A new book from New York University professor Lawrence M. Mead looks at what makes American culture unique.
“We tend to assume that everyone in America is in some fundamental sense, the same,” said Mead. “We seem to think we have to assume that because of our commitment to racial equality. Although I totally support those commitments, I don’t think it’s the case that everyone is the same.”
Mead’s thesis is that we need to teach those coming to America how to be more individualist if we are going to keep the culture that has helped America lead the world economically. He also argues that with current immigration patterns, that isn’t something we can effectively do.
“Now, the immigrants, unlike earlier, are coming almost entirely from Asia and Latin America,” said Mead. “That means that they don’t come in here with an individualist view of the world. They don’t think of themselves as pursuing goals. They think of themselves as adjusting and they tend to be very cautious. They have difficulties with social problems, also.”
It’s not that others don’t think immigration should be limited, but Mead has a different reason why.
“What’s unique in my argument isn’t so much what I want to do about policy, because a lot of other people favor this,” said Mead. “It’s rather, that I make a cultural case for it. I’m not concerned with the practical cost of immigration. I’m more concerned about the cultural effects. I want to make sure this remains an individualist country.”
BURDENS OF FREEDOM: Cultural Difference and American Power is available at encounterbooks.com.