One Strong Voice! Une voix forte!

Has it come to this? We’re all to speak in unison? Academics in their serried ranks, shoulder-to-shoulder, identical, genderless, faceless?

Check out the canvas hold-all distributed by the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities this year. It shows twenty or so – what shall I call them? Black pegs with round heads. Are they clothes pegs? There are no discernable clothes. Let your mind wander. You’ll see images of arms linked and ears at the alert. Paying attention! Above them is printed the directive: “One Strong Voice. Une voix forte.”

There’s more. One of the figures is twice the size and brilliant federation red, holding arms up in a V-for-Victory gesture. Who can it be but Our Leader?

If there was ever an image of totalitarianism, this is it: a large, red, triumphant “Somebody” attended by a squadron of pegs.

Oh! for the days when Canadian academics went to meetings of the “Learneds.” The beloved Learned Societies. Such a foolishly pretentious name. But it was also a name that was distinctive. Only in Canada, eh? It was a name that recognized our academic aspirations. And it was organized by academics and encouraged dissent and fruitful dialogue among thinkers of different allegiances. Now we attend “Congress.” Nothing distinctive about that name. And bureaucrats run the show.

One Strong Voice! Bah!

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5 Responses to “One Strong Voice! Une voix forte!”


  1. 1 andrewdsmith June 1, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Janet, I didn’t see anything wrong with the bag. It certainly didn’t suggest totalitarianism to me! In fact, the design on the bag reminded me of the importance of organized interest groups in democratic politics, which is something that pluralist political scientists such as Dahl talk about. Chambers of Commerce, trade unions, farmers, GM shareholders, Ducks Unlimited–those are all active interest groups. Why shouldn’t academics be any different? We social scientists need a strong voice right now– to lobby for more cash.

  2. 2 John June 2, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I’m unsure the substance of the 1st respondent’s point differs all that much from Janet’s.

    Golly, academics are also consumers of the services provided by the “embedded state.” Of course, that also means academics must also do the bidding of the embedded state. We’re all GM shareholders now!

  3. 3 janetajzenstat June 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Right. We’re all bellying up to the trough. But who’s paying? And how do we hold them accountable?

    We usually know the names of our representatives in Parliament and the legislatures. We know how to get in touch with them. Who’s representing us in Congress?

  4. 4 oonae June 5, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    In a footnote to his article “A leftist defense of eurocentrism,” Zizek describes how, as East Germany was pushing toward freedom, the crowds yelled “we are the people!” but then, one day, it had mysteriously shifted to “we are a people” — which in German is the same as “we are one people.”

    So the desire for unification had superceded the desire for freedom. But for Zizek something more dangerous — or at least disappointing — was happening: the revolutionary impulse of the first slogan — we want a voice — has given way to something weaker and at the same time more potentially totalitarian — we are one, we speak with one voice.

  5. 5 mercerd July 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    interesting material, where such topics do you find? I will often go


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