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A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America Hardcover – April 30, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0674022188 ISBN-10: 0674022181 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1St Edition edition (April 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674022181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674022188
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,483,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A Nation by Design is the first comprehensive account of American immigration policy from the colonial period to the present. One of its great strengths is that it places American developments in a cross-national and comparative perspective. Professor Zolberg's breadth of knowledge and the range of his reading are remarkable. The book abounds in fresh insights and interpretations, comprehensiveness and richness of detail. This is a magnum opus.
--George Fredrickson, Stanford University

A Nation by Design is certain to become a standard reference for immigration scholars and a must-read for graduate students in the disciplines-history, political science, and sociology-that produce the bulk of these scholars. It provides a genuinely new perspective on the creation and centrality of immigration policy, and as befits a new point of view, it sketches a landscape with features that have not been visible before.
--Richard Alba, State University of New York at Albany

A Nation by Design is a monumental work by one of America's most distinguished and most historically minded social scientists. No other book on immigration possesses its sweep, nor does any other analyze the history of American immigration policy as comprehensively and insightfully as this one does. For at least a generation, A Nation by Design will become the starting point for anyone seeking to delve into this complex and important subject.
--Gary Gerstle, University of Maryland

This beautifully realized and intellectually capacious analytical history moves the story of immigration policy from the side to the center of American political development. Deep, learned, and inventive, A Nation by Design profoundly alters what we know and how we think about demography and identity, membership and law, citizenship and belonging as it crosses the boundaries of disciplines, periods, and ideas.
--Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

If you want to understand why the politics of immigration take the form they do, read Aristide R. Zolberg's richly informative book immediately...We now have in our hands a book so thoughtful, so extensively researched, and so balanced in its conclusions that if it does not inform both the current debate and the ones sure to follow, the debate is bound to be poorer even than it already is.
--Alan Wolfe (New Republic 2006-05-08)

Aristide Zolberg's A Nation by Design, offers the most comprehensive treatment of US immigration policy ever undertaken and is a major piece of scholarship that will prove indispensable to researchers for years to come. This achievement is no mean feat given the range of historical, political, economic, and sociological analyses of US immigration. What sets Zolberg's treatment apart is its unique historical depth and its realization of the importance of policies and practices other than those officially enacted by Congress--the focus of most earlier historical work on immigration policy...In many ways, immigration is America's never-ending debate. As Zolberg clearly shows, at every point in the history of the nation, from its inception as a dream among idealistic and free-thinking colonists to the present war on terrorism, immigration has figured prominently in debates about who us an American and what it means to be a citizen and resident of the United States. Over the course of US history, attacks on immigrants have waxed and waned, yet in the long run American society has incorporated an ever-widening array of peoples and nationalities into the national franchise. What distinguishes the current wave of anti-immigrant agitation from its predecessors is not its demonizing of foreigners or its harsh treatment of noncitizens, but its clever use of the fear of foreigners to launch a broader assault on the civil liberties not just of immigrants, but of all Americans.
--Douglas S. Massey (Population and Development Review 2006-09-01)

This is the book with which all of us working in the sphere will now have to measure up against.
--Kristofer Allersfeldt (History 2007-01-01)

Aristide R. Zolberg's A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America is an extraordinary achievement. In its sweep, erudition, conceptual precision, and analytic acuity, it may be the most important book on the history of immigration policy published in twenty-five years...One can find no better book than his to understand the role of immigration and immigration policy in the making of America.
--Gary Gerstle (Dissent 2007-01-01)

A brief review cannot highlight the insights and arresting observations peppered throughout every chapter of A Nation by Design...in this hyper-charged political climate Zolberg has provided a singular service. A Nation by Design is both an awesome work of scholarship and an indispensable source for understanding the seamy and complicated ancestry of America’s current politics of immigration.
--Michael B. Katz (Journal of Social History 2008-03-22)

About the Author

Aristide R. Zolberg is Walter Eberstadt Professor of Political Science at the New School for Social Research.

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By N. Ravitch on May 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Densely written and footnoted, based on substantial research, this study of immigration to the United States from before the Revolution up to yesterday is a hard book to read but certainly rewarding for the serious student of the subject. Marred a little by too many infelicitous grammatical constructions and several historical errors (the author after all is not an historian but a "political scientist") the book is still a substantial narrative and reference work on this important subject.

As Zolberg tells it, the story of immigration to America is the story of how Americans, or at least their political, social, cultural and economic elites, manipulated rules and regulations about entry to the country for the purpose of creating a sort of new nation. At first the goal was a largely Anglo-Saxon Protestant nation, the preservation of which required some reluctance to admit non-English speaking northern Europeans and naturally the Irish, despite their normal use of English for the most part. Eventually economic needs dominated and all sorts of non-Protestant and non-English speaking Europeans were welcome in order to create a powerful nation, but the acceptance of non-whites was always low on the list of desiderata, even the citizenship of black ex-slave was questioned by attempts to ship them off back to Africa.

Political, economic, and cultural concerns ended this state of affairs in thd 1920's when the management of immigration to preserve the ethnic make-up of the United States became paramount. After WWII a variety of liberalizations occurred as required by the Cold War, but the idea of immigration as a privilege not a right was continued.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michele Wucker on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
From colonial times to the present, the compromises that emerged over American immigration policy created a state of limbo for groups who were, as Aristide Zolberg puts it in this wide-ranging and erudite book, "wanted but not welcome." In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Asian immigration and naturalization were restricted, but southern and eastern Europeans were allowed in at record levels. In the early 1920s, the nativist camp eventually prevailed over business interests as strict national-origins quotas were imposed, severely limiting immigration for the next four decades.

The historical rhetoric resembles today's. Zolberg quotes inventor Samuel Morse invoking the imagery of an invading army of immigrants when he penned a series of articles and books blaming immigration for undermining the American character.

Debates in the 1950s invoked the "invasion" image that would lay the groundwork for today's tiered-entry system with front, side, and back doors. After World War II, Americans became uncomfortable with race-based immigration. Discontent had been rising over the controversial bracero guest-worker program, begun in 1942 to ease a wartime shortage of farmworkers. Amid discussions of easing immigration policy in the 1950s, Nevada's U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran and Pennsylvania's U.S. Rep. Francis E. "Tad" Walter, both Democrats, commissioned a review that concluded that it was impossible to seal the border. Their response was a back-door solution: an expanded guest-worker program, but with a ban on allowing guests to become permanent residents.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Matthew J. Moehr on November 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Zolberg's comprehensive history of immigration policy was a new addition to the syllabus in my graduate migration seminar. I think the class as a whole found it useful, if a bit overwhelming. In the humanities and the social sciences there is a lot of talk about "socially constructed" race categories, ethnic political interests, national identities, etc. All of this work contends there is nothing inherently "inside" of people that makes them distinct, but rather it's the way that debates play out in the political arena that groups and separates people. Of course much of the "social constructivism" literature forgets to analyze the construction. That's where Zolberg comes in. "A Nation by Design" is useful because it is a 500 page account of how policy makers in the United States constructed an immigration policy, and along the way, cemented many ideas of race, ethnicity, and American identity.

My only quibbles: there are graphs and charts in the back but they are never referenced in the text; the book is full of names of obscure intellectuals and bureaucrats and it gets confusing; Zolberg often buries important theoretical claims in the middle of sub-sections.

Maybe it's not a good beach read, but definitely worth having on your shelf.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Nation By Design is a must read for anyone wants to understand immigration, past and present. I read this before visiting Ellis Island and it added immensely to my trip.
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