Tagged: canada

Frank H. Underhill – Some Observations Upon Nationalism And Provincialism In Canada (1938)


We are all distressed today when we observe how little effective national spirit there seems to be in Canada, and we are all worried about the problem of national unity when we consider the disruptive tendencies that seem to be dominant now in the Dominion, seventy-one years after Confederation. One of the things we never seem to learn from our troubles in Canada is the value of studying our own history. If we were in the habit of studying our past we wouldn’t be quite so drearily pessimistic when we are in difficulties or quite so vulgarly optimistic when things are going well with us.

Let me quote from a private letter written by one very eminent Canadian public man to another. ‘We have come to a period in the history of this young country where premature dissolution seems to be at hand. What will be the outcome? How long can the present fabric last? Can it last at all?’ Those words were written by Wilfrid Laurier to Edward Blake late in 1891. They express the spirit of despondency and disillusionment which had settled upon most serious Canadians when they contemplated the state of their country in the late 1880’s or early 1890’s. And if you think that you or your contemporaries are really feeling blue about the prospects of Canada today in 1938, I should recommend you to read a once famous book about Canada by a famous student of public affairs, which was published in 1891. It is Goldwin Smith’s Canada and the Canadian Question. Read it and you will get a new conception of what blueness can really amount to. Goldwin Smith had been watching the development of this experiment of making a new Canadian nation at close range for twenty years when he wrote his book, and by 1891 he had reached the conclusion that the experiment had been a complete failure. Continue reading


H. Clare Pentland – The Canadian Industrial Relations System: Some Formative Factors

By an industrial relations system I mean the whole pattern of rules and relationships which have been developed by a society to get its work done. Such a system exists to deal with those basic “labour” problems that any society must solve reasonably well if it is going to survive. These are the problems of getting and keeping a labour force, of training it in appropriate skills, of organizing it efficiently and motivating it effectively. These requirements amount to the same basic problems as the economic theorist’s: the allocation of scarce resources among possible uses in such a way as to maximize some conception of income or welfare. The industrial relations approach is more operational than the economist’s, however, in the sense that it points towards the complex of human groups and group interests that are involved rather than impersonal forces.

An important component of an industrial relations system is the relevant legal system — the laws and the way that courts apply them. However, an industrial relations system must be understood to include much more than this. As well as laws it is governed by customs, and the attitudes and habitual behaviour of various categories of workers, of employers or managers, and of those who administer government policy. By the same token, the letter of the law can give a thoroughly false conception, since it is notoriously subject to great differences in interpretation and enforcement, depending on public and judicial opinion.

Though the concept of an industrial relations system is applicable to any kind of society, it was devised essentially (about 15 years ago by some American scholars) as a means of viewing and comparing contemporary industrialized countries. Thus, since the technical requirements of industrial production are much the same in the United States and the Soviet Union, and the life styles and outlooks to which the industrial labour forces are conditioned must therefore also be similar, the two countries are forced to have far more in common because of their industrial relations systems than differences because of their ideologies. Personally, I do not find this view very convincing. I do think it valid, however, to compare the industrial relations systems of Canada, the United States, and Britain, in view of the large amount of common background. Continue reading

John Porter – Elite Groups: A Scheme for the Study of Power in Canada (‎1955)

GAETANO MOSCA, in his work which has been translated as The Ruling Class, engaged in an extensive criticism of the democratic theory that stems in particular from Rousseau. In the light of the historical evidence which he considered important he concluded:

Among the constant facts and tendencies which are to be found in all political organisms one is so obvious that it is apparent to the most casual eye. In all societies from societies that are meagerly developed and have barely attained the dawnings of civilization, down to the most advanced and powerful societies two classes of people appear a class that rules and a class that is ruled. The first always the less numerous, performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings, whereas the second, the more numerous class is directed and controlled by the first….1

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Douglas Daniels – The Coming Crisis in the Aboriginal Rights Movement: From Colonialism to Neo-Colonialism to Renaissance (1986)

This paper has been written in the belief that a bad handling of Aboriginal rights and Native self-government questions could lead to severe setbacks and perhaps tragedy not only for Native peoples but also for wider Canadian society. Since this paper will be rather critical of current tendencies in the Aboriginal rights movement, let it be clear at the outset that the author wholeheartedly supports all those Native groupings that seek political dignity and economic self-reliance through the strategy of Aboriginal rights settlements. The author supports the struggle to regain land that has been pilfered, fishery rights that have been eroded by large canning companies, hunting resources that have been depleted by sport hunters, as well as the quest for entrenched health care and education. This paper will, however, be pointing out some dangerous shortcomings in the Aboriginal rights/Native government strategythe strategy of “decolonization.” Continue reading

H. Clare Pentland – The Role Of Capital In Canadian Economic Development Before 1875

This discussion of capital grows out of investigation of the history of labour in Canada. Four major systems of organizing labour for the production of goods may be distinguished in the course of Canadian history. Each of these involved its peculiar methods of production, of organizing the labour market, and its characteristic attitudes of employers and employees. The change from one system to another is what is meant by economic development in this paper. The questions inevitably arise, why a period features one type of labour organization rather than another and why one system is displaced by another. These questions have led to concern with capital accumulation, importation, and investment, for it would appear that the availability and uses of capital are crucial to the answers. The role of capital is important, no doubt, to other fields of study as well. Many useful things about capital have been said by Canadian scholars, but no broad and coherent review of the whole subject appears to exist. The present is an exploratory paper, covering approximately two of the stages of development remarked above, and the change from one to the other. Continue reading

H. Clare Pentland – The Development of a Capitalistic Labour Market in Canada

It has been the custom of economists since the Mercantilists to assume the existence of a capitalistic labour market. It appears that this abstraction was adopted, not from ignorance of labour conditionsMalthus, who sponsored the bleakest model of a labour market, after all possessed exceptional knowledge of contemporary social conditionsbut because it simplified the economists’ main task, as they conceived it, of expounding how a capitalist economy works. The abstraction had the disadvantage, however, of diverting attention from how a capitalistic labour market might develop.1 This question, besides its historical and sociological interest, is relevant to the study of labour markets, and of “economic development.” Yet, in Canada, it has received only brief attention.2 This paper proposes a more detailed view of how our capitalistic labour market arose. Continue reading


(Read November 20, 1943, in Symposium on the Organization, Direction, and Support of Research)

Lord Acton has outlined the historical background of modern freedom essential to the social sciences. The lesson of Athenian experience taught that “government by the whole people, being the government of the most numerous and powerful class is an evil of the same nature as unmixed monarchy and requires for nearly the same reasons institutions that shall protect it against arbitrary revolutions of opinion.”1 In Rome “the vice of the classic state was that it was both church and state in one. Morality was undistinguished from religion, and politics from morals and in religion, morality and politics there was only one legislator and one authority.”2 “The ancient writers saw very clearly that each principle of government standing alone is carried to excesses and provokes a reaction. Monarchy hardens into despotism, aristocracy contracts into oligarchy, democracy expands into the supremacy of numbers.”3 While the necessity of checks as essential to liberty was thus recognized, classical civilization never achieved “representative government, the emancipation of the slaves, and liberty of conscience.”4 These achievements became possible with the rigid discipline under the Hebraic scriptures and the contribution of Christianity. Continue reading