Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Political Attitudes of Canadian Professors

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Political Attitudes of Canadian Professors

Article excerpt

Abstract: In this paper we analyze the social determinants of political attitudes among Canadian university professors as expressed in a nationwide 1987 survey. We examine four questionnaire items. They measure attitudes towards faculty unionization, faculty militancy, and faculty salary egalitarianism; and position on a left-right political scale. The results support a class-based theory of intellectual attitudes, more with respect to unionism and leftism than militancy and egalitarianism. Furthermore, a distinct rank-ordering of Canadian professors' political attitudes by field emerges. Academics in the humanities, social sciences, arts (fine, performing, and applied), and education score consistently to the left of those in the natural sciences, business, and engineering. Field differentiation is consistent across all four measures and persists even after control variables are introduced. We also discover ethno-religious effects (with non-members of dominant ethno-religious groups tending to be more left-wing than others) and gender effects (with women tending to fall to the left of men). Finally, we outline some social mechanisms that result in attitudinal differentiation and discuss the implications of our research for theories of intellectuals and politics in postindustrial societies.

Resume: Dans cet article nous analysons les facteurs sociaux determinants les attitudes politiques, extraits d'un echantillon important de professeurs canadiens, exprimes dans un sondage national de 1987. Nous examinons quatre questions. Celles-ci mesurent les attitudes envers la syndicalisation des professeurs, leur militantisme, leur attitude envers l'egalisation des salaires; et leur position politique sur une echelle qui va de la gauche h la droite. Les resultats demontrent que leurs attitudes intellectuelles sont basees davantage sur la theorie des classes en ce qui concerne leur attitude envers la syndicalisation et le gauchisme qu'envers le militantisme et l'egalisation des salaires. De plus, il y a une hierarchie distincte dans leurs attitudes politiques selon la discipline. Les professeurs dans les humanites, les sciences sociales, les arts (les beauxarts, le theatre et la musique ainsi que les arts appliques) et l'education se trouvent regulierement a gauche des professeurs dans les sciences naturelles, la gestion et le genie. La differentiation selon les disciplines est uniforme pour les quatre questions et persiste meme apres que les variables de controle ont ete introduits. Il y a aussi des differences ethno-religieuses (les professeurs qui n'appartiennent pas aux groupes ethno-religieux dominants ont tendance a etre plus a gauche que les autres) ainsi que des differences selon le sexe (les femmes sont plus gauche que les hommes). Finalement, nous dressons une liste des mecanismes sociaux qui auraient pu produire la differentiation attitudinale et nous discutons les implications de notre recherche pour les theories des intellectuels et leurs attitudes politiques dans les societes postmodernes.

The Class Location of IntellectualsparThere are more than 37,000 faculty members regularly engaged in teaching and research in Canadian universities but not a single survey-based sociological analysis of their political attitudes. This imbalance is especially striking given the recent shift in government policy on higher education and the resulting financial constraints imposed on the university system. Since the 1980s, the proportion of GNP spent on Canada's universities has declined, enrollment has increased, and real expenditure has dropped (Johnson, 1985). One may reasonably expect attitudinal and behavioural ramifications among Canadian professors. Recent events lend credibility to this expectation. Faculty strikes in several universities (Manitoba, York, Trent, and Dalhousie) suggest a possible radicalization of the professoriate in some institutions. Continued resistance to unionization in other universities (Waterloo, Toronto) suggests an entrenchment of historical attitudes elsewhere. …

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