The author contrasts the fragmented nature of immigrant groups upon their arrival in America with the social and cultural unities found among ethnic groups years later. He explains this change-the process of "ethnicization" -as a consequence of two factors: ascription and adversity. Outside institutions ascribed ethnic identity for practical reasons: village loyalties were too complicated to be understood. Immigrant institutions had equally practical motivations for furthering the same end: defense in the face of adversity. Viewed from this perspective it becomes clear that the melting pot was not, as commonly assumed, a failure. It succeeded in transforming weak, fragmented and unclassified bundles of immigrants into self-conscious, active, and easily identifiable ethnic groups. This model serves equally well if applied to the WASP. Today, "WASP-ishness" is only an ascribed mystique. In the face of adversity, however, it is quite possible that WASPs will undergo" ethnicization." They may unite, organize, and make demands.