kaleidoscope
text of book The American Kaleidoscope

The American Kaleidoscope

Publisher: Wesleyan
Publication Date: 1991 (c1990)
Category: General
Grades: Highly recommended. Outstanding Title!
Number of Pages: 641
Appropriate for: Upper-division undergraduates and above
Choice rating: 
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About this title

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A leading authority's panoramic history compares the experiences of immigrant-ethnic groups, African-Americans, and Native Americans to each other and in relation to the national political culture.

Do recent changes in American law and politics mean that our national motto -- e pluribus unum -- is at last becoming a reality? Lawrence H. Fuchs searches for answers to this question by examining the historical patterns of American ethnicity and the ways in which a national political culture has evolved to accommodate ethnic diversity. Fuchs looks first at white European immigrants, showing how most of them and especially their children became part of a unifying political culture. He also describes the ways in which systems of coercive pluralism kept persons of color from fully participating in the civic culture. He documents the dismantling of those systems and the emergence of a more inclusive and stronger civic culture in which voluntary pluralism flourishes.

In comparing past patterns of ethnicity in America with those of today, Fuchs finds reasons for optimism. Diversity itself has become a unifying principle, and Americans now celebrate ethnicity. One encouraging result is the acculturation of recent immigrants from Third World countries. But Fuchs also examines the tough issues of racial and ethnic conflict and the problems of the ethno-underclass, the new outsiders. The American Kaleidoscope ends with a searching analysis of public policies that protect individual rights and enable ethnic diversity to prosper.

Because of his lifelong involvement with issues of race relations and ethnicity, Lawrence H. Fuchs is singularly qualified to write on a grand scale about the interdependence in the United States of the unum and the pluribus. His book helps to clarify some difficult issues that policymakers will surely face in the future, such as those dealing with immigration, language, and affirmative action.

About author
Lawrence H Fuchs

Lawrence H. Fuchs, Meyer and Walter Jaffe Professor of American Civilization and Politics at Brandeis University, is Vice-Chair of the United States Commission on Immigration Reform. He was appointed by President Carter and the Congress as Executive Director of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy. The Commission's 1981 report became the basis for the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the first major reform of U.S. immigration policy since 1965. Fuchs frequently has testified before the House and Senate on immigration and refugee policy. He is the author of Family Matters (1973), American Ethnic Politics (1968), Those Peculiar Americans: The Peace Corps and American National Character (1968), John F. Kennedy and American Catholicism (1967), Hawaii Pono (1961), and The Political Behavior of American Jews (1955). He is also the originator and principal scholar of two texts, Black in White America (1974) and The American Experiment (1981).


Fuchs, Lawrence H. The American kaleidoscope: race, ethnicity, and the civic culture. Wesleyan, 1991 (c1990). (Dist. by University Press of New England), 618p index afp ISBN 0-8195-5122-8. Outstanding Title! Reviewed in 1991jun CHOICE.

In this masterful examination of US immigration history Fuchs compares patterns of ethnicity and ethnic assimilation and resistance across 150 years, with special emphasis on the post-WW II years. He observes that the process of acculturation of national groups, whether in the 1840s or the 1990s, is roughly similar for very different ethnic blocs. Further, Fuchs asserts the civic culture that emerged in the early Republic, which found that all immigrants could become members of the governing political and cultural order on the basis of equal rights, had continued. The melting pot myth, he concludes, is confirmed by the shift from a coercive "sojourner pluralism" to entry into the civic culture. Fuchs does not ignore, however, the hard issues of racial and ethnic conflict, or the persistence of an ethnic (primarily African American) underclass. Nor does he minimize the resistance to assimilation, both by the native-born and by the ethnic group itself. Nonetheless, Fuchs strikes a hopeful note, however qualified. Marked by judiciousness and balance throughout, this is a definitive study of ethnicity in America.

Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- M. Cantor, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Copyright 2013 American Library Association


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