The Canadian West: Social Change and Economic Development

The Canadian West: Social Change and Economic Development

The Canadian West: Social Change and Economic Development

The Canadian West: Social Change and Economic Development

Excerpt

The papers included in this volume are concerned with a variety of social and economic conditions in the Canadian West. In them we find a fresh appreciation of the West's history. Their appearance is timely, for they come at a moment when many of those who are aware of the growing significance of the West in Canada feel the need for a fuller understanding of its role in the country's development. The intent of this volume is not to examine every aspect, but to help close some of the existing gaps in our knowledge of western society. It seeks as well to encourage observers of the western scene to see their subject in new frameworks.

A number of the papers touch on the major theme of social change, while others explore the relationship between ideas and socio-economic conditions. All of them point to problems in western life that require further study. Each paper, however, stands independently, stimulating interest in a particular issue or a selected set of questions.

The evaluation of the twentieth-century agricultural civilization on the prairies in the first paper, by Heather Robertson, breaks out of the orthodox mould and sets the tone of much that follows. The conservative-minded farmers and small-town people in Robertson's assessment live in a world of contradictions, a world in which cultural development has failed to keep pace with technological advance. In contrast to the readiness of the rural folk to enter the age of large farms, modern machines, and the welfare state, they are still imprisoned in the 1970's by their ancient agricultural customs and values. This view of the rural inhabitants of the prairies, emphasizing as it does the stagnant condition of their intellectual and cultural existence, conflicts with the widely held belief that social change has in reality not bypassed their communities.

Hallvard Dahlie's paper, a reappraisal of the prairie novelist Frederick Philip Grove, shows that the kind of social change Grove favoured was a return to the old-world order. With his interest in classical learning and his memories of his experiences in Europe, Grove found it difficult to adjust to the progress‐ oriented western Canadian society. Running through his fiction was the idea that undesirable social change in both rural and urban communities was rooted in materialism, and that the . . .

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