A New Defence of Hartz-Horowitz

In Canadian Idealism and the Philosophy of Freedom, C.B. Macpherson, George Grant, and Charles Taylor (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011), Robert Meynell acknowledges his debt to Louis Hartz and Gad Horowitz and concludes, as they do, that Canada’s political culture is deeply imbued with a salutary inclination toward socialism.

Hartz and Horowitz contend that in British North America John Locke’s robust idea of individual freedom was modified by a communitarian philosophy originating with the United Empire Loyalists; thus Canada, in contrast to the United States, has the potential to develop a strong socialist or social democratic party. (Gad Horowitz, “Conservatism, Liberalism and Socialism in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, 1966.)

(In other words, Red Toryism is Canadian, par excellence. Harper Toryism is not.)

The thesis was never well supported; it appeared at a time – the 1960s – when Canadians were losing interest in study of primary historical documents. But it had a huge readership and is still influential.

Meynell departs from his mentors in one respect. He draws his evidence not from history, but from the philosophical and political writings of twentieth-century Canadians, Macpherson, Grant, and Charles Taylor. It is a long, dense book, the work of years. No student of Canadian political thought should ignore it.

It’s angry tone is a surprise. Meynell is scathing on the subject of Janet Ajzenstat. All my books are flawed, he says. I make the mistake of looking for Canadian-American similarities. I should be looking for differences! To understand how, why, and whether we should love our country we must see how we differ from our neighbours.

His criticism of Robert C. Sibley’s Northern Spirits, John Watson, George Grant, and Charles Taylor, Appropriations of Hegelian Political Thought (McGill-Queen’s, 2008) is equally harsh: “[Sibley,] like Ajzenstat concludes that Canada is not substantially different from the United States and argues for the surrender of Canadian sovereignty to the global liberal empire led by the United States.” I was so astounded by this last assertion that I wrote Sibley. He denies saying anything that would allow such an interpretation.

He added: “The Hegel I value is the one who sought to balance the claims of freedom with the claims of community by means of institutional order. In any case I’m sure [Meynell’s] book will appeal to those nostalgic for a Canada that never was.”

Advertisements

16 Responses to “A New Defence of Hartz-Horowitz”


  1. 1 James W.J. Bowden August 11, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    I just ordered your book “Canada’s Origins: Liberal, Tory, or Republican?” for one of my courses, and I imagine that it will answer most of my questions relative to your blog entry here. But in general, I agree more with your interpretation; especially after having lived in the United States for five years, I also emphasize the similarities more than the differences between Canada and the United States. And why? Because ultimately, both Canada and the United States are branches of the the British oak; the United States simply branched off earlier than did Canada. The two countries are similar because they share the same fundamental Whiggish, liberal origins.

    Meynell has fallen into the same anti-American trap that has ensnared so many Tory-Loyalists and Canadian nationalists over the past 50 years or so, probably because this school of thought fails the acknowledge that both countries share this British origin. They use our Loyalist heritage as an excuse to make pejorative statements toward the United States, rather than looking at the Tory-Whig divide *at the time* in the 18th century.

  2. 2 John August 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Macpherson, Grant, and Taylor – all great students of Canada’s Confederation debates.

  3. 3 horowitz@chass.utoronto.ca August 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    actually, hartz and horowitz see English Canada as a “liberal” or “Lockian” fragment, very similar to the U.S. So we are not simply advocating a focus only on difference. But there is a difference: the founding of English Canada ( which by the way is not a LOYALIST monopoly) involves a “tory TOUCH’ or “streak” in a dominant liberalism,which makes possible the later emergence of a British style socialism which has been totally lacking in the MONOLITHICALLY liberal U.S.
    Both those who praise the Hartz-Horowitz fragment theory and those who would bury it should take the troublew to READ the relevant works of Hartz and Horowitz so that they have a better idea of what they are going on about

  4. 4 Jack August 17, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Harper Toryism is usually condemned as “American” or neo-conservative. In view of the reconstitution of the Royal Canadian Navy and RCAF, is Harper Toryism still to be stigmatized as “American” I wonder?

  5. 5 janetajzenstat August 18, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I like Jack’s comment! What’s coming next? Could we get Dominion Day back?

    And I like James Bowden’s note. We need more people thinking about primary documents. We especially need a study of comparative foundings.

  6. 6 Robert Meynell August 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Professor Ajzenstat,

    Thank you for recommending Canadian Idealism and the Philosophy of Freedom. Also, I appreciate this opportunity to comment on your blog entry.

    You say that the purpose of my study of Canadian Idealism and the works of three twentieth-century thinkers is to provide “a new defence of Hartz-Horowitz.” That is not so.

    As stated in the introduction, the purpose is to identify and verify the intellectual tradition of Canadian Idealism, its roots in Hegel’s political philosophy, and to engage in a general critical assessment of its political prescriptions. In particular, I focus on the work of Macpherson, Grant, and Taylor and the philosophy of freedom.

    It is my hope that awareness of Canadian Idealism will improve our understanding of Canada’s political culture as well as the rich insights of the idealist philosophy of freedom. I believe that with this understanding people will be equipped to make better decisions about our political future in a number of areas, including multiculturalism, nationalism, and the role of government in the economy.

    In the book I do take the Hartz-Horowitz thesis to be correct and I build upon it, but I don’t devote much space to defending it or, for that matter, criticizing your work. I mention you only briefly as representative of those who mistakenly refute Hartz-Horowitz.

    The reason I disagree with your work is not because you look for similarities rather than differences between the political cultures of Canada and the US, but because you try to deny the differences that are so evidently there – and my claim here is entirely supportable drawing on primary sources in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (including the complete versions of the texts you selected for your collection, Canada’s Founding Debates). Not only are those differences present, they are too important to overlook for anyone interested in understanding what makes the two countries tick.

    Though I have written on your work elsewhere, I chose not to include my analysis in Canadian Idealism and the Philosophy of Freedom. Instead, I deferred to a number of excellent books that have come out in recent years that do an excellent job of defending Louis Hartz’s thesis. I would also like to say that I’ve just reviewed my mentions of your work in the book and I can’t see where any of it comes off as angry. I wonder why you feel that it does?

    As for Robert Sibley, I invite him to respond more completely to my arguments. But here is a quick teaser: after stating that Canadian nationhood is a “fiction” with “little of national substance,” Sibley writes, “If the Western world truly believes in freedom and democracy for everyone, and not just for itself, then an American empire is warranted.”

    Finally, James Bowden, this fall when you are reading Ajzenstat I encourage you also to read Hartz, Horowitz and Meynell. When you have send me an email. I’d be interested to learn whether your assessment has changed. At the very least, I’m sure you’ll want to revise the statement that we fail to acknowledge that both countries share British roots.

  7. 7 Maryland Building Corp June 28, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    The capacities of 8, 12, roofing baltimore maryland 16,
    and 20 quarts ensure you always have the right size pot for stews,
    soups, chili, and more. Hoffritz 4 Piece Nesting Aluminum
    Stockpot Set with Lids – This Hoffritz 4 Piece Nesting Aluminum Stockpot Set is perfect for preparing big family dinners, holiday meals, and large cookouts.
    The capacities of 8, 12, 16, and 20 quarts ensure you always have the right size pot for stews, soups, chili, and more.

  8. 8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKpqUBi8dG0 July 27, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  9. 9 youtube.com July 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My website has a lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  10. 10 buy botox uk July 30, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how can we
    communicate?

  11. 11 Buy Emla Cream July 30, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up
    and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I
    think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

  12. 12 renewalenterprises.com August 18, 2013 at 10:39 am

    It’s in fact very complex in this active life to listen news on Television, therefore I only use web for that reason, and take the newest information.

  13. 13 www.vesen.dk October 12, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The words in your content seem to be running off the screen in Ie.
    I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know.
    The layout look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon.
    Cheers

  14. 14 how to get laid March 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put
    the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a
    hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I
    had to tell someone!

  15. 15 Tessa January 3, 2015 at 9:01 am

    You post interesting articles here. Your website deserves much more traffic.
    It can go viral if you give it initial boost, i know
    useful service that can help you, simply type in google: svetsern traffic tips

  16. 16 opus virtual office review March 1, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Tax law about businesses in the USA is ever changing. With good habit and savings, you can be assured of having
    enough to start your own business. When travelling, for instance, it would be possible to login to your accounting database and enter transactions on the road.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s





%d bloggers like this: