The Debate over Canadian Political History
In the 1960s, some scholars deemed traditional approaches to Canadian political history inadequate & repressive. Political history was seen as obsolete and focused on nation-building, accused of merely protecting national tradition.
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About The Debate over Canadian Political History
PowerPoint presentation about 'The Debate over Canadian Political History'. This presentation describes the topic on In the 1960s, some scholars deemed traditional approaches to Canadian political history inadequate & repressive. Political history was seen as obsolete and focused on nation-building, accused of merely protecting national tradition.. The key topics included in this slideshow are . Download this presentation absolutely free.
Slide1John English: The Second Time Around:Political Scientists Writing History What started the debate regarding political history in the 1960s? To some scholars, traditional approaches were seen as inadequate and even repressive. The idea that political history was instrumental to Canadian historical writing seemed obsolete. Canadian historians were accused of just protecting national tradition. Canadian historical writing is too focused on the search for a national identity, nation-building and how politicians shaped circumstances.
Slide2What factors affected the atmosphere of thisdebate? American influence : faculty from the USA suspicious of politicians (Nixon, Johnson, Vietnam), politics is just consumed with “the administration of things”, the state is disconnected from daily experiences, this resulted in feelings of resentment and alienation French Annales School of Thought : Quebec faculty opposed to narrative political histories, centralization of power in Ottawa.
Slide3What were the new approaches recommended forthe new “Golden Age” (Ramsay Cook) or “New History”? - A focus on social, economic and demographic forces in history, NOT a focus on political organization, decision-making, military events - Changes in technique (e.g., analyze census material using computer technology, use more quantitative methods). - Ideological innovation ( e.g., observe American and British impact on the Canadian working culture) - Concentrate on “limited identities”, avoid the political aspects (e.g., focus on cultural, social and economic concerns of the French in Quebec)
Slide4Why did youngerhistorical scholars in the 1980s avoid Political History?
Slide5THE PROBLEMPolitical History is: - Too national - Too biographical, too much focus on the narrative - Doesn’t address economic and social development - Irrelevant - Too traditional, the traditional approach to history was equated with the political approach - Too conservative: the “left” believed political history is a “bourgeois remnant of a discipline which should be progressive in politics and methodology.” The “left” often avoids the role of the state and the nature of its autonomy (even though these are typical concerns for political scientists on the left.) The study of class and region are the “more appropriate frameworks for examining the past” analysis by Carl Berger - Social Science is superior because of its sophisticated tools and methodologies (quantitative)
Slide6what influences shaped the “new history”, causing them to take a newdistinctive approach to Canadian history? 1) There was a mutual disregard for the impact of Anthropology and Sociology on Political Science and vice versa, both thought they were superior to the other. In the 1920-1950s, Canadian political scientists and historians focused on political theory and historical analysis. However, “New History” focused so called “scientific approaches “ (e.g., voting behavior as it relates to policy analysis). This was deemed to be of little use to historians. 2) The new “political economy group” or Political Economists among Canadian political scientists demanded changes b/c they were influenced by: - International revival of Marxist theory - Dislike of “American science of politics” - A recognition of the dependency of Canadian capitalism - The condensed version of the development of the Canadian state - Earlier traditions of Canadian political economy
Slide7Why has this happened?- The influence of the “political economy” group - Biased publishers and editors Example: Brodie and Jensen, Crisis, Challenge and Change: Party and Class in Canada (Toronto, 1980) They integrate political economy “based upon Marxist class analysis with an historical analysis of voting behavior.” They use quantitative strategies to come to “determine ethnic, regional, and class support for Canada’s political parties.” The authors seek to prove that “the key to understanding Canada’s federal party system is an historical examination of the bourgeois parties’ management of the tension between capital and the subordinate classes.” However, the authors only examine past, historical evidence that supports their argument, and overlook an incredible amount of secondary historical sources about the party system. Thus they concluded that in 1917, “labour” was opposed the war.
Slide8According to Donald Creighton (Canadian HistoricalAssociation President), 1957 was the problem? “Everybody in the university was writing and using history but they were not paying much attention to reading and understanding the work of historians. “ What does John English think the problem is today? “Political scientists like Whitaker and David Smith are certainly reading history, but historians are, perhaps, ignoring the work of political scientists.”
Slide9why will the new “political economy” problem do better than previousMarxist predecessors? - Class analysis is important to the historical analysis of change . Example: Study of Quebec’s social and political change...to see how important class is to the understanding of political developments in Quebec. - The new political economy does acknowledge the role of the state , and in accepting the state’s autonomy, it no longer focuses on the earlier Marxist theories to the same degree. - The new political economists are on the political left . Many historians have rejected political history because they feel it’s too conservative. There is some validity to this because the traditional historical mode of study has been the narrative, even though the study of political science is not “intrinsically conservative in an ideological sense”. (Attitude same as aversion to religious history after the introduction of secular modernism). - “The new political economists are not isolated within their discipline in the attention they pay to historical materials and debate.” Example: Future historians studying such international topics as Canada’s role in Vietnam. War studies will likely turn more often to the work of political scientists than to historians.
Slide10what are some examples of recent collaboration betweenpolitical scientists and historians? - In Defense of Canada (James Eayers) Began in the 1990s, when Canadians began to realize the implication of the atomic age. Eayers determines to “trace Canadian decision- making through the perspective of the decision-makers’ understanding of what national security meant. Yet some criticize that he depended too much on Canadian documentation and not enough on the policies of other nations. - The Politics of Canadian Foreign Policy (Kim Nossal) and Indochina (Douglas Ross) acknowledge that “the study of how states interact and how Canada takes its place in such interaction is of fundamental importance, far more so now when Canadians know well that they live between two massing powers in an atomic age.”
Slide11in spite of greater collaboration between politicalscientists and historians, what barriers remain? - Since political economists usually focus on the recent past, Canadian social historians focus on the 19 th and early 20 th centuries. This has decreased cross- fertilization. - - Canadian historians of the left sometimes overlook the significance of theory
Slide12what has changed since the 1980s? what are the trendsamong the “New Historians”? Will political subjects and events become a focus again? - The left now does address political subjects and themes related to national history - The political economists and historians are now collaborating - The realization that the connection between the peace movement is heavily influenced by the international movement has motivated many young scholars to concentrate on how states act…this is a political subject. - The use of the narrative, once shunned is returning. - Discipline barriers are breaking down and cross- fertilization is happening
Slide13Berger, Carl. The Writing of Canadian History: Aspects of English-Canadian Historical Writing: 1900-1970. Toronto : Oxford University Press, 1976. What has been the impact of the theme of self-government in Canadian historical literature? • Regarded as the single most important development of the entire Canadian past. • Motivated historians to outline the patterns of Canadian constitutional development, emphasizing the principle of responsible government. • This led to the conclusion that in Canada was the first colonial country that managed to attain responsible government (the Canadian “Revolution” was peaceful unlike the American Revolution). In terms of Canada’s rise from colonial subordination to a position of constitutional equality, what were historians most concerned with? • The conflicts in the early 19 th century between the elected assemblies and the nominated councils • This led to the rebellions of 1837 and the mission of Lord Durham. • Durham’s Report (very far-sighted) suggested that Canadian self-government and nationality can co-exist with the imperial tie to Britain.
Slide14after the theme of the slow evolution of canada’s constitutional self-governmentwas concluded by the Statute of Westminster… formalized the doctrine of Dominion status, what two opposing views existed? • Imperialists (Wrong, Martin) wanted expansion of Canadian self-government within a co-operative imperial partnership with Britain. • Others (Ewart, Skelton) wanted Canada to be fully sovereign, isolated from Britain What did Canadian imperialists believe? • The broadening of self-government was compatible with the continuation of imperial unity. • Canada was an distinct entity united to Britain by: • Ethnic ties • Historical traditions • Common institutions • Common interests • Wartime cooperation confirmed the unity of the Empire, of the English-speaking peoples • Key was interdependence, not independence or dependence, this was partnership
Slide15how did w.p.m. kennedy (university of toronto historian), explain the theory ofsovereignty? • Was against extreme doctrines of national self-determination and absolute sovereignty • Since there were 68 nationalities in Europe he thought it unwise to re-draw the European map after the war, based on nationalities…”there is room within a state for more than one variety of national feeling” (will be more tolerant). • “Modern nationalism and the striving for absolute sovereignty was a retrogressive and dangerous force. • “Recognized that Canada had a distinct social, economic and political group life that determined its recognition as a state.” How did John Ewart (Ottawa lawyer, author of 60 pamphlets, 1908-1932) address Kennedy’s beliefs? • Canadian history is a “progressive growth from colonial status to full self- government, BUT • Canada must “declare its complete equality with Great Britain • Only link to Britain should be a common monarch. • Canada should get a declaration of independence and equality • Ewart viewed Kennedy (who disagreed with him), as a reflection of the “old ethnocentric imperialism in disguise.”
Slide16what did borden and george wrong feel in regard to Britain & desireto increase Canada’s influence? • Canada needed to exert influence over the British Empire’s foreign policy. • Britain must not treat Canada like colonials, should appreciate their contributions to the war • Only way to get rid of English outdated prejudices is for Canada to produce a declaration of equality…change title from Dominion to the Kingdom of Canada….full status with England • Wrong: The main cause of the American Revolution and the termination of the first empire was “the incapacity of the British to accept the American colonists as equals, or, more precisely, as social equals.” The American Revolution could have been avoided. • Wrong: Britain’s “sense of superiority and insularity” prevent acceptance of the new status of Canada.
Slide17chapter 3 “frank underhill: history as political criticism”GOAL : To show that Frank Underhill was the main historian (really a political journalist) who debunked the spirit of the 1920s…replace the idealism and romanticism of the past with the promotion of: • Traditional liberalism ..adjusted to modern society • Democratic socialism • Isolationalist foreign policy Because Underhill related these ideas to Canadian political culture, what profoundly important questions did he raise about history? • His attitude toward the past itself was negative. • Why has history produced such an “unsatisfactory a state of things in the present?” What were Underhill’s 3 themes regarding Canadian historical thought before 1940? • Attacked constitutionalist historians for their assumptions regarding their lack of realism in dealing with politics. • Tried to explain the beginnings of Canada’s political parties in terms of the “conflict of interest groups” • Analyzed the weaknesses of the “radical tradition” in Canada.
Slide18in what ways did underhill begin to disagree with W.P.M. Kennedy and ChesterMartin and the influence they had on Canadians? • They had stressed the “continuity and non-revolutionary character of Canadian history” too much. • Therefore, they had removed the “passion and adventure” and created a “conservative bias”. • This attitude accounts for a “widespread failure of Canadians generally to be realistic about politics.” • Canadians still think that British system is superior to Republican institutions • Canadians think that their life is more stable than that of the United States, suspicious of them, maintained that the U.S. is a generation ahead of Canada in terms of industrialization • English Canadians think that their relationship with French Canada is “characterized by toleration, compromise, and conciliation.” He insists that the two races have never tried to understand each other, French have always participated in politics as the “radical party…by posing as suffering martyrs, have managed to get their own way in Canada.
Slide19what was underhill’s notion of intellectual leadership?• University intellectuals should be committed activists (Wrong, Milner). • He drew on examples from the Fabians and progressives...education show formulate social goals • Intellectuals ought to be both a social critic and a reformer • There should be intellectual leadership in national affairs…the ‘intellectual’ and the ‘expert’ would be the leaders of the nation. • Foreign policy (and decisions to enter another world war) should be “defined in relation to economic self-interest and power.” • The main goal of British imperialism is “always the same: it is to get the Dominions to lend their resources, human and material, to the support of British policy…to get our assistance in making the world safe for British capitalism.”….he discredited slogans like ‘liberty’, ‘collective security’, ‘moral commitments’ etc.
Slide20Chapter 5, Part 111“Arthur Lower and a National Community” GOAL: TO INVESTIGATE ONE OF VERY FEW ENGLISH CANADIANS TO ATTEMPT ANY KIND OF ANALYSIS OF FRENCH CANADA IN THE LATER 1930s AND EARLY 1940 s What was the essence of Turner’s famous essay? • “ The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development.” • The frontier was not so much a specific place as it was a “process in which institutions and social customs were transformed as people moved west.” • It fostered individualism because people became emancipated from the “institutional controls” of settled society.” • The frontier promoted American democracy (social equality, a social order “based on fair play for all.” • The frontier promoted nationalism “because the pioneer looked to the national government to adopt measures it needed.”
Slide21how did arthur lower modify turner’s thesis to explain the Canadian experience?• In 1929, in both countries, democracy had been a “condition”, not a theory. It had been a “spontaneous product of the frontier and the forest.” American democracy had a “forest birth.” This resulted in an equality of which the “political expression is democracy.” However, social equality could not evolve to a political democracy unless the society had not already had adopted certain theoretical positions before it moved west, this making them more assertive and independent than their counterparts in the home country. • The French : came from a land of authoritarianism in church and state. Their frontier seemed more a “check on authoritarianism than a seed-bed of political democracy.” Lower doubted if the French Canadians, if left to themselves could have created democratic political institutions, likely the “old controls” would have be re-instated. • New England : came from a land of “aristocracy”, “privilege”, rank differences The English colonist, on the other hand, thought of themselves as “free men along with rudimentary representative institutions, while the French did not.” Had a sense of “individualism”, “sense of equality”
Slide22although the frontier encouraged social democracy, what negative values did Lowerfeel it brought? • The frontier encouraged exploitation of natural resources and economic life in general. Forest industries…’get-rich-quick’ mentality, • This “gambling spirit” promotes selfish individualism, a source of control is needed to conserve natural resources, “little sense of limitation” in the first half of the 19 th century. How did Lower maintain French Canada was the opposite of a “coherent community” that resulted in a “clash of two completely different philosophies that could not be reconciled”? • Lower focused on their relationship between religion and economic activity • The “habitant…has his family, his church, his own people living around him, fresh air, and the freedom of the woods…the simple life is the good life.” • “Catholic philosophy of simplicity and spiritual satisfaction” • More than achievement, and “English industrialism”
Slide23what impact did lower feel this “clash of philosophies” had?• It was the root cause of the elected assembly and the British oligarchy in the early 19 th century • It contributed to the “racial conflict” that led to the Rebellion of 1837 (since it was a conflict between a “dynamic Anglo-American commercialism and a static, feudal agrarianism.” Even though we might question Lower’s ideas today, why should he be remembered? • English-Canadians intellectuals, for the most part, were not interested in any serious historical study of French Canada, at least he was.
Slide24Whitaker, Reg. “Writing About Politics.” In Writing About Canada: A Handbook for Modern Canadian History. ” edited by John Schultz, 1-25. Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1990. Goal: To demonstrate why ideological and methodological differences of opinion between the “new history” and “old history” have led to a decline of political history (since the 1960s) and the implications of this decline. According to Whitaker, why should we be concerned about the decline of political history? The state has been “central to Canadian development.” How did the state’s role differ in economic development in Canada and the United States? Canada: A main aspect of Canadian nationalism was pride in the “welfare state’s social programs and regional subsidies.” United States : A main aspect of American nationalism is their “market-oriented” approach.
Slide25in what ways have politics been victorious over the “forces of geography and thecontinental markets”? • A great deal of Canadian history has been the story of imperial systems (French, Britain, now America), where critical decisions impacting Canada’s fate have been made by politicians beyond the control of Canadians, often needing important decisions from the Canadian state. • Due to Canada’s diversity, Canada has always been divided into two “national communities” • Separate language and culture • Regional differences also divide Canada Yet by relying on the political system and political solutions, many of the problems have been resolved. Since politics has shown to be successful what can we conclude regarding the role of politics ? • Institutions of the state • Behaviour of politicians and others involved in political life • The processes connected to politics ………must be important elements in an understanding of the history of Canada
Slide26what international influences have impacted the decline of politics?• Overcome by new trends in social and economic history • Ideological struggles: • “New History” is connected with the political left. In the US, UK, and Europe, Marxism and other “radical interpretations” closely identified with the “forgotten peoples” of history: “women, working class, farmers, urban poor, marginalized ethnic minorities, native peoples of North America, colonized peasants of the Third World...” • “Traditional Subjects” of Political History: The elites – “kings, aristocrats, political leaders, capitalists, generals.” • The Annales in France: focus their studies on “everyday life”, and the many factors that determine history. What have been the consequences of this debate? The political history advocates are: • Defending their stance on conservative political grounds. • Condemning the “new history” as not just “bad history”, but “bad (leftist) politics. • Admitting that they need to re-examine some of their “traditional forms of writing.” • Begun to include social & economic history into their writing. • Begun to include the forgotten peoples into their writing. • Becoming aware that they should not “throw out the political baby with the elitist bath water”….because the “new history” was too far removed from the state and thus missing too much in their arguments.
Slide27in what has the “marxist school of political economy” been responsible for thecomeback of political history? • It acknowledges the role of the state, and thus “BRINGS THE STATE BACK IN”: • The state itself, is a “terrain of class conflict” • It is in the state that the capitalist system of production works itself out • “The ruling class is composed of the owners of the means of production. But while the ruling class rules, it cannot itself govern. The capitalist state must govern in the long-term interests of capital as a whole, which may require it to act against short- term interests of particular sectors of capital.” • This “political economy approach” brings back themes form an older school of historical writing in Canada (e.g., Innis, Creighton). How has the rise of social history made historians aware that narrative, political history is too “one-dimensional and even tedious”? • Made historians aware that social and cultural history enhances the narratives of political history,
Slide28even though political biographies can serve as a starting point for “greatcontroversies over the meaning of historical eras,” what pitfalls can political biography fall into? • A tendency of biographers to become “partisans of their subjects, seeking to vindicate, rather than analyze….Great Man theory of history…with its disregard for the social and economic forces at work around individual actors. • A tendency to focus too much on the social & economic circumstances…thus not giving credit to the individual as an “agent in the making of history.” ….thus, biography, properly written can be the bridge between the new and old history. Why did the close relationship between political science and economic begin disappear in the 1960s? • Economics became more quantified and international in outlook • Economics influenced by the American behaviouralism school...study only what can be measured in quantitative terms. • Both were becoming more specialized and “inward looking”.
Slide29why political events have occurred to renew the interest in of political scientists instudying constitutional questions? • Quebec crisis • b. Constitutional reform: • Canada Act of 1982, with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms • Meech Lake constitutional accord… judicial decisions stemming from legal battles re the Charter focus on the state and the individual. Why have political scientists re-discovered the importance of institutions? • The school of neo-institutionalism (blends current theory & “institutional framework of politics” in “both containing & shaping processes of political action…with a wider understanding of the socio-economic factors underlying the functioning of institutions.”) • Political science has become more interested in the processes of government. • The process of public policy (e.g., social policy, foreign and defence policy) has become more important as a “focus of studying the functioning of government and politics…Marxist political economy has made a major impact on the study of public policy.”
Slide30another important aspect of political writing is normative…what does it mean, whatis its impact? • Answers political philosophical questions such as: • What should be done in politics? • What should have been done in the past? (Example: Pierre Trudeau – his political philosophy about liberalism, before he became PM). • Closely tied to normative political thinking in Canada has been “ideology”. • “What did particular Canadians think about politics?” • “How did their ideas affect the course of events?” • Analyzing ideological expression can be done in three ways: • The history of ideas (analytically weak) The Hartizan fragment approach (“analyzes new societies like Canada by identifying their origins in ideological “fragments” drawn from the colonizing society at the point of founding.” (weak b/c it focuses so much on the society’s founding conditions, hard to apply to concrete cases, ignores the role of force & violence in history,e.g., Metis rebellions, Conquest of Quebec, shaped course of Canada history, ) • Marxism: “the idea of situating ideology within its social & economic context, and of relating the changes in ideology to changes in the economy and changes in class structure…Marxism is by now a coat of many colours and may thus be a somewhat misleading term…analyze both the determination and the significance of ideas & ideologies within the wider context of state, capital, and society.
Slide31the new “equation” created by cross-fertilization !!!HISTORY (turning away from traditional forms of history) + POLITICAL SCIENCE (Rediscovered the role of the state) = new, exciting HYRID OF DISCIPLINES IF There are no “turf wars”!