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Compare and contrast in detail at least two types of pluralism. Do you think the United States is becoming more pluralistic? Why or why not?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The two forms of pluralism this answer will address are those based on ethnicity and religion.

This is such a broad subject with regard to the US that we can probably only scratch the surface of it here. Still, I would make the following observations about both the nature of, and changes in, these types of pluralism in America:

1) The number of different ethnic groups, or what used to be more commonly called nationalities, has increased steadily over the past 250 years. At the time of independence, North Americans were almost entirely either a) Native American, b) African American, or c) of northern European descent—meaning of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish Protestant, Dutch, German, or French (in the thirteen colonies French Huguenot) descent. Since then, Irish Catholic, Italian, Polish and other Slavic groups, Jewish, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American, Asian, and African peoples have come to the US in large numbers. At one time there were sharply defined European ethnic enclaves in urban areas. Many years ago I met an elderly Italian lady who spoke English with a heavy Italian accent and yet had been born and raised in Philadelphia. Though this was obviously unusual even then, it attests to the insularity of such enclaves where many people spoke primarily the language of their original nationality rather than English.

2) For the most part, up through World War II, though all of these ethnic groups embraced the US as their new home, they tended to marry within the group. It's only in the past 75 years that intermarriage between people of different backgrounds has not only become much more frequent, but the norm. So now, there is essentially a different kind of pluralism in that there are many more people of "mixed" descent—not only "ethnic" but "racial" as well. I've put these terms in quotes because, as more and more people have realized, there are blurred lines between their meanings, and one could easily say such differences are actually a continuous spectrum of "ethnicity" and "race," and that these supposedly hard and fast divisions are just unscientific constructs. So pluralism now is represented by just such a spectrum rather than the more specific divisions as they were defined or dictated in the past.

The number of religions represented by the people of the US has obviously increased as well. In 1776, the European-descent population of the colonies was overwhelmingly Protestant. Since then, large numbers of immigrants have brought virtually every world religion to America. But as with ethnicity, the nature of this kind of pluralism has changed. The religious culture is far more ecumenical than in the past, meaning that the differences—among not only the Christian denominations but between Christianity and other major religions—have been de-emphasized. People intermarry among religions just as they do among ethnic backgrounds, to the point where this may now be the norm rather than the exception.

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