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POL 214 - Political Culture Summary.docx


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POL214Y1
Professor
D.Pond

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POL 214 - Highlights of the Political Culture Lecture
Political culture sets the outer limits to what is considered ‘normal political
activity in a society.
When we talk about liberalism as a cultural framework or philosophical
worldview, we are referring to small “l” liberalism. This is very different from
big “L Liberalism, which refers to the political party. Keep these distinct.
Canada has a liberal political culture, like other settler societies created by
Britain. Quebec was incorporated into this cultural framework after the
Conquest of 1759.
Canada’s political culture, rooted in liberal values, can be distinguished from
the American political culture, also rooted in liberal values. So how is Canadian
political culture unique?
Scholars employ different methods to identify political culture. Two examples
are Hartz-Horowitz, & Lipset. They argue their theories explain our cultures
greater inclination to accept a large role for government in society.
Hartz-Horowitz agree that we have a liberal culture, but argue Canada was
created with a unique ‘conservative liberal culture. The American Revolution
split the cultural tradition immigrants brought from Britain into different
‘fragments.
Because of the Revolution the US was created as a pure liberal fragment. The
Loyalists brought a more mixed, conservative-liberal fragment to English
Canada. So, we started as liberals but with a ‘tory touch. This traditional
conservatism or toryism legitimized a large role for government, in a basically
liberal society.
As evidence for this, we can cite various state-building policies, but introduced
by Conservative governments.
Later on, in the 20th century, this made it OK to be social democrats. Social
democrats (the NDP) believe in a strong activist government. Arguing in favour
of big government is acceptable in the Canadian political culture.
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In Quebec, the Conquest cut Quebec off from contact with France. For Hartz-
Horowitz, that meant Quebec was established as a feudal cultural ‘fragment. As
a result, liberal cultural values evolved much more slowly in Quebec than in
English Canada.
Lipset argues that the two ‘formative events of the American Revolution and
then the War of 1812, confirmed the Loyalists dislike of US-style democracy,
and their continued loyalty to the Crown and the British system of government.
Historians don’t have much use for Hartz-Horowitz. They point out that the
original Loyalist emigration was not large, and after 1815 was swamped by
huge waves of emigration from Britain. It was this post-1815 emigration that
explains English Canadas preference for British institutions and cultural
values, not the Loyalists.
Other critics of Hartz-Horowitz, such as political scientist David Bell, argue
that Loyalism only explains English Canadas continued identity crisis, and
preoccupation with debating our differences from the US. Quebecers do not
suffer from this identity crisis because they speak a different language than the
Americans: French.
Old Test & Exam Questions relevant to this lecture:
What do conservatism and socialism have in common, in the Canadian context?
What do the fragment and formative event theories of Canadian political culture
try to explain?
Why was the American Revolution a crucial event in the creation of Canada?
If political culture sets the outer boundaries of what is considered acceptable
political behaviour, what does the continued existence of the NDP tell us about the
Canadian political culture?
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