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Assimilation Problems and Nationalism in Works by Bourne, Chatterjee and Yack

The Jew and Transnational America

Bourne’s essay titled “the Jew and Transnational America” is a remarkable piece of work in the early twentieth century. It considers the then conceived problem of diversity in America and the author’s attempt to weed out a possible solution. Bourne thus manages to compare the issue of Americanism with Zionism as a possible source of inspiration to solve America’s woes.

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The author in his essay presents the situation in America which is comprised of diverse peoples migrating from Europe and those who can claim to have been a part of the formation of the country. The trends of nationalism as Bourne points out are the melting pot approach, which is aimed at the creation of one big homogenous collective, and the cooperation of cultures approach which is more in the tune of accepting cultural differences and forming a nationalism-based on this diversity.

Bourne appears to be against assimilation which he perceives to be beneficial only to the ruling class. He considers it a path akin to that taken by France and some of the other nations in Europe now embroiled in war and proposes acceptance of the diverse cultures present in America. This he further strengthens with his look at Zionism and the Jewish transnational. The author admires the flexibility of the Jew and claims that since the dual allegiances that hoped to be formed in a homeland in Palestine are workable, it should be a path taken by America towards solidifying its democratic principles. It can be said however that he ignores to a great extent the religious impetus behind the ideology of Zionism and the historical perspective of the Jews who as a nation claim to have a specific status. The motivation for collectiveness and some of the thoughts behind the ease with which Jews are able to follow this may not be applicable to America. Furthermore, it can be claimed that a one-sided view of the European nations is presented by Bourne, not all of which followed the trend of assimilation that is being rued by the author. This was further evidenced by the happenings after the war.

Beyond the Nation or Within?

Chatterjee’s article “Beyond the Nation or Within?” is an interesting analysis of the nature of civil society and its relation to political society and the currents that follow regarding it. The author begins the article with an exposition of Arjun Appadurai’s concept of looking beyond the nation for the trends to be followed by civil society and questions whether in actuality, it needs to look more deeply into itself.

The author advances his thesis by commenting upon two primary reasons why the nation-state system needs to be brought forth more clearly. The first one of these is that the new transnational character being taken by society is not clearly elucidated by the existing definitions surrounding the concept of nation-state. This Chaterjee supports the argument that awareness of cultural identity and political realization that does not show territorial characteristics has been on the rise. Furthermore, the trend seen with regards to assimilation seems to have been failing and collective social movements have taken on more of a non-territorial nature as well.

The second reason at the core of the author’s argument relates to the ability of the state to take care of the people has been denied not only by tangible failures but by a loss of credibility as well. This is espoused with the notion that considerable transnational activity in the following times has involved non-state actors under the banner of modernizing civil-social movements. These actions are from a collection that derives its claims from the assumption of a universal civil society that is not territorial in nature.

The myth of the Civic Nation

This article by Yack, ‘The myth of the Civic Nation” goes into the depth of the search by Western scholars of unadulterated civic nationalism and finds it’s lacking. He begins by discussing the characterization of nations as has been frequently done based on political and other symbols where cultural inheritance can be said to center on language and a few other combining factors. However, he then expounds upon the combined inheritance of certain experiences and others related to the colonial era which in many cases forms an integral part of identity.

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This assimilation Yack argues has been taken to be important in the case of America which consists of a diverse blend of people trying to form a collective. Efforts have been made to extend this by claiming common principles and attempting further to draw out distinctions. The author believes this to be a wrong trend since political reality does not support this view. He borrows on the history of the Greeks, from where some of the most fundamental principles have been drawn, and asks why they failed to form nation-states and enjoyed prosperity as city-states. The acceptance of diverse origins he argues does not lead to conflict but further development. Political community after all is a voluntary association by the principles of liberal Enlightenment. A nation is not made via a collective but by voluntary consent and rich background of diverse cultural values that are not suppressed. If this is not followed, particularly in the case of America, the forces of nationalistic passion can be flamed and lead to annihilation of the synthetic collective being created.

Works Cited

Bourne, Randolph. War and the Intellectuals. Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1916.

Chatterjee, Partha. “Beyond the Nation? Or within?.” Social Text 56(1998): 57-69.

Yack, Bernard. “The Myth of the Civic Nation.” Social Research 10, 2(1996):

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StudyCorgi. "Assimilation Problems and Nationalism in Works by Bourne, Chatterjee and Yack." November 21, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/assimilation-problems-and-nationalism-in-works-by-bourne-chatterjee-and-yack/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Assimilation Problems and Nationalism in Works by Bourne, Chatterjee and Yack." November 21, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/assimilation-problems-and-nationalism-in-works-by-bourne-chatterjee-and-yack/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Assimilation Problems and Nationalism in Works by Bourne, Chatterjee and Yack'. 21 November.

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