Prejudice and Pride: Canadian Intellectuals Confront the United States, 1891-1945

By Buckner, Phillip | British Journal of Canadian Studies, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Prejudice and Pride: Canadian Intellectuals Confront the United States, 1891-1945


Buckner, Phillip, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Damien-Claude Bélanger, Prejudice and Pride: Canadian Intellectuals Confront the United States, 1891-1945 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), 322 pp. Cased. $55. ISBN 978-1-4426-4045-0.

The greatest strength of this book is its attempt to compare how English-Canadian and French-Canadian intellectuals viewed American society. I also have considerable sympathy with the author's claim that the Canadian intellectual discourse about the Canadian-American relationship was more than 'simply an expression of nationalism' and that attitudes towards the United States in large part reflected ideological considerations. But the alternative interpretation that Bélanger puts forward that the Canadian views were shaped by 'wider attitudes towards modernity' (p. 6) is unconvincing. It is true that some Canadians on the right of the political spectrum argued that Britain and the United States embodied 'antithetical archetypes: Britain embodied tradition and conservative values, while the United States came to symbolize modernity and the liberal ethos' (p. 7). But not all did. In the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, Canadian liberals, Laurier and Mackenzie King among them, were as likely to see themselves as part of a British liberal tradition rather than an American. Moreover, not all conservatives were opposed to all aspects of modernity; most conservatives were in favour of industrial capitalism and it was the Conservative party which introduced and defended the National Policy, which greatly increased the speed of industrialization and urbanization, supposedly two of the hallmarks of modernity. Bélanger argues that there were 'two opposing sensibilities, anti-Americanism and continentalism' (p. 15), but both of these concepts are fuzzy and ill-defined. Bélanger identifies anti-Americanism in English Canada with a belief in imperialism, another term that he never properly defines, though he implies that most imperialists supported imperial centralization until support for the imperial federation movement withered away in the interwar years.

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