Bourne’s Trans-National America- Joe Robinson

In “Trans-National America”, Randolph Bourne dismisses the notion of the U.S. as a melting pot.  He explains that America lacks its own distinct culture that foreigners can assimilate into.  Instead, he believes the country is a federation of different cultures.  While I think this may have been true at the time of this writing (1916), Bourne’s views aren’t applicable today.  Although many Americans retain the cultural roots of their homelands, I think the country as a whole has developed its own unique culture.  I think this is due to the fact that the percentage of the foreign-born U.S. population has decreased between 1916 and today, as more generations have grown up in (and contributed to) the distinctly American culture.

Bourne also supports dual citizenship and the unregulated movement of citizens between America and their home country.  He explains that these measures are necessary in order for America to contribute ‘intellectual internationalism’ to the world, in which all citizens play a part.  Bourne believes this is due to the shift of American colonialism to cosmopolitanism, where individuals are not only influenced by their own heritage, but by the heritage of their peers as well: “Colonialism has grown into cosmopolitanism, and his motherland is no one nation, but all who have anything life-enhancing to offer to the spirit.”

I agree with this sentiment.  Although the U.S. has its own distinct culture, it is also  defined by ancestral differences of its citizens.  By accepting these differences rather than supporting the idea of the melting pot, the concept of cosmopolitanism further unifies the country.  It also puts America in a unique position to be a positive model for the world’s ‘inferior civilizations’ as Bourne calls them.

One thought on “Bourne’s Trans-National America- Joe Robinson

  1. I also found interesting Bourne’s notions of US Culture as being a new type of culture, one which the world had yet to see. He compares this newly-developing American culture to the fairly well-established and unchanging cultures of Europe, each of which is well-defined culturally, geographically, and politically. Bourne says that the development of this new, unique American culture will not be obtained in the same way as the Europeans gains their cultures, which has been put rather interestingly to the modern reader by Bourne, as through “swagger and thrill … to national self-feeling” (92). American culture will instead be defined by a melting pot of sorts, a melting pot of intellect that forms, in Bourne’s eyes, a better culture.

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