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?


There are no revisions for this post.

Leave a Reply