Beyond the "Politics of Toil": Collective Mobilization and Individual Activism in Toronto's Portuguese Community, 1950s-1990s
Fernandes, Gilberto, Urban History Review
The following article examines the changing political attitudes of Portuguese immigrants in Canada from the arrival of the first cohort in the 1950s to the emergence of the second and third generations in Canadian mainstream society in the 1990s. In explores historical factors that have influenced the political profile of Portuguese Canadians, including its predominantly working-class makeup; its lack of formal education and democratic culture resulting from Portugal's authoritarian legacy; and its internal factionalism along regional, ideological, generational, and class lines. Fernandes offers a historical critique of sociological models--"socio-economic status" and "socializaton"--commonly used for measuring and explaining immigrant political participation, and stresses the importance of diachronic studies in dispelling essentialist assumptions regarding immigrant communities. The author argues that generalist notions of "political participation" and "political constituency" miss important distinctions between representative and direct forms of political action, collective mobilization and individual activism, as well as state level and grassroots politics. He claims that each of these political processes operates according to its own distinct internal dynamics, at times responsive, at other times alienated from one another, which must be analyzed using appropriate scales of observations (much and micro).
L'auteur examine l'evolution des attitudes politiques des immigres portugais as Canada depuis l'arrivee dans les annees 1950 de la premiere cohorte jusqu'a l'emergence dans les annees 1990 des deuxieme et troisieme generations dans la societe canadienne majoritaire. Il etudie certains facteurs historiques qui ont influence le profil politique des Canado-portugais, y compris sa composition de classe ouvriere predominante, son manque d'education et de culture democratique formelles - resultat de l'heritage autoritaire du Portugal - et ses factions internes regionals, ideologiques, generationnelles et de classe. Fernandes propose une critique historique de modeles sociologiques - le "statut socio-economique" et la "socialisation" - couramment utilises pour mesurer et expliquer la participation politique des immigrants; il souligne l'importance des etudes diachroniques pour dissiper les hypotheses essentialistes sur les communautes immigrantes. L'auteur fait valoir que notions generalistes de la "participation politique" et de la "circonscription politique" ecartent des distinctions importantes entre les formes representatives et directes de l'action politique, la mobilisation collective et l'activisme individuel, ainsi que la politique au niveau de l'Etat et a la base. Il affirme que chacun de ces processus politiques fonctionne selon ses propres dynamiques internes distinctes, parfois sensibles, a d'autres moments alienees les unes des autres, qui doivent etre analysees en utilisant des echelles d'observation appropriees (macro et micro).
The few social studies conducted on the Portuguese in Canada have characterized this immigrant group as politically inactive. Produced during the early stage of the community's urban settlement, their findings, however, have yet to be further substantiated and updated. In fact, even the most superficial assessment of Portuguese-Canadian media reveals a more complicated political reality than what is suggested in surveys that measure participation solely through electoral results. This article provides a review of the political history of Toronto's Portuguese community and addresses the apparent inconsistency between group representation at the state level and community politics at the grassroots level. Here, I will examine what accounts for immigrant political participation, what factors have determined the extent of their political activity, and how these have developed over the years. In doing so, I will incorporate insights from two dominant paradigms in sociology that focus on measuring and explaining immigrant political participation--the socio-economic status model and the socialization perspective. …