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Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity

3.7 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684870533
ISBN-10: 0684870533
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his seminal The Clash of Civilizations, Huntington anticipated the United States' battle with militant Islam. Here he turns his laser on America-or, rather, America as he thinks it ought to be. Despite its clinical tone, this book is an aggressive polemic whose central argument-that America, at heart, has been and in many ways should remain a Christian, Anglocentric country-wouldn't be out of place on many a conservative radio station. The author seeks at length to prove that the American Creed, which he defines as a Protestant-influenced ideology modeled on the British system, was the founders' original intent and remains America's best course. He then turns to many of the usual subjects-the imperiled primacy of English, the dangers of immigration and multiculturalism-to make his case. He argues that a growing divide between the patriotic working class and "denationalized elites" will lead to internal fissures. Where those findings can lead is another question. For instance, he predicts a movement of white nativism. This movement while not "advocating white racist supremacy" would still believe that the "mixing of races and hence culture is the road to national degeneration." The book is also marred by a number of self-contradictions; for example, Huntington draws heavily on the founders to make a nationalist case even as he acknowledges that notions of Americanism (as opposed to allegiances to individual states) became popular only after the Civil War. Exhaustively researched and occasionally inspired, this polemic remains more often filled with colorless and ineffectual writing that will provide evidence for the converted but do little to persuade the doubters.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Perhaps best known for The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996), the us-against-them polemic that inspired many international relations dissertations, prolific political scientist Huntington aims his latest book at domestic affairs. America, he argues, is in the midst of an identity crisis. Immigration, multiculturalism, secularism, and the end of the cold war have led to a watering down of what it means to be American, and at an especially crucial time, when Americanism is under attack worldwide. The solution? Americans need to get in touch with their English-speaking Anglo-Protestant roots, defined in what he calls the "American Creed" and demonstrated through 300 years of cultural salience. September 11 marks, for the author, an opportunity for Americans to come together in reinvigorated nationalism and reinvented American culture. Armed with statistics and historical analyses, Huntington performs significant contortions to successfully avoid seeming racist or intolerant. He remains, however, highly polemic, with sharp jabs at multiculturalism and bilingualism sure to alienate many readers. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684870533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684870533
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #756,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Samuel P. Huntington (1927-2008) was the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard and former chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. He authored and edited more than dozen books.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a Hispanic American, I was a bit conflicted with Samuel P. Huntington's "Who Are We?," but I ultimately enjoyed it. His premise is that we are now seeing a wave of immigration like none before. First in its sheer numbers, but more importantly in the fact that America has never before had so many immigrants from one non-English language and culture come at the same time.

By 2050, Hispanics are projected to be the majority of the population. Huntington never says that this is a bad thing per se, but he makes a great case that immigrants today are not assimilating into American culture like they have in the past. Today they keep their language, their culture, and often their foreign citizenship as well. This is only a problem if you believe that white Anglo-Saxon protestant culture, which immigration is ostensibly eroding, is superior and at the core of American greatness. Huntington certainly seems to believe this; only time will tell if he is right.

While I agree with him on so many points (bilingual education in public schools, for example, which is really education in Spanish), I'm not sure I share his general concern. We are experiencing a major demographic shift, and affirmative action does distort the American dream, but I'm not sure that future generations of Hispanic Americans will not assimilate into a (modified) American culture.

I am an American first and foremost. This is the case probably because I was born and raised here. But Spanish was nevertheless my first language, and my folks didn't become citizens until this year. If I ever have children, they will certainly be even more American than me. Despite Huntington's copious statistics, I don't see how a future generation of immigrants' children, born and raised in the U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
Back in 1993, Huntington's seminal article in Foreign Affairs "The Clash of Civilizations" was prescient about the violent clash between Islam and the West. It better explained the causes of 9/11 than most books written after 9/11!
Now, Huntington's focus has turned inward to the changing identity of American society. He considers that the demographic explosion of Mexicans within the U.S. is causing a Clash of Civilizations within our borders. This is not going to be a destructive clash as the one with Islam. Nevertheless, Huntington suggests it may alter the identity of the U.S.
Huntington states that the U.S. identity is the result of an Anglo-Protestant culture characterized by the English language, the rule of law, work ethic, education, and upward mobility. This entails that each generation has aspired to achieve a higher standard of living. Immigrants from all over the World have adopted this Anglo-Saxon creed as their own road to success. Generations of Europeans, and Asians adopted the English language as a mean to thrive within American society.
However, according to Huntington, Mexicans are different. Mexican immigration differs from past immigration due to a combination of factors, including: proximity, scale, regional concentration, and historical presence.
Mexico is a large country contiguous to the U.S. with a huge population of 100 million. Mexicans infiltrate the porous U.S. border in unprecedented numbers. Thus, Mexicans dominate the influx of emigrants to the U.S. They also tend to settle in Border States. By 2050 Hispanics are projected to represent 25% of the U.S. population. Today they already account for over 32% of the population in California and Texas. Many Mexicans view their infiltration within the U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who came to the United States fresh after college in the mid-eighties, I pondered the question of my new identity and American identity in general quite often. I picked Mr. Huntington's book in the summer of 2005 and found it to be very enlightening. I find it undeniable the fact that at the origin of the success of America as a nation and a state lies her British, protestant origins. That origin set the tone of the work ethic, legal system, democratic representation. One can find further confirmation of this thesis in the splendid "The History of the American People" by British historian Paul Johnson. Samuel Huntington points out that until early sixties immigrants arriving in the USA were assisted by the government in their assimilation process. The English language instructions were easily available and no one found offensive the premise that the command of the english language was essential to fully function as an American. Since then, the "assimilation" became a bad word and government's assistance started to look like discrimination. These days, in the name of diversity and political correctness, any government program has a counter-assimilation effects. The bilingual education of Hispanics, for example, only postpones their entry into the English speaking world. Compare the fate of Hispanic youth receiving their education in Spanish with that of young children arriving from Eastern Europe, Russia or Asia. With no bilingual education available to those kids, their succesful transition into English speaking world is almost instantenous.

While discussing three major social theories, Mr. Huntington clearly makes a case for a "tomato soup with garnishings" model (with tomatos representing anglo-protestant core values with garnishings provided by non-anglo immigrant groups).
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