Our civilization’s Ottoman years

Some right-wing intellectuals are wont to say that multicultural and multiracial empires do not last. This is not true. Historically there are plenty which lasted for quite a long time. Rome, Byzantium, and the Ottomans, to name just a few of the longest. But, though they were diverse polities modern liberal democratic sensibilities would have been offended by them. That is because these empires were ordered and centered around a hegemonic culture, with other cultures accepted and tolerated on the condition of submission and subordination.

The Ottoman example is the most stark because it was formally explicit under the millet system by the end of its history, though it naturally evolved out of Islamic conceptions of the roles of dhimmis under Muslim hegemony. For 500 years the Ottomans ruled a multicultural empire. Yes, it decayed and collapsed, but 500 years is a good run.

I bring up the Ottoman example because I was having a discussion with a friend of mine, an academic, and he brought up the idea that the seeming immiseration of the middle to lower classes in developed societies will lead to redistributive economic policies. Both of us agree that immiseration seems on the horizon, and that no contemporary political movement has a good response. But I pointed out that traditionally redistributive socialism seems most successful in relatively homogeneous societies, and the United States is not that. American society is diverse. Descriptively multicultural. There would be another likely solution.

Eleven years ago Amartya Sen wrote a piece for The New Republic which could never get published in the journal today, The Uses and Abuses of Multiculturalism. In it he looked dimly upon the emergence of plural monoculturalism. Today plural monoculturalism is the dominant ideal of the identity politics Left, with cultural appropriation in vogue, and separatism reminiscent of the 1970s starting to come back into fashion. Against plural monoculturalism he contrasted genuine multiculturalism. I think a better word for it is cosmopolitanism.

The Ottoman ruling elite was Sunni Muslim, but it was cosmopolitan. The Sultan himself often had a Christian mother, while during the apex of the empire the shock troops were janissary forces drawn from the dhimmi peoples of the Balkans. This was a common feature of the Islamic, and before them Byzantine and Roman empires. The ruling elites exhibited a common ethos, but their origins were variegated.

Many of the Byzantine emperors were not from ethnic Greek Chalcedonian Christian backgrounds (before the loss of the Anatolian territories many were of Armenian, and therefore non-Chalcedonian, origin). But the culture they assimilated to, and promoted, as the core identity of the empire was Greek-speaking and Chalcedonian, with a self-conscious connection to ancient Rome. I can give similar examples from South Asia or China. Diverse peoples can be bound together in a sociopolitical order, but it is invariably one of domination, subordination, and specialization.

But subordinate peoples had their own hierarchies, and these hierarchies interacted with the Ottoman Sultan in an almost feudal fashion. Toleration for the folkways of these subordinate populations was a given, so long as they paid their tax and were sufficiently submissive. The leaders of the subordinate populations had their own power, albeit under the penumbra of the ruling class, which espoused the hegemonic ethos.

How does any of this apply to today? Perhaps this time it’s different, but it seems implausible to me that our multicultural future is going to involve equality between the different peoples. Rather, there will be accommodation and understandings. Much of the population will be subject to immiseration of subsistence but not flourishing. They may have some universal basic income, but they will be lack the dignity of work. Identity, religious and otherwise, will become necessary opiums of the people. The people will have their tribunes, who represent their interests, and give them the illusion or semi-reality of a modicum agency.

The tribunes, who will represent classical ethno-cultural blocs recognizable to us today, will deal with a supra-national global patriciate. Like the Ottoman elite it will not necessarily be ethnically homogeneous. There will be aspects of meritocracy to it, but it will be narrow, delimited, and see itself self-consciously above and beyond local identities and concerns. The patriciate itself may be divided. But their common dynamic will be that they will be supra-national, mobile, and economically liberated as opposed to dependent.

Of course democracy will continue. Augustus claimed he revived the Roman Republic. The tiny city-state of Constantinople in the 15th century claimed it was the Roman Empire. And so on. Outward forms and niceties may be maintained, but death of the nation-state at the hands of identity politics and late stage capitalism will usher in the era of oligarchic multinationalism.

I could be wrong. I hope I am.

38 thoughts on “Our civilization’s Ottoman years

  1. Thanks for link to that Amartya Sen piece. Much to chew on.

    I’ve recently gone back a few times to re-read slatestarcodex post on what he calls universal culture. So this post
    http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/07/25/how-the-west-was-won/

    The “oligarchic multinationalism” terminology is not the way I’d frame what you’re talking about though. The self image of the new ruling class is multi-racial meritocracy winners. Who drive the universal culture and abide it so deeply they are fish unaware of the water they swim in. So this is a power shift from a western culture with it’s traditional roots, into a new model of universal/cosmopolitan culture built on a power structure of meritocracy winners.

    In practice this has oligarchic tendencies of course. But if your kid can’t get into Harvard or equivalent status marker (fairly or unfairly doesn’t matter), then they won’t join the next gen elite. This constant winnowing process means each elite kid feels the merit of their power has been fairly won. China’s history shows how stable this can be. Each generations new nobility is earned and justified (in their eyes). So multiculturalism then becomes at root not valuing different cultures but rather a quota system to make sure each generation of new elite has crudely fair proportional representation among those who cling to their guns/religion/particularist cultures.

    Don’t think we disagree here of course.

    But the nuance I would emphasize is: 1) cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism are easily joined, into what Scott calls universalist culture, 2) self image of new ruling elite may in practice be oligarchic but in self image is beyond culture. So not multicultural except in the sense the hijab is a token fashion market with little deep meaning, 3) the battle here is between meritocracy universalist (lip service multicultural) against all extent cultural traditions. Which is why Trump’s speech on the west, which would have been banal a decade ago as both Michael B Dougherty and Rod Dreher pointed out (assume you’ve seen those posts), could now in 2017 be directly attacked as parochial. That attack would’ve happened even if a president Romney gave that kind of speech in 2017. Just attacks are easier to do and more blatant when given by Trump.

    I am wondering who the new Tocqueville will be to outline this. He or she will of course come from the traditional western cultural elite (just as Tocqueville came from the old nobility. The old dying elite will have the best frame for seeing the flaws (and possible benefits) of the new rising elite. Sorry for long comment, just think this is a central topic, so triggered a burst of typing as I’ve been reading/thinking about it a lot.

  2. While I understand the “multicultural” rhetoric is near its apex, I’m not sure fundamentally it has changed the assimilationist dynamic of our culture. All of the statistics I have seen suggest Latinos in the U.S. show the same dynamic as earlier migrants – the first generation never truly assimilates, the second generation lives bestride two worlds, but is more comfortable speaking English, and the third generation is essentially totally assimilated. ESL/ESOL is perhaps the only example of a “multicultural” policy which has slowed down assimilation. And even in that case it mostly works on the margins, because I cannot imagine that the children of ESL students will themselves be enrolled in such programs. Except for unique groups which actively and successfully self-segregate (Amish and Hasids, for example) the U.S. basically has a “white” identity and a black one, with immigrants just occupying a liminal position for a few generations as part of the transition into one of these identities.

    The reason, I think, is because the center is just too powerful in modernity due to the two strong pillars of public education and mass media. And the wider world holds more opportunities than the subculture you’re born into, whether it be a small town or a small immigrant community within a big city. Every child might not walk away, but enough will over time to continually diminish the community. And even those who stay will be modified by the folkways of the hegemonic culture in such a way that their local culture is diminished over time. While “woke” Latino or Asian-Americans may be strident in their identity, their culture is fundamentally more similar to a generic white progressive than it is to their own parents. Indeed, changing culture from a group of communal and largely unconscious social norms into an actively embraced individual sense of otherness warps it into something unrecognizable – something which is no more likely to be passed onto your progeny than say science fiction fandom.

    Of course, current dynamics may not continue into the future. The internet has very much fractured mass media, albeit not always along cultural lines. A lack of economic opportunity within the cultural hubs of modernity might make people more likely to stay isolated within their parents cultures. But in many cases, this might mean staying in their home countries. Migrants from poor countries would no longer be able to find work in wealthy countries, and I expect during the initial stages stricter migration controls will be put into effect to stop immigration solely to collect basic income. Later on, if automation gets us further towards post-scarcity, applying basic income will be feasible in the developing world, at which point the “push” to migrate (absent political instability) would also vanish.

  3. I hope you’re right, Karl. It would become ever harder to do science and recruit good scientists in the fractured society Razib predicts.

  4. OT; and feel free to delete once seen. For the past couple open threads, it doesn’t seem like anyone can comment.

  5. This constant winnowing process means each elite kid feels the merit of their power has been fairly won.

    this is common in islamic states. the ruling elite of a given generation were derived from converts, slaves, and migrants, who owed all to the polity. in the next generation the children would move out of these circles (e.g., mamluks).

  6. Good post Razib.

    “during the apex of the empire the shock troops were janissary forces drawn from the dhimmi peoples of the Balkans.”

    Readers should understand that the conscription was of prepubescent boys, who were taken from their villages, converted to Islam, circumcised, and taught Turkish.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devshirme

    The conscripts could also become civil servants, scribes, and religious officials. A few rose to be Grand Vizier, the highest official in the Empire.

  7. All of the statistics I have seen suggest Latinos in the U.S. show the same dynamic as earlier migrants – the first generation never truly assimilates, the second generation lives bestride two worlds, but is more comfortable speaking English, and the third generation is essentially totally assimilated.

    This is false. Hispanics display considerably lower and slower rates of assimilation than earlier (European) immigrants. They also lag behind considerably today’s Asian immigrants in economic, cultural, and civic assimilation.* Their acquisition of English monolingualusm down three generation compares badly even against the likes of Laotians, let alone East Asians.

    *One exception is Cubans who assimilate at rates similar to some ** Asian groups.

    ** Chinese and Indian immigrants also display low rates of assimilation, but higher than Hispanic ones.

    Among the major immigrant groups, Canadians lead the pack, followed by Filipinos, Koreans, and Vietnamese.

    Surprisingly, pure Asians in the U.S. are far more likely to self-identify as “white” than Hispanics in surveys. Asian-white mixes are much more likely to do so than Hispanic-white mixes. I posted links to relevant research/data some time ago on Unz, not that anyone actually bothered to read them.

  8. The conscripts could also become civil servants, scribes, and religious officials. A few rose to be Grand Vizier, the highest official in the Empire.

    Of course, eventually they became a rent-seeking hereditary caste opposed to modern military reforms…

  9. Indeed, changing culture from a group of communal and largely unconscious social norms into an actively embraced individual sense of otherness warps it into something unrecognizable

    How are subcultures and group identities formed if not in this manner?

  10. @KarlZ

    All of the statistics I have seen suggest Latinos in the U.S. show the same dynamic as earlier migrants – the first generation never truly assimilates, the second generation lives bestride two worlds, but is more comfortable speaking English, and the third generation is essentially totally assimilated.

    Given that the vast majority of Hispanic immigration is hardly a generation old, I don’t know where these stats are coming from. Speaking personally, I see a vast difference between my maternal family’s immigration and assimilation experience (my grandparents and greats came over in 1920s) and that of post-1980s families. My mother, aunts, and uncles are mestizo but have nothing in common with and even open contempt for the “woke” kids whose parents came here during the great migrant wave of the 90s and 2000s. They all married white gringos and love America like a child.

  11. family arrived in states ~1980. very few bangladeshis then. most of their social circle today though arrived after 1995 or so. though i wouldn’t say there is a big chasm as such the community is much more insulated and parochial than in the 1980s because it is orders of magnitude bigger.

  12. Twinkie: Their acquisition of English monolingualusm down three generation compares badly even against the likes of Laotians, let alone East Asians.

    “Acquisition of monolingualism” seems like an odd way to describe 3rd Gen Latinos being able to speak Spanish at a higher rate than 3rd Gen Chinese can speak Chinese. If nothing else, one of these languages generally seems a lot easier for English speakers and more useful in the US than the other, with more incentive to retain.

    (“Acquisition of monolingualism” seems to be a new phrase with no other usages found by Google. Akin to speaking of “acquiring” illiteracy over generations?).

    Surprisingly, pure Asians in the U.S. are far more likely to self-identify as “white” than Hispanics in surveys.

    If you’ve still got your link, how would we actually know that? Is it like difference rates between observer rated group and self rated group? Or is it like self stated grandparents and self identification, so there are more saying “I have four grandparents from China and my self classification is…” than “I have four grandparents from Mexico and my self classification is….”?

  13. “Acquisition of monolingualism” seems like an odd way to describe 3rd Gen Latinos being able to speak Spanish at a higher rate than 3rd Gen Chinese can speak Chinese.

    From an individual (particularly of a certain socio-economic class) perspective, multilingualism is a positive trait. However, in migrant demographic terms, bilingualism THROUGH GENERATIONS correlates with low degrees of assimilation and socio-economic performance. It also correlates with reduced facility with English, again, DOWN THROUGH THE GENERATIONS.

    Hence, acquisition of English monolingualism (my term, but not my concept, obviously) is, DEMOGRAPHICALLY-speaking, a positive development. Or at least it used to be… and still ought to be.

    If nothing else, one of these languages generally seems a lot easier for English speakers and more useful in the US than the other, with more incentive to retain.

    The HUGE size of Hispanic population in the U.S. is certainly conductive to bilingualism, but both English acquisition and monolingualism varies AMONG Hispanics based on national origin (and by education/class, I am sure – in other words, selectivity varies).

    Also, among Asians of varying linguistic origins, “easier for English speakers” and “more useful in the US” have no bearing on assimilative monolingualism (e.g. Japanese vs. Laotian). Think about the implications of that for a moment.

    If you’ve still got your link, how would we actually know that? Is it like difference rates between observer rated group and self rated group? Or is it like self stated grandparents and self identification, so there are more saying “I have four grandparents from China and my self classification is…” than “I have four grandparents from Mexico and my self classification is….”?

    I’ll try to look it up again. Unfortunately I don’t keep a catalog of things I linked over the years (this was from several years ago, I think). Maybe I should start… but am too lazy to do so outside areas of serious interests.

    As I recall, the survey checked both actual ethnicity and responses to the question of “I identify as…” Obviously both mixed white-Asians and white-Hispanics (meaning, offspring of someone who is non-Hispanic white and a Hispanic person) identified at fairly high rates as “whites” but the Asian hybrids did so at higher rates than Hispanic hybrids. Likewise, American-born Asians of entirely Asian ancestry did so at higher rates than their Hispanic counterparts.

    As for assimilation data, that’s easy enough – just go to the Manhattan Institute’s website and look through its long-running study on assimilation of migrants in the U.S. (a composite of proxies that measure economic, cultural, and civic assimilation).

  14. In regards to Hispanic assimilation, most of my data has come from the periodic Pew surveys of Hispanics. For example, 2004 study found that the English dominant/bilingual/Spanish dominant breakdown for first-generation Latinos was 4%/24%/72%. For the second generation it was 46%/47%/0%. For the third generation it was 78%/22%/0%. Another study done in 2013 confirmed second-generation Hispanics are more likely to report being able to speak their home language “pretty well” than Asians – with about eight in ten saying so, compared to four in ten for Asians, so Twinkie is right on this. There is no reported difference in English fluency however, which seems more important to me when considering assimilation.

    On another note, a 2017 Pew study on interracial marriage found that White-Hispanic “interracial” marriages are now only slightly less likely than white-Asian intermarriages (27% versus 29%). Indeed, the level of Asian intermarriage has actually gone down slightly since 1980 (it was 33% then) while the Hispanic intermarriage rate increased by 1%. If I were to hazard a guess as to why Asian intermarriage has fallen, it would simply be Asians have more Asian partners to choose from today, although the differing demographics of Asian Americans may also have played a role. Another Pew study a few years earlier showed essentially identical curves on intermarriage among Asian-Americans and Latinos – maybe a bit higher for Asians for the first generation, and a bit higher for Latinos for the second generation.

    One place I very much disagree with Twinkie is that we should look at things like socio-economic status or educational attainment as signs of assimilation. If that is the metric, plenty of Americans whose families have been in the U.S. since prior to the Revolutionary War are not assimilated. Assimilation into the lower middle class, working class, and even the underclass is still assimilation if one thinks of oneself as American and speaks predominantly English. For example, many studies in the past have found that while second-generation African immigrants tend to be high performers, the third generation falls back to the norms in performance for black Americans. Although the reasons for this are open to interpretation, to some extent it likely represents the assimilation of immigrant communities into the black American identity.

  15. How are subcultures and group identities formed if not in this manner?

    This is a good point. Indeed, in the future of America, I see these new and adopted cultures being more salient politically than the home cultures of immigrants (with LGBT culture as a clear forerunner). That said, that sort of paradigm does not fit under the system that multiculturalism gives lip service to. While I expect, given its long history in America, that black culture will remain as an identifiable affinity group for many generations to come, absent continual infusions of immigrants I don’t see Asian and Latino identity being any more resilient than the “white ethnic” identities were in the past. Basically, we may – likely will – fracture even more into “tribes” but there’s no sign that those tribes will reflect ethnic divisions. The one exception may be the black/white division, which is essentially primal to the nation, but there is evidence (such as higher interracial marriage and childbearing) that even this line is beginning to blur.

  16. Although the reasons for this are open to interpretation, to some extent it likely represents the assimilation of immigrant communities into the black American identity.

    I have questioned which side of the color line the 2nd and 3rd generation Somalis and other North Africans will fall.

    new and adopted cultures being more salient politically than the home cultures of immigrants (with LGBT culture as a clear forerunner).

    Yes, Salier’s political coalition of fringe groups.

    that sort of paradigm does not fit under the system that multiculturalism gives lip service to.

    Right, but it does fall within the extreme leftist paradigm and the scramble for a proper victimhood status.

    but there is evidence (such as higher interracial marriage and childbearing) that even this line is beginning to blur.

    I disagree here. The black community seems to have embraced and solidified the one-drop rule. Only extremely independent and strong-willed mixed race individuals with black heritage seem to be able to stand up against the pressure and refuse to pick the black side, or even refuse to pick a side at all. In the future as the numbers of mixed race individuals (black/other) increase that might become accepted as an identity.

  17. I have questioned which side of the color line the 2nd and 3rd generation Somalis and other North Africans will fall.

    To me the most interesting example in the U.S. is Dominican-Americans. In terms of genetic ancestry, they tend to have slightly more European ancestry than African (albeit only by a few percent) but in terms of phenotype, they usually fit within the “black” spectrum. Although in their home country they are very hostile to a black identity (in part due to a desire to contrast themselves with Haitians). While I have met some Dominicans who are not very assimilated and still have strong levels of anti-black bigotry, I have also met a number of assimilated ones who have no issue with the “Afro-Latino” designation. I think it’s inevitable that if the spigot of immigration eases off the population will blend into the black identity in another few generations.

    I disagree here. The black community seems to have embraced and solidified the one-drop rule. Only extremely independent and strong-willed mixed race individuals with black heritage seem to be able to stand up to the demand that they take the black side. In the future as the numbers of mixed race individuals (black/other) increase that might become accepted as an identity.

    In my experience, while the black community still embraces mixed-race people, the individuals themselves are not as apt to embrace the black identity as their sole one today. Back in the 1990s there was the rise of the “biracial” construct – particularly among people of mixed black/white descent who grew up mostly surrounded by white peers. The rise of the wastebasket “people of color” terminology has also allowed biracial people to back away from identifying with black culture without embracing whiteness. In general I don’t think it’s the case today that someone with say 25% black ancestry would be identified as black any longer within the white community. For example, Malcolm Gladwell, Vin Diesel, Lolo Jones, Wentworth Miller, and Rashida Jones are not generally seen as black celebrities – except in the black press. Many of them have publicly talked about how their lighter features have alienated them as much when around black people as the inverse.

  18. @KarlZ

    In regards to Hispanic assimilation, most of my data has come from the periodic Pew surveys of Hispanics.

    That’s good (and I think legit) info on pre-1980s Hispanic immigration, but they’re not the ones anyone is talking about when they talk about assimilation. They’re talking about the yuuuuuuuge wave of immigration during the late 1980s, especially the 1990s, then into the early aughts. You can’t meaningfully talk about these folks having a third generation; and it’s the second generation going through the school system right now that causes concern.

  19. That’s good (and I think legit) info on pre-1980s Hispanic immigration, but they’re not the ones anyone is talking about when they talk about assimilation. They’re talking about the yuuuuuuuge wave of immigration during the late 1980s, especially the 1990s, then into the early aughts. You can’t meaningfully talk about these folks having a third generation; and it’s the second generation going through the school system right now that causes concern.

    No offense meant, but that’s a textbook case of special pleading.

    When measured as a proportion of the total U.S. population, some 19th century migration booms were proportionately larger than Mexicans today – including, for example, the two peak decades for Germans (950,000 in the 1850s, and 1.5 million in the 1880s). German-American culture pretty much died out after World War I however, aside from isolated German-speaking communities in the Great Plains, which lingered on for longer.

    I simply see no reason to think contemporary Latinos will be any different from earlier waves of immigration. Hell, even in very old-line Spanish communities, such as the Hispanos of New Mexico, Spanish is on the decline after over four centuries of continuous use, even though one would think, since these areas did not have a huge influx of “anglo” settlers – that they would be able to hold onto their linguistic heritage.

  20. I simply see no reason to think contemporary Latinos will be any different from earlier waves of immigration.

    I am under the impression that earlier migrants were under a great deal of pressure to conform and assimilate, if for no other reason than economic advantages, and further, many were willing and enthusiastic about doing so. We have all read biographical stories of immigrant parents placing tremendous pressure on the children to conform and to exclusively use English in everyday speech. Are those pressures not greatly relaxed?

  21. Twinkie: Also, among Asians of varying linguistic origins, “easier for English speakers” and “more useful in the US” have no bearing on assimilative monolingualism (e.g. Japanese vs. Laotian). Think about the implications of that for a moment.

    Karl Zimmerman: Another study done in 2013 confirmed second-generation Hispanics are more likely to report being able to speak their home language “pretty well” than Asians – with about eight in ten saying so, compared to four in ten for Asians, so Twinkie is right on this. There is no reported difference in English fluency however, which seems more important to me when considering assimilation.

    Well, Twinkie, yes, Japanese seems a bit more useful than Laotian in the sense of, you can watch a few more TV shows and read a bit more literature and it can open a few economic doors in life.

    But it’s pretty distinct kind of usefulness from, there are almost a million people arriving from year to year who speak it as a first language, and even still not a pretty similar Western European Indo-European language to English that’s not very different to learn or write, like Spanish.

    Stressing difficulty again, Japanese is supposedly a more difficult language than Lao. But we’re talking Category IV vs Category V difficulty language for English language natives (FSI). Spanish is Category I.

    I can believe that Spanish fluency really is maintained across the generations better than Chinese fluency, but if so, can we really get anything about cultural sentiment from that fact? (Esp. if as Karl says, we’re not actually talking about any decreased English fluency, assuming self report is fairly reliable, which we have to do on both sides or the whole thing falls apart.).

    Twinkie: Obviously both mixed white-Asians and white-Hispanics (meaning, offspring of someone who is non-Hispanic white and a Hispanic person) identified at fairly high rates as “whites” but the Asian hybrids did so at higher rates than Hispanic hybrids. Likewise, American-born Asians of entirely Asian ancestry did so at higher rates than their Hispanic counterparts.

    I’m the skeptical on the latter, esp. given Razib’s comment on 50% Latinos labeling as non-Hispanic White, but the former re: mixed people seems believable.

    Even then, possibly just a limitation of language? Hispanic means “a huge continuum of ethnically different people who all have some level of Spanish / Other European / Indigenous / African ancestry”. Asian largely means, well, people of wholly Asian ancestry. With that in play, part Asian folk might tend to label themselves outside of that category, as it just is less inclusive to them. Not sure that tells you anything much about sentiment or psychological assimilation into the group either way.

  22. they are relaxed in my own lifetime. younger asian kids today are much more aware of their ‘heritage.’

    though it has gone through waves. huge german speaking american communities persisted until world war 1. in the catholic church they tried running their own separate german speaking parochial system, which the irish american bishops constantly fought.

  23. Even then, possibly just a limitation of language? Hispanic means “a huge continuum of ethnically different people who all have some level of Spanish / Other European / Indigenous / African ancestry”. Asian largely means, well, people of wholly Asian ancestry. With that in play, part Asian folk might tend to label themselves outside of that category, as it just is less inclusive to them. Not sure that tells you anything much about sentiment or psychological assimilation into the group either way.

    never met a 1/4 asian person who did not self-label as white is 3/4 white. eg friend who is 1/4 japanese has full sister who married chinese american. she calls it an interracial marriage. OTOH, 1/4 latinos are the same if 3/4 NHw. the only exception to this is 1/4 black people, who sometimes still identify as blacks. #hypodescent

  24. death of the nation-state at the hands of identity politics and late stage capitalism

    If freedom of speech and thought are like the nation-state and are only a means to something that one desires and values, but one can see that I and the people that I care about will no longer benefit or be allowed to benefit from these institutions, exactly what is the motivation to support and enshrine and value these ideals and institutions?

    You said something along the lines of feeling silly for defending freedom of speech to people knowing that the extreme left will not allow freedom of speech if they get complete political power.

    What happens when people, such as myself, start feeling silly for defending the nation-state when it is obvious that it cares little for me and the people that I care about and is not only not beneficial, but detrimental?

  25. I am under the impression that earlier migrants were under a great deal of pressure to conform and assimilate, if for no other reason than economic advantages, and further, many were willing and enthusiastic about doing so. We have all read biographical stories of immigrant parents placing tremendous pressure on the children to conform and to exclusively use English in everyday speech. Are those pressures not greatly relaxed?

    I don’t think this was really true universally at all. Certainly some immigrants felt strong pressure to assimilate, but many others settled in immigrant enclaves in major urban areas (or sometimes in ethnically homogeneous rural areas) and thus didn’t feel any particular pressure to do so. There were also differences depending upon the time period in U.S. history. During the 19th century, native-born Americans were basically fine with German and Irish immigrants setting up parallel (and exclusionary) cultural structures to the American majority. It wasn’t really until the 1910s, when America started one of its more xenophobic periods, that concern about “Americanizing” new immigrants (along with native-born linguistic minorities, like Cajuns) really became a matter of public policy.

  26. huge german speaking american communities persisted until world war I

    My grandmother spoke only German at home up until age three. Then she contracted polio. She was sent to a hospital where no one could communicate with her, and her parents could see her only infrequently. The experience was apparently horribly traumatizing, although she remembers little of it today. After that happened, my great grandparents stopped speaking any German at all around their children.

  27. There is no reported difference in English fluency however, which seems more important to me when considering assimilation.

    Here is the more granular data compiled by the (pro-immigrant) Migration Policy Institute, which I linked at Unz: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/source_charts/spot-feb05-Bilingual-t1.JPG

    The data support, among other things, two points I made earlier, namely, 1) Hispanics achieve English monolingualism at lower rates than Asians in the United States even through the third generation and 2) the English proficiency of the former is also lower compared to the latter.

    One place I very much disagree with Twinkie is that we should look at things like socio-economic status or educational attainment as signs of assimilation.

    1. That’s a straw man, and is contrary to what I believe, i.e. cultural and civic assimilation is more important than economic assimilation.

    2. *I* didn’t bring up “socio-economic status or educational attainment” as a component of assimilation (merely that economic performance correlates with assimilation).

    3. I specifically brought three measures of assimilation – economic, cultural, and civic – adding up to the composite index *the Manhattan Institute* uses. Per point 1, I am of the view that the Manhattan Institute over-emphasizes the economic component since it is not as important as cultural or civic components. But that’s what it uses. Specifically, its report states:

    Economic assimilation describes the extent to which immigrants, or groups of immigrants, make productive contributions to society indistinguishable in aggregate from the contributions of the native-born. Economic assimilation is low when immigrants cluster at certain points on the economic ladder—most notably, the low-skilled rungs—and high when their distribution on the economic ladder matches that of native-born Americans.

    The economic assimilation index is particularly relevant to two major areas of policy debate: the impact of immigration on the labor market; and the fiscal impact of immigration. A simple calculation suggests that immigrant participation in the labor market generates net benefits, through lower consumer prices and higher shareholder returns, of $50 billion per year.5 But such benefits are accompanied by reductions in wages for native workers competing in the same market.6 It has also been argued that the immigration of highly skilled, entrepreneurial workers creates new jobs.7 The economic assimilation index can help track whether the skills of immigrants are matched to or mismatched with those of native workers.

    From a fiscal perspective,8 the economic assimilation index reveals information that can potentially address concerns that immigrants take up welfare benefits at disproportionate rates9 or rely on charitable provision of health care.10 Economic assimilation also correlates with immigrants’ contributions to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds11 and may help determine the impact of immigrants’ housing demand on property values and local property tax revenues.12

    Then it lists the proxies it uses to measure economic assimilation:

    • Earned income in the year prior to the survey
    (not available for 1900–1930)
    • Labor-force participation
    • Unemployment (not available for 1900–1930)
    • A quantitative ranking of occupations by average
    income in that occupation in 1950.
    • Educational attainment (not available for
    1900–1930)
    • Home ownership (not available for 1900–1930)

    Helpfully, the Manhattan Institute breaks down its indices for cultural and civic assimilation as well.

    As for the following argument:

    Assimilation into the lower middle class, working class, and even the underclass is still assimilation if one thinks of oneself as American and speaks predominantly English. For example, many studies in the past have found that while second-generation African immigrants tend to be high performers, the third generation falls back to the norms in performance for black Americans. Although the reasons for this are open to interpretation, to some extent it likely represents the assimilation of immigrant communities into the black American identity.

    Assimilation into the American underclass may be a type of assimilation, but one that most sane people agree is not a GOOD kind of assimilation. I don’t think any rational person argues that it’s healthy for the country to import other countries’ underclass to enlarge our own. When we speak of assimilation in the broad and policy-relevant sense, we are talking about conforming to average American (or even average white) norms in these dimensions.

    You can look up the data (and the methodology) on the Institute’s website yourself. Mexicans, for example, have considerably lower economic, cultural, and civic assimilation indices across the board compared to the likes of Filipinos and Vietnamese. We can certainly argue about the causalities of such disparities, but the disparities themselves are there.

    Again, you can look up the indices (overall and the component) by national origin at the end of these studies, but here is a quick taste: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-6Mk9Tp71MJA/Td0Ir375qYI/AAAAAAAABmc/ATJ1miZxbHg/s1600/assimilation_by_birthplace.JPG

  28. Stressing difficulty again, Japanese is supposedly a more difficult language than Lao. But we’re talking Category IV vs Category V difficulty language for English language natives (FSI). Spanish is Category I.

    I get what you are saying, but consider the following:

    1. IF the linguistic propinquity between English and Spanish were that overwhelmingly important, then Hispanics should have a great deal of advantage in achieving English proficiency than Asians (while retaining Spanish at higher rates than Asians do with their languages). But they don’t. In fact, they lag through the third generation in English proficiency.

    2. My point is NOT that the difference between Japanese and Laotian is the same order of magnitude as that between Spanish and the Asian languages to English. It’s rather that other factors seem to lead to variances in English monolingualism and proficiency attainment.

    I’m the skeptical on the latter, esp. given Razib’s comment on 50% Latinos labeling as non-Hispanic White, but the former re: mixed people seems believable.

    I’m trying to find the study (it takes time to go through all those comments on Unz even with the search terms), but after further reflection and mining my memory, I think I had it backwards (but still arriving at the same point in terms of ethnic self-identification). I think the data tabulated Census self-identification and compared to ancestral/national origins of grandparents, parents, and the person himself. Among both Hispanics and Asians, I think the study measured how many still identified as Hispanic (in the ethnic category for Hispanics even if identified as white in the racial category) and Asian (in the race category for Asians).

    My recollection is that the difference was small among the first generation immigrants (so presumably not American white hybrids), but still FEWER Asians self-identified as Asians than did Hispanics as Hispanics. In the second and third generations (mixed or otherwise), I remember the differences becoming considerably larger still.

    So it was MY MISTAKE to infer the remainder as identifying as whites, but I think that was a reasonable, if not perfectly accurate, assumption regarding shedding of “otherness,” i.e. ethnic identification/assimilation, especially given that intermarriages of these groups are typically (though at varying rates) with whites.

  29. During the 19th century, native-born Americans were basically fine with German and Irish immigrants setting up parallel (and exclusionary) cultural structures to the American majority. It wasn’t really until the 1910s, when America started one of its more xenophobic periods, that concern about “Americanizing” new immigrants (along with native-born linguistic minorities, like Cajuns) really became a matter of public policy.

    “Basically fine” could mean a lot of things even if it were true. I don’t think increasing xenophobia of the 20th Century does not preclude the possibility and, indeed, likelihood that Americans of British stock prior to that period still harbored prejudices against and social pressures (to assimilate) toward these groups.

    I suspect and am fairly confident that although the 19th Century mainstream white Americans tolerated the Germans and the Irish setting up parallel institutions to an extent, they had nothing like the multiculturalism of today’s elites and mainstream institutions (with their hostility toward “whiteness,” “white privilege,” “white supremacy,” etc.). And perhaps they tolerated the ethnics, because they were confident in the superiority and dominance of their particular language and culture as THE mainstream ones in the U.S. This is not the same dynamic we find today, in which what was once the mainstream culture is not valorized, but is in fact demonized as evil and oppressive.

  30. The data supports, among other things, two points I made earlier, namely, 1) Hispanics achieve English monolingualism at lower rates than Asians in the United States even through the third generation and 2) the English proficiency of the former is also lower compared to the latter.

    There is a substantial difference in bilingualism amoung second/third generation Hispanics versus Asians. But in all cases, 90%+ of Hispanics speak English well by the second generation, and 95% by the third generation. To the extent these differences exist, they are for self-evident reasons. More Asian first-generation parents come to the U.S. with some understanding of English. More settle in demographically mixed neighborhoods. And as was noted upthread, Spanish has a great deal more utility in America, so it makes sense to retain some fluency. I do think ESL classes (which Hispanics are way more likely to be enrolled in) play a role as well (a largely negative one), but as I said, this slows down assimilation, but it doesn’t halt it.

    Regardless, I am taking a historical viewpoint here, not a contemporary one, comparing the experience of Hispanics in the present day with waves of “white ethnics” who migrated to the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th century. Unlike most Asian American groups, they were often not “model minorities” (with the exception of Jews, and to a certain extent Germans) when they were first-generation immigrants. Like Mexicans today, they often occupied low economic rungs, and were willing to work for substantially less than a native-born American. I have read 19th century articles attacking where virtually all you’d need to do was replace Irish with Mexican to make it a contemporary critique of immigration. The poor urban Irish underclass continued to exist in many cities up through the mid 20th century, and even longer in Boston, where there are still overwhelmingly white and Irish public housing complexes in Southie (although the neighborhood is gentrifying now).

    “Basically fine” could mean a lot of things even if it were true. I don’t think increasing xenophobia of the 20th Century does not preclude the possibility and, indeed, likelihood that Americans of British stock prior to that period still harbored prejudices against and social pressures (to assimilate) toward these groups.

    19th century WASPS were certainly prejudiced against immigrants, but I don’t think until the Progressive Era there was really a strong belief that it was the role of government to enforce these sorts of things. I also don’t think there was much external social pressure to assimilate because immigrant communities interacted very little with native-born Americans. Remember that during this era the U.S. developed political machines in urban areas. The political “bosses” had a network of underlings, which over time explicitly grew to include immigrant communities, first through helping them become naturalized citizens (often through questionable means) and then later through outright inclusion in leadership.

    Come to think of it, Tammany Hall has interesting parallels with the Ottoman millet system, and provides a clear example of how the U.S. political system could deform in ways which Razib is concerned about (e.g., democratic on the surface, actually controlled by “party bosses” dominated by factional interest groups, and makes an attempt to address social welfare out of self-preservation).

    I suspect and am fairly confident that although the 19th Century mainstream white Americans tolerated the Germans and the Irish setting up parallel institutions to an extent, they had nothing like the multiculturalism of today’s elites and mainstream institutions (with their hostility toward “whiteness,” “white privilege,” “white supremacy,” etc.). And perhaps they tolerated the ethnics, because they were confident in the superiority and dominance of their particular language and culture as THE mainstream ones in the U.S. This is not the same dynamic we find today, in which what was once the mainstream culture is not valorized, but is in fact demonized as evil and oppressive.

    There certainly was nothing like the “coalition of the subaltern” which has formed in the present era. Indeed, most white ethnics were indifferent to outwardly hostile towards one another (along with other groups, such as blacks and Chinese). Cross-ethnic solidarity didn’t really become a thing in the U.S. until the rise of explicitly left-wing class-based politics in the early 20th century. It’s probably no coincidence it didn’t become successful until over a decade after comprehensive immigration restriction – it gave immigrant communities time to assimilate and begin working together, along with limiting the ability of employers to continually expand the labor supply in order to depress wages.

  31. the idea that native born americans tolerated immigration until the progressive era is false. a lot of it was tied to anti-catholicism triggered by arrival of large numbers of irish and germans. see Catholicism and American Freedom. not only were there riots and attacks on the newcomers, but the rise of ‘public schools’ was in part triggered by the need to assimilate catholics to protestant values. in their turn the catholics attempted to reach an accommodation with majority protestant america where there were public monies diverted to their institutions, such as parochial schools.

    they failed in this, and for all practical purposes the church had to deal with protestant america on the terms of the latter.

    and anti-catholic prejudice resulted in the development of an anti-immigrant party, as well as polarization so that republicans took a more skeptical view of migration than democrats. (though the needs of big business meant that attempts to close the door failed until the 1920s)

  32. Razib,

    You’re right, and I’m wrong. I should not have implied that 19th century America was tolerant, or even that anti-immigrant legislation wasn’t passed (usually on the state level). That said, a lot of the pre-progressive anti-immigrant actions were essentially tribalistic expressions designed to suppress, without much thought being given to whether said actions would effectively assimilate immigrants. I don’t think an Irishman in the 1850s in Massachusetts who converted to Protestantism, or a German in 1890 Wisconsin who decided to send their children to public school would really be viewed with much less immediate hostility by the WASP community than their fellow countrymen. Thus the general result of these actions was not accommodation within the immigrant community, but a hardening of lines.

    As an aside, a serious claim can be made that politics in New England was still partially organized on ethnic/confessional lines into the late 20th century. Massachusetts’s 1990 gubernatorial election was arguably the last gasp of this, with a socially (and fairly economically) conservative, Catholic Democrat running against a socially liberal, Protestant WASP.

  33. Regardless, I am taking a historical viewpoint here, not a contemporary one, comparing the experience of Hispanics in the present day with waves of “white ethnics” who migrated to the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th century. Unlike most Asian American groups, they were often not “model minorities” (with the exception of Jews, and to a certain extent Germans) when they were first-generation immigrants. Like Mexicans today, they often occupied low economic rungs, and were willing to work for substantially less than a native-born American.

    I have read 19th century articles attacking where virtually all you’d need to do was replace Irish with Mexican to make it a contemporary critique of immigration. The poor urban Irish underclass continued to exist in many cities up through the mid 20th century, and even longer in Boston, where there are still overwhelmingly white and Irish public housing complexes in Southie (although the neighborhood is gentrifying now).

    Despite some persistent white ethnic concentrations, groups such as the Irish achieved economic parity, on average, with mainstream whites by 1900. The third and fourth generation descendants of these white ethnics experienced high rates of intermarriage, monolingualism, civic participation, economic advancement, and educational attainment.

    So far the evidence does not support your contention that Hispanics have followed a similar trajectory. Give Telles and Ortiz (2009) a read: https://www.russellsage.org/publications/generations-exclusion-1

    The study contains some encouraging findings, but many more that are troubling. Linguistically, Mexican Americans assimilate into mainstream America quite well—by the second generation, nearly all Mexican Americans achieve English proficiency. In many domains, however, the Mexican American story doesn’t fit with traditional models of assimilation. The majority of fourth generation Mexican Americans continue to live in Hispanic neighborhoods, marry other Hispanics, and think of themselves as Mexican. And while Mexican Americans make financial strides from the first to the second generation, economic progress halts at the second generation, and poverty rates remain high for later generations. Similarly, educational attainment peaks among second generation children of immigrants, but declines for the third and fourth generations [boldfaces mine].

    This is NOT the pattern of earlier Irish, not even the Italians, and certainly not the Jews and Germans. I think it’s available for free as a PDF document somewhere on the web if you want to read the whole thing (it was available online for free as of a couple of years ago).

    Also, here is the study I referred earlier (finally found it), Duncan and Trejo (20016): http://www.nber.org/papers/w21982.pdf

    Check out the tables at the end of the study. For example, Table 1: Rates of Ethnic Identification

    Source Countries: Hispanic Asian
    First-gen: 98.6% 96.3%
    Second-gen: 93.1% 79.1%
    Third-gen: 81.7% 57.5%

    This illustrates that Hispanics retain their unassimilated identity longer. In other words, based on this, I think it’s reasonable to assume that considerably higher proportion of those with Asian ancestry in the U.S. consider themselves white (or “non-Hispanic white”) than Hispanics do. As I wrote before, even in the first-generation, Asians identify as something other than Asian at slightly higher rates than Hispanics do as Hispanics. I found this mildly amusing… Twinkies, eh?

  34. This is NOT the pattern of earlier Irish, not even the Italians, and certainly not the Jews and Germans. I think it’s available for free as a PDF document somewhere on the web if you want to read the whole thing (it was available online for free as of a couple of years ago).

    Again this seems to get back to the “is middle-class status required for assimilation” question. The study you quoted directly made a point that Latinos do linguistically assimilate – they just continue to underperform economically and educationally, along with being more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods.

    I also think in some ways it’s wrongheaded to consider fourth-generation (or longer) populations to develop a model of current Mexican assimilation, because many of them grew up in traditionally very heavily Mexican areas (like South Texas) where the only way to “integrate” would be to move away (similar to Cajun country, or parts of northern New England which still have residual French-speaking populations). In contrast, I’m not sure that the newer Mexican enclaves in places like North Carolina and eastern Washington will be as resilient.

    Also, here is the study I referred earlier (finally found it), Duncan and Trejo (20016):

    Looking at the study, Table 3 indicates that out of third-generation “Asians,” nearly 60% only had one grandparent born in a relevant source country (as opposed to around 40% of Hispanics). Therefore the “Asians” who don’t identify as Asian (outside of perhaps Hawaii) are probably mostly only 25% Asian by descent. That the study includes multiracial people is made explicit in footnote eight on page nine, where they note that some individuals with both Hispanic and Asian ancestry might be double counted.

    As I said upthread, Pew has found that more recently rates of white-Hispanic intermarriage have risen, while white-Asian intermarriage has fallen. This is way too recent to be shown in studies of third-generation immigrants, but it will be interesting to see in the coming decades how similar studies will shift.

  35. Again this seems to get back to the “is middle-class status required for assimilation” question. The study you quoted directly made a point that Latinos do linguistically assimilate – they just continue to underperform economically and educationally, along with being more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods.

    You seem not to have read the major conclusion of the study: “the Mexican American story doesn’t fit with traditional models of assimilation. The majority of fourth generation Mexican Americans continue to live in Hispanic neighborhoods, marry other Hispanics, and think of themselves as Mexican.”

    You can nitpick, you can dodge inconvenient facts, you can obscure arguments, but the evidence is strong that your claim – of Hispanic immigrants following the assimilation patterns of previous waves of European immigrants – is incorrect.

    I’m not sure that the newer Mexican enclaves in places like North Carolina and eastern Washington will be as resilient.

    You assert without evidence. So far, all your arguments are the “Just trust my intuition” variety. I happen to live in one of Charles Murray’s super zips. The population is about 80% white, 15% Asian, 3% Hispanic, and 1% black. About ten miles away is where the largely Salvadoran population that provides the menial labor lives (90+% Hispanic). It’s the new “the other side of the tracks” – where, in the past, the black population would have lived. Judging from the extremely high degree of separation – ethnic, cultural, linguistic, economic, etc. – between the two communities, I’d say the smart money is against your claim of non-persistence of this segregation. I can tell you there is virtually zero intermarriage between members of these communities (which wasn’t the case with European immigrant ghettos of the past).

    Table 3 indicates that out of third-generation “Asians,” nearly 60% only had one grandparent born in a relevant source country (as opposed to around 40% of Hispanics).

    You realize, of course, that fact itself is an indication of the lower assimilation level of Hispanics?

    Pew has found that more recently rates of white-Hispanic intermarriage have risen, while white-Asian intermarriage has fallen. This is way too recent to be shown in studies of third-generation immigrants, but it will be interesting to see in the coming decades how similar studies will shift.

    I am skeptical that Hispanic assimilation will pick up in the future, given all evidence to the contrary that is readily available. Yes, yes, they might “assimilate” into the underclass of America, but that’s not the kind of assimilation we are or should be talking about (e.g. American-born Mexicans are incarcerated at 8+X the percentage of foreign-born Mexicans, about halfway between American-born whites and blacks).

    I agree, however, with pessimism regarding future Asian immigrant assimilation. I can think of several possible factors, e.g. 1) multiculturalism in the U.S. (as opposed to a strong and confident assimilative native monoculture), 2) changing ethnic mix (Indians are now the fastest growing immigrant group among Asians, and they have the lowest assimilation index in the Manhattan Institute study), 3) increasing percentage of Asians in general, etc.

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