by

What makes for a common culture?

In these days of declining birthrates in the developed world along with greater immigration and rising third world economies, what makes for a common culture? What makes the US a desirable place to live, and what makes us Americans as opposed to Italians or Dutch?

I thought of this while reading a NY Times article this morning, Italy Gives Cultural Diversity a Luke Warm Embrace. The new Berlusconi government is right of center and was elected on a platform including a crackdown on illegal immigrants. But, as noted in the article:

“But with plummeting birth rates and an aging populace, Italy can hardly survive now without foreign laborers. Albanians and Romanians care for the elderly. Indians working in Emilia-Romagna tend the cows producing the milk for Parmesan cheese.”

I remembered talking with a friend of mine in Amsterdam about immigration; he thought it was great that the US had a required common language. When I said no, he said he thought that would be a good thing. You see, while Romanians are immigrating in large numbers to Italy, Turks are immigrating in large numbers to The Netherlands; in both cases, mixing of cultures isn’t occurring very much.

And that’s dangerous; we can look to the civil rights movement in the US as an example of what happens when a populace is marginalized and excluded from “the common culture,” whatever that is.

And complete assimilation isn’t good either. Its valuable to have a mix of cultural norms, within a commonly held set of values, to provide diversity. Its not good to require people to completely give up their identity to join a new culture.

And that leads to the question in the title of this post: what makes for a common culture? What assimilation do we expect from immigrants so that they fit in just enough to call them American or Italian or Dutch?

Revisions:

There are no revisions for this post.