Culture of the United States

U.S. Propaganda material "Uncle Sam needs YOU!", painted by James Montgomery Flagg in 1916–17
Columbia reaching out to viewer. Original design for the "Be Patriotic" poster by Paul Stahr, c. 1917–18

The culture of the United States of America is primarily of Western origin, but is influenced by a multicultural ethos that includes African, Native American, Asian, Pacific Island, and Latin American people and their cultures. It also has its own distinct social and cultural characteristics, such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. The United States is ethnically and racially diverse as a result of large-scale migration throughout its history.[1] Because of its size and influence, many American cultural elements, especially from popular culture, have spread across the globe through modern mass media.

Origins, development, and spread

The European roots of the United States originate with the English settlers of colonial America during British rule. The varieties of English people, as opposed to the other peoples on the British Isles, were the overwhelming majority ethnic group in the 17th century (population of the colonies in 1700 250,000) and were 47.9% of percent of the total population of 3. 9 million. They constituted 60% of the whites at the first census in 1790 (%: 3.5 Welsh, 8.5 Ulster Scots, 4.3 Scots, 4.7 Southern Irish, 7.2 German, 2.7 Dutch, 1.7 French and 2 Swedish), The American Revolution, Colin Bonwick, 1991, p. 254. The English ethnic group contributed the major cultural and social mindset and attitudes that evolved into the American character. Of the total population in each colony they numbered from 30% in Pennsylvania to 85% in Massachusetts, Becoming America, Jon Butler, 2000, pp. 9–11. Large non-English immigrant populations from the 1720s to 1775, such as the Germans (100,000 or more), Scotch Irish (250,000), added enriched and modified the English cultural substrate, The Encyclopedia of Colonial and Revolutionary America, Ed. John Mack Faragher, 1990, pp. 200–202. The religious outlook was some versions of Protestantism (1.6% of the population were English, German and Irish Catholics ).

Jeffersonian democracy was a foundational American cultural innovation, which is still a core part of the country's identity.[2] Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia was perhaps the first influential domestic cultural critique by an American and was written in reaction to the views of some influential Europeans that America's native flora, fauna, including humans, were degenerate.[2]

Major cultural influences have been brought by historical immigration, especially from Germany in much of the country,[3] Ireland and Italy in the Northeast, Japan in Hawaii. Latin American culture is especially pronounced in former Spanish areas but has also been introduced by immigration, as has Asian American cultures (especially on the West Coast).

Native culture remains strong in areas with large undisturbed or relocated populations, including traditional government and communal organization of property now legally managed by Indian reservations (large reservations are mostly in the West, especially Arizona and South Dakota). The fate of native culture after contact with Europeans is quite varied. For example, Taíno culture in U.S. Caribbean territories is nearly extinct and like most Native American languages, the Taíno language is no longer spoken. In contrast the Hawaiian language and culture of the Native Hawaiians has survived in Hawaii and mixed with that of immigrants from the mainland U.S. (starting before the 1898 annexation) and to some degree Japanese immigrants. It occasionally influences mainstream American culture with notable exports like surfing and Hawaiian shirts. Most languages native to what is now U.S. territory have gone extinct, and the economic and mainstream cultural dominance of English threatens the surviving ones in most places. The most common native languages include Samoan, Hawaiian, Navajo language, Cherokee, Sioux, and a spectrum of Inuit languages. (See Indigenous languages of the Americas for a fuller listing, plus Chamorro, and Carolinian in the Pacific territories.)[4] Ethnic Samoans are a majority in American Samoa; Chamorro are still the largest ethnic group in Guam (though a minority), and along with Refaluwasch are smaller minorities in the Northern Mariana Islands.

American culture includes both conservative and liberal elements, scientific and religious competitiveness, political structures, risk taking and free expression, materialist and moral elements. Despite certain consistent ideological principles (e.g. individualism, egalitarianism, and faith in freedom and democracy), American culture has a variety of expressions due to its geographical scale and demographic diversity. The flexibility of U.S. culture and its highly symbolic nature lead some researchers to categorize American culture as a mythic identity;[5] others see it as American exceptionalism.[citation needed]

The United States has traditionally been thought of as a melting pot, with immigrants contributing to but eventually assimilating with mainstream American culture. However, beginning in the 1960s and continuing on in the present day, the country trends towards cultural diversity, pluralism, and the image of a salad bowl instead.[6][7][8] Throughout the country's history, certain subcultures (whether based on ethnicity or other commonality, such as the gay village) have dominated certain neighborhoods, only partially melded with the broader culture. Due to the extent of American culture, there are many integrated but unique social subcultures within the United States, some not tied to any particular geography. The cultural affiliations an individual in the United States may have commonly depend on social class, political orientation and a multitude of demographic characteristics such as religious background, occupation, and ethnic group membership.[1]

Colonists from the United States formed the now-independent country of Liberia.