This essay argues that ideological rationales for assimilation or cultural pluralism during the Progressive Era were formulated in close relation to Zionism, asserting the validity of settler colonial societies as vehicles for democratic self-determination while marginalizing native peoples. In the early twentieth century, Horace Kallen, John Dewey, Louis Brandeis, and others attempted to “naturalize” the increasing diversity of (European) immigration to the United States at the same time that they argued for “Americanizing” support for Zionist settlement. Kallen, Dewey, and others articulated “cultural pluralism” as a progressive, humanitarian outlook to embrace the new immigrants; at the same time, these progressive thinkers also argued that persecuted European Jews deserved a homeland, which in turn would allow for a national identity from which Jews could participate in a pluralist society in the United States. For these thinkers, advocating a Jewish homeland in fact followed American democratic principles, and they drew parallels with Puritan Hebraism and frontier settlement as sources for democratic equality. The dual process to “naturalize” Zionism and to “Americanize” immigrants arose from two different stages of colonial settlement and took place against the background of the rise of the United States as a world imperial power. While most of these thinkers advanced more inclusive visions of democracy and self-determination than others at the time, their formulations were sharply circumscribed by their acceptance of the color line and their colonialist blindness.
Naturalizing Cultural Pluralism, Americanizing Zionism: The Settler Colonial Basis to Early-Twentieth-Century Progressive Thought
Hilton Obenzinger; Naturalizing Cultural Pluralism, Americanizing Zionism: The Settler Colonial Basis to Early-Twentieth-Century Progressive Thought. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2008; 107 (4): 651–669. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2008-011
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