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The term Nativism is used in both politics and psychology in two fundamentally different ways. In politics "nativist" refers to the socio-political positions taken up by those who identify themselves as "native-born." In psychology, "nativist" is comparable to "innate," the "hard-wired" components of human psychology.

Table of contents
1 Political Nativism
2 Psychological Nativism
3 External Links
4 Reference

Political Nativism

Nativism is a hostile and defensive reaction to the flux of immigration. Though it surfaced first, gained a name and affected politics in mid-19th century United States, recognizably nativist movements have since arisen among the Boers of South Africa, and in the 20th century among Australians and white Britons. Nativism is an aspect of cultural racism that is normally applied only to nativists of European stock, as a nationalist element of racism. Nativist ideologies espoused by non-Europeans are given other labels and are rarely connected to nativism in public discourse.

American Nativism arose as a reaction to the dislocations in labor supply and work opportunities occasioned by the surges in immigration after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and after the failed European revolutions of 1848, when about 3 million Europeans immigrated into the United States, enough of them from Roman Catholic countries for 'nativism' to become associated with the 'anti-papist' prejudice of post-colonial Protestants, who were the traditional majority. This movement ensured that those born in America would receive preferential treatment. In 1836, Samuel F. B. Morse ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of New York on a Nativist ticket, receiving 1,496 votes. An Order of United Americans (OUA) was founded as a nativist fraternity in New York City in December, 1844 with thirteen original members. Their “Code of Principles” had a clear objective: “to release our country from the thralldom of foreign domination” was the way they put it, thinking to embody Americanist principles. In the following four years, twenty-one local chapters were established in the state of New York. Within a decade the fraternity could boast of chapters in sixteen states and a total membership of at least fifty thousand. The least progressive among the Whig party found sympathetic reception among the Nativists.

In 1849/50 Charles B. Allen founded a secret nativist society called the Order of the Star Spangled Banner in New York as a result of the fear of immigrants. In order to join the Order a man had to be twenty-one, a Protestant, a believer in God, and, most interestingly, willing to obey without question the dictates of the order, an aspect that links it with some of the cult-like qualities of the Bavarian Illuminati cells of the 1780s. Members of the Order became known as the Know-Nothings (a label applied to them by newspaper editor Horace Greeley, because no one would admit to knowing anything about the secret society. The Nativists went public in 1854 when they formed the 'American Party,' which was anti-Irish-Catholic and campaigned for laws to require longer wait time between immigration and naturalization. Millard Fillmore would run on the American Party ticket for the Presidency in 1856.

This form of nationalism often identified with xenophobia, anti-Catholic sentiment (anti-papist) and ideas of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant supremacy. In California, nativists vented their resentment against the Chinese. In the south, during Reconstruction and again in the 1920s, nativist Ku Klux Klan members were as intolerant of Catholics as of blacks. Nativist sentiment experienced a revival in the 1880s, in response to new waves of immigation. It was involved in several anti-Catholic riots in the late 19th century, including the Philadelphia Nativist Riots. In 1928, nativist bias was an important feature of the defeat of Presidential candidate, Alfred E. Smith, a Catholic. During World War II, 'nativist' undercurrents fueled the Japanese American Internment.

American nativist resentment experienced a resurgence in the late 20th century, this time directed at 'illegal aliens,' largely Asian and Mexican.

Compare White Australia policy

Psychological Nativism

In psychology, nativism is the view that certain skills or abilities are 'native' or hard wired into the brain at birth. This is in contrast to the 'blank slate' or tabula rasa view which states that the brain has little innate ability and almost everything is learnt through interaction with the environment.

Nativism is most associated with the work of Jerry Fodor, Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, who argue that we are born with certain cognitive models (specialised genetically inherited psychological abilities) that allow us to learn and acquire certain skills (such as language). They argue that many such abilities would otherwise be greatly impaired without this genetic contribution (see universal grammar for an example).

Psychologist Annette Karmiloff-Smith has put forward a theory known as the representational redescription or RR model of development which argues against such strict nativism and which proposes that the brain may become modular through experience within certain domains (such as social interaction or visual perception) rather than modules being genetically pre-specified.

External Links