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作者:ZHANG RUIXIAO 字数:9424  点击:

Abstract:As an emigrant country, the essential characteristic of America culture is its tolerance. It contributes to the formation the diversity of American culture. By tracing back to American history, this essay shows what caused American cultural tolerance. Through describing briefly the manifestation of American cultural tolerance from certain aspects and analyzing the major factors, it will give us a clue about the reason why America can be always prosperous. At last, the paper shows the limitation as well as advantages about the tolerance from the point of current status.

Key words: cultural tolerance diversity manifestation

1 Introduction

Tolerance is a pragmatic reaction to the concrete fact that diversity exists. Diversity is the fact of the matter for US today: It consists of different people with their own ideas of the good. The fact of diversity leads to the practical demand that they tolerate it. As a tolerant society, it respects the autonomy of individuals, celebrates human ingenuity and diversity, and thereby secure and foster pluralism.

1.1 Historical Origin

Tolerance was actively encouraged by William Penn. Colony established by William Penn on the western shore of the Delaware River in 1681 became noted for the variety of religious beliefs and forms of worship practiced by its settlers with diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Penn’s ideas were often inconsistent but even without a clear blueprint for the colony he envisioned, his ideas concerning individual liberty of conscience, the constraints on faith or practice he believed necessary, and the role of the state in religious matters, as well as his attitudes toward people of different nationalities or beliefs, provide an important foundation for the development of Pennsylvania into a broadly tolerant society. Afterwards, to a certain extent, one after one colony which was set up took the Pennsylvania as an example.

2 Manifestations of American Cultural Tolerance

One major reason that people from different countries are so desired to go to America is Americans enjoy unprecedented freedom and equality. As we all know, America protects citizens’ important liberal freedoms as a matter of right, enabling them to pursue whatever styles of life they find most fulfilling, without rendering them vulnerable to the whims and prejudices of others.

In the U.S. today more individuals—men and women, white and black, straight and gay—have more control over the religions they practice, the person they marry, the friends they make and the lovers they take, the associations they join, the jobs they perform, the places they live, the clothes they wear, the books, magazines and newspapers they read, the entertainments they enjoy, and the food and drink they consume than in any country at any time in human history.

2.1. Political Tolerance

Tolerance is a useful political expedient for dealing with the fact of diversity in the United States. In America, there are different kinds of political theories and ideas. During the North American colonial period, the knowledgeable leaders read the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and so on. The elaboration which is about natural rights written by Jefferson is included in the Declaration of Independence. His idea was grown out of John Locke’ teachings, but it was not the completely imitation of Locke’s. Besides, American political system is influenced by the French enlightenment thinker—Montesquieu. As is well known, the separation of powers of his theory plays a crucial role in American politics. What’s more, the Anarchism trend is accepted by quite many people in America. Although Tomas Jefferson is not an anarchist, he said that the best government is the one which govern the least. We can see that what he said has the strong color of Anarchism. More importantly, the thoughts of “freedom” and “democracy” have been rooted into the mind of Americans. These values grow up strongly on American soil. The inheritance from the thoughts of west Europe and the establishment of American regime made the tolerance of American culture develop unprecedentedly.

2.2. Religious Tolerance

Apart from the Christianity, many immigrants brought their own religious faiths, such as Muslim, Catholic, and Buddhism. It’s amazing that they can coexist peacefully to some extent by now. Here some famous people’s opinions on the religious tolerance in the U.S.

As a philosopher, Tocqueville felt deeply impressed not only by Americans’ religiosity, but also by the variety of ways they could express it. “It’s incredible to see the infinite number of subdivisions into which the sects in America have split,” he wrote to a cousin. “Like circles traced successively about the same point, each new one a little farther away than the next”. Tocqueville was speaking mainly about the diversity he found within Christianity. In Penn’s opinion, if diverse forms of belief and worship were tolerated, the competition among them would lead to greater security for everyone’s interests by preventing the destruction of liberties that might occur if one faction attained domination. At the very beginning, religious tolerance was hardly perfect. Pennsylvania, probably the most tolerant colony, offered religious equality only to all Christians. Besides, it was refugees from an English church establishment planted the seed of tolerance on U.S. soil. The Christians who account for great proportion of the Americans are always learning to love and appreciate others. It has deep rooted in their minds.

3 Influential Factors

There are many factors giving rise to the cultural tolerance in the United States, but this essay just concentrates on three factors here. Firstly, it is accepted that America is the most developed country for the moment. Therefore its densely populated heterogeneous environments increase opportunities for individuals to interact with diverse groups in a variety of social relationships. This in turn brings about an increased willingness to tolerate differences and to develop a shared “live and let live” mentality. Secondly, education has a significant effect on tolerance because it leads to more tolerant views of others. In a specific way, education’s role depends on providing a setting where one is exposed to values and ideas that may differ from those learned in the home, thus creating a tolerance-producing situation. In addition, education also refers to the knowledge people learn from the school. As education increases, so do one’s knowledge of diverse cultures, openness to new ideas, and willingness to risk uncertainty and ambiguity. In a country like America which put investment greatly on the education, more and more people are benefited.

4. Analysis about the Current Development of American Tolerance

4.1 The Limitation on Tolerance

Tolerance guarantees the stability of a country or even the world. Although the long-term trend in American society has been the increasing tolerance, it does not mean that all members of society will be guaranteed basic civil liberties. Of course, the tolerant pluralism generates problems and puzzles. This is in part because the range of beliefs, practices and associations of a free society is constantly changing, and change generates choices. Currently, the society is gradually progressing, but the conflicts will never be eliminated. But as long as people were not allowed to harm each other, society should encourage but not merely allow tolerance.

The major issue about tolerance by now illuminates debates concerning minority and non-mainstream groups seeking recognition in contemporary societies. Take the prejudice for an example. Tolerance does not require the absence of prejudice. When we look at the history of black people in the United States, from the slave trade started from the 15th century to Barack Obama became the first black president, it lasted 500 years. The conditions of black people are improved tremendously, but the discrimination still exists. On the one hand, it indicates that the society is not tolerant enough; on the other side, it’s the victory of American culture because it sticks close to the principle of tolerance all the time.

5 Conclusion

In summary, the United States has always had a diverse population, but in the past few years the question of how to reconcile persistent racial and ethnic differences with the need for national unity and hopes for the fulfillment of democratic ideals has become stronger than ever before. Given the practical goal of peaceful coexistence and the fact of diversity, tolerance is required. It is practiced in many ways, such as political, religion and daily life. There is no doubt that the more tolerant the country is, the more peaceful it will be. In a pluralistic society like America, each of the diverse members agrees to tolerate each other and to cooperate as best as they can because they believe that tolerance can bring them the genuine unity and prosperity.


[1]Andrew G. Fiala, “Toleration and Pragmatism”, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. 16, (2002), pp. 103-116

[2]Chelsea E. Schafer and Greg M. Shaw, “Tolerance in the United States”, Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 73, (2009), pp. 404–431

[3]Laura M. Moore and Seth Ovadia, “Accounting for Spatial Variation in Tolerance: The Effects of Education and Religion”, Social Forces, Vol. 84, (2006), pp. 2205-2222

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