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The US is unique because it has an explicit narrative of assimilation. In Europe we're more wary of the idea that immigration is good, and not quite sure how to go about making assimilation happen.

The US believes explicitly - or likes to pretend it does - that immigration is good, probably for the obvious reasons that it's a good source of cheap labour. Even though in practice communities seem to stick together even more than they do in Europe.

This proves how useful it is to have narratives. Even if they're nonsense, they make people behave in reliable and useful ways.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:35:07 PM EST
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I think that the term "assimilation" is a difficult thing to work out.  I seem to perceive it in a much different way than I have seen it used in reference to Europe.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:43:27 PM EST
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In Europe, assimilation is understood to mean stripping the immigrant of all traces of their previous identity.

Still today, in countries around Europe you see that dynamic at work, or at least advocated by a sizeable political minority.

I think in the US you're starting to develop some of the same, with the "English Only" movement, and so on.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:29:26 PM EST
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Exactly.  But I don't think the situation in America is nec. new; it seems to be the first chapter in all waves of immigration.  Although, given the size of the latest wave of immigration, it might be stronger.  Still, the same people who want English to be the official language will shoot you if you try to take away their nachos...  It's the jobs, not the culture, they want the immigrants stripped of...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:34:04 PM EST
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It might have something to do with the fact that the US has not only reached its maximum geographical extent, but also is commands a decreasing fraction of the world's resources and power. As long as you're expanding you can absorb immigration more easily because there's less competition for the existing resources.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:44:58 PM EST
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France has a nexplicit narrative of assimilation, that's precisely my point.
France also believes that immigration is good, despite the temporary reactions.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:45:24 PM EST
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That's not quite what I mean. If the French narrative is anything like the British one, it's going to lack the overt cheerleading 'It's all a melting pot' advertising that the US narrative has.

The key difference seems to be that patriotism is still a mainstream value in the US. We're much more suspicious of it in Europe. Aside from the racists, hardly anyone in the UK considers themselves patriotic, except in a negative 'At least we're not European' sense.

I'd guess - based on speculation - that France and Germany are mid-way between the two.

Without patriotism there isn't really anything to be assimilated into.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:14:02 PM EST
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There's really no patriotism in Germany as in France. When there's no World Cup around, you won't see any flags - and there's no general feeling of pride to be German. But it's a different thing about the integration of immigrants, we just don't get that right. But these two things don't seem to be directly connected.

/ After 9/11, Gerhard Schröder declared "We're all Americans now" and I was like "Huh? I'm having enough trouble with being German, thank you."

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 02:07:38 AM EST
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