Unmeltable Ethnics: Politics & Culture in American Life
Transaction, 1996 - 486 pages
This new, enlarged edition of an influential book--originally published in 1972 as The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics--extends the author's wise and generous view of ethnicity. Its aim "is to raise consciousness about a crucial part of the American experience: to involve each reader in self-inquiry. Who, after all, are you? What history brought you to where you are? Why are you different from others?" But the point of such inquiry is civility: "The new ethnic consciousness embodied in this book delights in recognition of subtle differences in the movements of the soul. It is not a call to separatism but to self-consciousness. It does not seek division but rather accurate, mutual appreciation."
This new edition contains six new essays by the author, including the acclaimed "Pluralism: A Humanistic Perspective." New, too, is Novak's comprehensive introduction, bringing the argument up to date. Novak describes how and why ethnicity has become a prominent issue in American politics. He also sharply denounces the current ideology of "multiculturalism" as a disfiguration of genuine ethnicity. "Multiculturalism is moved by the eros of Narcissus" Novak writes, "the new ethnicity is driven by the eros of unrestricted understanding."
When the book first appeared, Time said that "Novak has attacked the American Dream in order to open up a possible second chapter for it." Newsweek called it "a tough-minded, provocative book which could well signal an important change in American politics."
This new edition adds crucial distinctions for those seeking an intelligent path through such current-day mystifications as "multiculturalism" and "diversity." Twenty-five years ago, Novak's argument led the way in focusing on families, neighborhoods, and other "mediating institutions" of civil society. It is an argument critical to a realistic sense of national community.