The article has two authors, James Barrett and David Roediger, thus giving the point of view of one of the authors is not only misleading but inaccurate. I would therefore give the point of view of both the authors, as reflected in the article.
In this article, the authors focus on the relationship between the Irish Americans and the “new immigrants.” They argue that the Irish Americans developed some sort of social capitalism through networking within the ethnic community. This was because of their extraordinary pre-migration experience in mass nationalist politics and church building. The Irish translated the elaborate networks – which they had established through neighborhood and parish ties, on-the-job relationships, and union and party affiliations -- into essential social knowledge and authority in the street, in the Church, at the workplace, and through local government. These networks reflected and conveyed the Irish American values and attitudes that shaped the Americanization of the newer immigrants. In other words, the Irish Americans had a serious impact on the newer immigrants. Whether in school, at work, in the labor movement, parties, on the theatre stage, or through popular music, the new immigrants encountered a culture that was heavily invested with the Irish American ideas and experience. The influence of the American Irish and their accumulated social capital, allowed them to alter the adoption of the American culture to conform to their own culture. The Americanization was simply Irish Americanization.
In the very first paragraph, the authors introduce the reader to their main argument by quoting Harry Golden’s work where the Jewish American writer recalled of his early life. In this quote, Golden recalls how they (Jews) admired the Irish. They identified the Irishmen with the image of what an American looked like. The Irish were the firemen, ballplayers, and cops, and were the figures the Jewish wanted to emulate. The burning desire to emulate the Irish is seen when an Orthodox Jewish literally jumped for joy when her newborn grandson resembled an Irishman.
The authors’ reasoning is that, at the time of their arrival, the new immigrants could not avoid the Irish. The first reason is that, it was the Irish who arrived first. More than three million immigrants arrived in US from Ireland between 1840 and 1890, and by the turn of the century, an estimated five million Irish had settled in the country. The new immigrants had to contact the Irish for whatever they wanted. Whether they wanted to get a drink, find a job, or take a walk within the locality, the new immigrants had to deal with the Irish. The shop stewards, union officers, and other officials were most likely to be Irish. In a nutshell, the American world seemed to be controlled by the Irish. The Irish were the first to arrive, and they arrived in large numbers, thus, could easily control the new immigrants. The second reason was the acculturation and the strategies the Irish chose to construct their identities as the “white” and the “American” and the manner in which they coped with the demands of urban industrial life.
The argument is important in understanding many social issues like labor movements, welfare policy, living wage, public housing, social insurance, among others, as embraced by the Irish Catholic version of Americanization.
Barrett, J. R., and Roediger, D. R. The Irish and the "Americanization" of the "New Immigrants" in the Streets and in the Churches of the Urban United States, 1900-1930. Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 24, No. 4 (2005): 3-33.