IN TWO months three substantial articles bearing directly or indirectly on the New Ethnicity have appeared in COMMENTARY: Nathan Glazer’s “Ethnicity and the Schools” (September), Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan’s “Why Ethnicity?” (October), and Robert Alter’s “What Jewish Studies Can Do” (also October). The social-science journals have not been lacking in papers, notes, comments, and disputations. In Center Magazine for July-August let me mention only John Higham’s “Integration vs. Pluralism: Another American Dilemma.” Ethnicity seems to be topical.
Like some of those writers, or maybe all of them in some of their moods, I am not sure just what the New Ethnicity is and how real it is. Is it perhaps an artifact? Fifteen and twenty years ago, when ethnicity was thought to be dead or dying, and anyway of little importance, I suspected that the news of its death had been exaggerated, Voting studies confirmed my suspicion. Ethnicity counted, though how to separate out its effects from the effects of religion and class remained unclear. Now that the pendulum has swung, I am perversely inclined to suspect that the news of ethnicity’s robust health has been exaggerated.
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