Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

The Decline of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association *

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

The Decline of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association *

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article seeks to explain why membership in the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association (CSAA) has declined despite a growing number of sociology and anthropology professors in the country. The author argues that four factors are likely responsible for the trend: (1) external competition from sociology organizations in the United States; (2) internal competition from the Canadian Journal of Sociology; (3) a changed environment in which the need for professional organizations is less pressing; and (4) the growth of insufficiently inclusive and pluralistic reform movements in the CSAA in the 1970s and 1980s.

Resume: Cet article tente d'expliquer pourquoi l'adhesion a l'Association canadienne de sociologie et d'anthropologie (ACSA) a lentement decline depuis les annees 1970 en depit du fait que le nombre de professeurs en sociologie et en anthropologie au pays a pour sa part augmente. L'auteur de cet article fait l'hypothese que quatre facteurs sont responsables de cette tendance, a savoir: (1) la competition de la part des organisations academiques et scientifiques americaines; (2) la competition livree au Canada meme par le Canadian Journal of Sociology; (3) l'emergence d'un nouveau contexte dans lequel le besoin d'organisations professionnelles est desormais plus faible; (4) une radicalisation des mouvements de reforme au sein du ACSA dans les annees 1970 et 1980.


The Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association (CSAA) is the official organization of Anglo-Canadian sociology. As is evident from the trend lines in Figure 1, it has fallen on hard times. The trend lines trace (1) individual membership in the CSAA and (2) the number of sociology and anthropology faculty members in Canada over time. They show that, 25 years ago, there were about as many CSAA members as sociology and anthropology faculty members in Canada. (1) Since then, CSAA membership has fallen while the number of faculty members in sociology and anthropology has grown. Specifically, individual membership in the CSAA grew modestly in the 1980s, reached a high point of 1,165 in 1993, and then dropped precipitously--fully 39%--by 2002. Meanwhile, the number of full- and part-time faculty members in Canadian departments of sociology and anthropology grew steadily by 12% between 1977-78 and 1995-96. By the turn of the 21st century, it seems that not even half of sociology and anthropology faculty members in Canada were members of the CSAA. (2)


I believe four factors were chiefly responsible for declining membership in the CSAA in the 1990s: external competition, internal competition, a changing organizational environment, and the growth of unprofessionalism. Let us consider each of these factors in turn.

(1) External competition. Both Anglo-Canadian and Quebecois sociologists form small villages in comparison with the large urban agglomeration that is sociology in the United States. Due to differences in language and intellectual tradition, the attractions of American sociology hardly threaten Quebecois sociologists. However, these protective barriers are largely absent in the Anglo-Canadian case. Many Anglo-Canadian sociologists regard the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, and Social Forces as the top sociology journals in the world. They would like nothing better than to publish in them. The American Sociological Association (ASA) has held conferences in Toronto and Montreal, and regional American associations such as the Pacific and Midwestern Sociological Associations have held conferences in Vancouver and Windsor. The ASA meetings in particular are large, diverse, and well organized. They are staged in just a few major cities and cater to every intellectual taste. Thousands of participants flock to them every year from around the world. Then there are American graduate schools and the American job market, both of which have been attracting promising and accomplished Anglo-Canadian scholars for decades with the lure of famous colleagues, abundant research opportunities, and comparatively high salaries. …

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