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Assimilation and pluralism are two terms that can be used to explain the relationship between groups. In assimilation, distinct groups lose their distinctions when they blend into a new society. Pluralism, however, occurs as different people retain their own identities and thus establish a population that is rich in diversity and composed of different groups. As shown by the evolution of American society, assimilation is a greater approach to group contact than pluralism.
Championed by Robert Park, assimilation views civilization as a melting pot where disparate materials combine to produce a whole new product. This analogy adequately describes the evolution of the American culture which was developed through the interactions of different immigrants. Through assimilation, it is easier to have a shared agenda and common goals because of the singular way of life. This is also a channel for upward mobility among smaller groups which would not have a fair chance against a mobilized majority. Furthermore, there is a sense of equality since the new culture is owned by everybody. Unfortunately, the contribution to the final culture is unequal since dominant groups contribute more. Consequently, such societies are bound to be less tolerant of rebellious groups which are perceived as illegitimate or as threats to the whole
Horace Kallen proposed pluralism by describing society a salad bowl. This description appears to be more consistent with reality as evidenced by the persistence of ethnic minorities in the Middle East and even Eastern Europe in spite of the many years of submergence. Furthermore, pluralist societies have richness in their diversity. The down side of a pluralist integration is that it limits cooperation. By definition, pluralist communities strive to retain their identities. Additionally, there is a lot of tension especially when there is no integration which would have been achieved more easily with acculturation.
In conclusion, both assimilation and pluralism are reflections of reality as they shape group relations. However, a society that is a melting pot yields greater utility from its group interactions than one that is a salad bowl. This is especially because of the uniformity and shared values which make transaction very easy.
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