I selected the present word of the month after reading, in translation, Jürgen Habermas's essay Leadership and Leitkultur, which recently appeared in the NYT. The term Leitkultur is formed from the verb leiten (to guide, lead) and Kultur (culture). It denotes the "guiding culture" of a people or country or, more accurately, the set of values and beliefs, and the rules of behavior based on them, that govern the way the members of the group view themselves and interact with each other.
The concept of a Leitkultur represents one of the flash points in the discussion currently raging in Germany about the best way to deal with immigrants who seemingly refuse integration into the surrounding society and culture. Habermas has arguedin the past and again in the essaythat it is sufficient for immigrants who want to become permanent residents or citizens that they (a) learn German and (b) accept the constitution. Others believe that this is not enoughthey demand, in addition, that immigrants embrace a German Leitkultur. In my first comment, I'll talk about Leitkultur as a useful term to focus this discussion, even if it becomes problematic when it's turned into a cry for political action. In a second comment, I will try to indicate connections with trends I observe in the US.
Note on pronunciation: Again, watch your vowels! The "ei" is a diphthong pronounced like English "eye"; the first "u" in Kultur is a short "oo" as in "good"; and the second "u" is a long "oo" as in "boot". The main stress is on the first and a secondary one on the third syllable.
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