To the Editor:
Glazer and Moynihan’s Beyond the Melting Pot deserves a better fate than Daniel Bell’s combination of sporadic praise and extended asides about “what’s new in sociological research” [January]. Now I suppose a reviewer can do many things with his space, including playing Parsons for the masses, but an imaginative book about ethnic socio-politics cries out for an interpretive intellectual analysis, especially in COMMENTARY.
Bell is rightfully critical of the old “melting pot” acculturation theory, but then goes on to call for a projected time schedule of ethnic acculturation. But we do not know if any such prediction is merited without an evaluation of the levels of ethnic distinctiveness in family, associational, and political life. Bell doubts that religion and nationality will be able to withstand the pressures of class and color (ethnic?) politics. But this statement is meaningless without considering the saliency of political forces within and without the ethnic sub-communities. Surely a student of “status politics” is aware of this, and the durability of ethno-religious political patterns in the teeth of social class alterations is documented by Lenski in Detroit as well as by Dahl in New Haven.
Glazer and Moynihan place heavy emphasis on familial variables in relation to larger non-ethnic political and social institutions. But at a middle level exists the rich array of formal ethnocentric organizations ranging from Jewish defense groups to Catholic social councils, and these civil agencies, like their secular counterparts, occupy a near-monopoly on social and political symbols and programs with ethno-religious content. Styles of achievement in an organizational society may be as politically relevant if less visible than types of communal relations in the older urban, immigrant milieu. An evaluation of these and other factors is an intellectual necessity to complement the rich and stimulating data assembled from among the ethnic groups of New York City.
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Mr. Bell writes:
Mr. Litt’s clumsy jargon, disagreeable tone (“playing Parsons for the masses”—ugh!), and lack of specification make a reviewer’s reply difficult. Is it amiss to say that Mr. Glazer thought the review one of the best he had read of the book?
I did not “call for” a projected time schedule of ethnic acculturation; that would mean I desired it. I suggested that various writers who have noted the persistence of ethnic identifications had failed to specify the time period over which these identifications have persisted. 1 noted that, except for the Irish, this has been, at best, for one or two generations; and this is not a very long historical period. I felt, further, that because of changes in the patterns of education and in the occupational structure, the identifications on the basis of nationality and religion may be less meaningful in the next decades than class and color (the Negro problem). The question is an open one, and cannot be settled by rhetorical gestures such as “surely.”
The last paragraph, particularly the sentence beginning, “Styles of achievement. . . .,” I do not understand at all.