Text and Context: Another "Chapter" in the Evolution of Sociology in Canada [*]

Article excerpt

Abstract: The evolution of sociology as a discipline in Canada is intimately related to its institutional position within Canadian universities. As student bodies expanded, not only did the demand for university-based sociologists increase but there was also a demand for society-specific class material for sociology courses. This paper examines the textbook, particularly in the 1970's, as a symbol of changes and developments in the discipline and demonstrates its role in synthesis-building, community-building, and nation-building in anglo- Canadian sociology.

Resume: L'evolution de la sociologie au Canada est liee a sa position institutionnelle a l'interieur des universites canadiennes. Avec le nombre d'etudiants qui a augmente, la demande pour des sociologues universitaires, ainsi que la demande pour des manuels scolaires pour des cours de sociologie specifique a la societe canadienne a aussi augmentee. Cet article examine le manuel scolaire, notamment dans les annees soixante-diz, comme un symbole des changements et developpements dans la discipline et demontre la facon dont le manuel scolaire a reussit non seulement a synthetiser la recherche sociologique mais aussi a joue un role dans l'etablissement d'une communaute de sociologues au Canada, et a contribue au developpement d'un portrait macro do la societe canadienne anglaise.

It is perhaps unusual to consider textbooks a significant factor in the development of a scientific discipline as they are often only considered as a resource for undergraduate students. Yet the conclusion of this paper is that textbooks have played a significant and symbolic role in the development of anglophone Canadian sociology because of structural factors pertaining to the nature of the discipline in Canada. The two dominant structural features which will be discussed in this paper are the Canadian university context, and the continental context of the relationship of Canadian sociology to American sociology. In addition, a third factor relates to the political economy of Canadian publishing. The evolution of the anglophone Canadian sociology textbook provides unique evidence of how these three factors play a role in both shaping and reflecting the changing sociological community in Canada as well as its attempt to be relevant to the Canadian societal context. In that sense, this paper helps us to under stand the evolution of the discipline in Canada in the last millennium more clearly.

At the outset, it should be pointed out that the wide range of Canadian textbooks in sociology were relatively late arrivals and were initially products of the 1970's. Thus, in reviewing the development of sociology in the last millennium, Canadian textbooks were really only a phenomenon of the last thirty years. The implications of this fact can only be understood in the context of the development of sociology as a discipline in Canada. One of the goals of this paper is to show how the evolution of sociology in Canada is intimately related to the teaching requirements of the discipline which enlarged the field of its practitioners and in which the textbook provided at least one useful outlet for these practitioners to talk to each other and build a sense of community. It will be shown how the Blishen text began this process in the 1960's followed by a flurry of text publishing in the 1970's.

The Text and the Beginning of Sociology in Canada

The historical analysis of sociology as a discipline in Canada has demonstrated that sociology was rather slow to develop in Canada until the 1960's (Hiller, 1982: 3-39). Historically, sociology typically existed in the first instance as a perspective among analysts working in other disciplines who were curious about society or perhaps as a cluster of courses in universities in conjunction with either social work or political economy. Building from the British model of traditional inquiry focussed on history or economics, there was little institutional openness to the kind of sociology developing in American universities until after the Second World War (Clark, 1976: 133-135). …