How to Globalize a Canadian
- Patrick Imbert (Editor)
Converging Disensus, Cultural Transformations and Corporate Cultures: Canada and the Americas. University of Ottawa Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Wayne Ellwood (Author)
The No-Nonsense Guide to Globalization. Between the Lines (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Irvin Studin (Editor)
What is a Canadian?: Forty-Three Thought-Provoking Responses. Douglas Gibson (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Justin Sully
Wayne Ellwood’s The No-Nonsense Guide to Globalization presents a cogent, accessible overview of the critical history of the economic globalization. Unabashed in its critique of the neoliberal valorization of a free-market model of globalization, Ellwood offers a concise exposition of the history and structure of our current economic system, assessing the merits and failures of the existing model and its potential alternatives. A reader familiar with existing critical historiography of globalization and the long centuries of the capitalist world system will find the usual suspects here: the conquest of the Americas and the global premonitions of classical economics, the formation and abandonment of the Bretton Woods system, the post-war development of supra-national regulatory bodies (IMF, GATT, World Bank) and the transformations of trade and debt through the economic traumas and structural adjustments of the post-gold era.
While the economic takes centre stage in Ellwood’s account, the exigencies of the globalization of culture and politics are explored, if only tangentially. A chapter on “Poverty, the Environment and the Market” offers the most sustained departure from economic history, offering a focused account of the environmental impact of treaties and policies of neo-liberal globalization in the developing world. The final section of the text diverges from the generally critical tone of the text to provide a collection of thoughtful, concrete prescriptions for “redesigning the global economy.” Contributions to this section include proposals for retooling the IMF, implementing the “Tobin Tax” on financial speculation and founding a UN-mandated Global Environmental Organization. The format of this brief volume follows previous editions in the “No-Nonsense” series: chapters are short and concise, relying on a careful balance of narrative and empirical data, and punctuated with graphic and editorial side-bars. Ellwood has succeeded in condensing a historical analysis of economic globalization in a refreshingly pragmatic form that eschews the shrill, moralizing histrionics that are too common in similarly brief, critical treatments of globalization from the left. This is a text well suited to supplement courses in the globalization of culture and world literature with a much needed and accessible political-economic perspective.
Converging Disensus, Cultural Transformations and Corporate Cultures: Canada and the Americas collects three essays that each address the manner in which a corporate culture of the Americas might be understood and, in turn, how this problem models a rethinking of the politics of difference across increasingly porous national boundaries. The perplexity induced by the questionable spelling in the title of the book (“Disensus”) was, unfortunately, only aggravated by the, at best, lackluster essays collected in the volume. Patrick Imbert, the editor of the volume, contributes the first essay: an effort that aims to address the politics of national-cultural difference across the Americas through an analysis of the “valorization or rejection of change and risk taking in corporate, media and literary discourses in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.” In his attempt to articulate these impossibly diffuse subjects, Imbert alternates between sloppy readings of canonical cultural theory—Gayatri Spivak, for instance, is characterized as a kind of vulgar relativist and, most embarrassingly, as a man—and a ponderous distinction between discourses of a “zero-sum-game” and a “win-win-game” in existing approaches to political-economy and international relations. Roque Callage Neto’s essay on “America’s Differential Congregational Citizenship,” presents a generally incomprehensible excursus through idiosyncratic readings of continental philosophy and confusing political-economic histories to recommend an ill-defined notion of “differentiated congregational citizenship”; Neto’s argument, such that it is, appears to boil down to an application of a naive, liberal “multiculturalism” as a model for increasing corporate productivity across national boundaries. While Imbert’s writing seems in need of a rigorous editing, each of Neto’s sentences trump the last in its utter incoherence. Gilles Paquet’s essay distinguishes itself from the other contributions in its relative clarity of expression. Paquet offers an “x-ray of corporate culture” in the Americas, proposing a series of “psychoanalytic” models to measure the degree to which corporate cultures promote relative degrees of efficiency and productivity. Paquet’s essay is by far the most interesting in its demonstration of the manner in which the language of cultural theory offers tools that can be swiftly (if awkwardly!) turned toward optimizing corporate productivity and expansion. Overall, however, the most remarkable thing about this book is that it made it to print.
Irvin Studin’s collection What is a Canadian? Forty-Three Thought-Provoking Responses, delivers more or less what its title claims. This collection gathers together an impressive roster of Canadian academics, jurists, authors, journalists and politicians with the aim of refreshing this well-worn Canadian question at “the dawn of the [twenty-first] century.” The twenty-first century Canadian is, it would seem, thankfully conscious of how tired the question of Canadian identity has become for a general readership. As a whole, the contributors do a fine job of reflecting the editor’s aim of beginning from the position that the matter at hand is either tediously obvious (“the Canadian is, in the only meaningful sense, a citizen of Canada”) or constitutively irresolvable. Squeezed between these two poles, these essays produce a kind of radically multivocal state of the nation.
Reflections on the political and juridical constitution of a Canadian figure prominently, with Denis Stairs’s reflection on the distinction of Canadian political culture and Mark Kingwell’s theses on the philosophical problem of pluralism standing out among many other illuminating pieces. Polemic is not in short supply here, however. Indeed, indignation at the self-satisfaction and hypocrisy of Canadians represents one of the more sustained occupations of the respondents. Whether with respect to our national claim on “mutliculturalism” (George Elliott Clarke, Joy Kogawa), our responsiveness to the world’s need and conflict (Paul Heinbecker, Thomas Homer-Dixon) or our federalist embrace of “distinct societies” and First Peoples (Christian Dufour, Rosemarie Kuptana) the great majority of contributors here seem to agree in some way with Jake Macdondald’s assessment that “Canadians have been slapped on the back enough.” While a tendency to indulge a very Canadian delight in his/her own idiosyncrasies occasionally grows tedious and while there are about three too many jokes about making love in a canoe, what finally recommends this book is the warm current of humor and personal recollection that runs through the collection.
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Books reviewed: The Prairie West as Promised Land by R. Douglas Francis and Chris Kitzan and All This Town Remembers by Sean Johnston
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MLA: Sully, Justin. How to Globalize a Canadian. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #195 (Winter 2007), Context(e)s. (pg. 135 - 137)
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