What is the canonical theory of assimilation?



Throughout the past century, assimilation has been the hegemonic theory of ethnic group relations in sociology, and Robert E. Park is generally considered to be the key figure associated with the articulation of assimilation's canonical formulation. Based on a careful reading of Park's main essays on assimilation, this article argues that those who associate his position with the melting pot (with its assumption of the eradication of ethnic traits and ties), the race-relations cycle, or a straight-line process of incorporation misconstrue his views. This article is in part corrective and in part revisionist insofar as it is intended to indicate aspects of Park's theory that have particular relevance to current sociological efforts to understand the implications of assimilation in multiethnic liberal democracies. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.