In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

humanities 151 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 symbolism and little depth. (MARCEL DANESI) Robert E. Babe. Canadian Communication Thought: Ten Foundational Writers University of Toronto Press 2000. 448. $75.00, $29.95 The idea that Canada has what Robert Babe describes as >a rich heritage of communication thought= is familiar to students of Canadian intellectual history. Babe=s book on the subject is welcome nonetheless, though its subtitle, promising to identify ten >foundational writers= of Canadian communication theory, is misleading: several of the individuals surveyed thought of themselves (and are thought of today) as social scientists, political analysts, economists, or literary theorists. A more accurate subtitle would have been >the theme of communication in ten Canadian thinkers.= Babe=s opening, a broad introduction to communication thought, argues that the American political economist Thorstein Veblen, was B because of his central insight that consumer goods had taken on >communicatory as opposed to utilitarian properties= B not only generally an important influence on early theories, but also a crucial influence on the development of Canadian thought (but not on later American theory, which took a more pragmatic turn). Babe thinks that Veblen=s impact on Harold Innis, the touchstone Canadian figure in this study, led generally to a humanist and critical communications theory in English Canada, and that observation leads Babe into large generalizations about what is >essentially Canadian.= Babe begins his account of the growth of Canadian theory with Graham Spry, who argued that radio in Canada should become >a majestic instrument of national unity and national culture,= and who joined his early interest in radio with his cultural nationalism to bring about the founding of the Canadian Radio League in 1930. In the chapter that follows, Babe turns to Innis, who emerges as the protagonist of his larger narrative. Innis=s distinction between two kinds of media and two kinds of cultures >time-binding= vs >space-binding= (not unlike the distinction sociologists make between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft) B provides Babe with the central dialectic of his own study. While Innis=s binary was based on differences he postulated between oral and literate cultures, the way time-bound society is associated for him with such values as collectivity and common good, an appreciation for historical continuity, and an emphasis on the local, as opposed to the space-bound society=s imperial, presentist, and individualist orientation, makes it clear that at some level Innis was allegorizing an idealized version of Canada in opposition to the United States. Babe follows his treatment of Innis with very useful discussions of John Grierson, the Scotland-born founder of Canada=s National Film Board, and Dallas Smythe, whose Canadian childhood permitted him to end his career 152 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 in Canada as a refugee from American Red-baiting. While Grierson is as important for what he did (the founder of the NFB, he was also an innovator of documentary film and a shaper of Canadian film aesthetics) as for what he thought, his importance meant that the ideas he also articulated B particularly on communication as propaganda B contributed to the emerging dialogue in Canada. His and more particularly Smythe=s observations about the way mass media became a >Consciousness Industry= show how Canadian thinkers anticipated later critiques, such as Noam Chomsky=s, of the media=s influence on perception. The surveys that follow B of Macpherson , Irene Biss Spry, Gertrude Joch Robinson B show the continual appearance in Canada of figures who were important because of the way they denaturalized concepts previously conceived of as natural and inevitable. What may most interest readers of this volume will be Babe=s concluding discussions of three prominent Canadians: George Grant, Marshall McLuhan, and Northrop Frye. The discussion of Grant, which stresses his rejection of >progressive liberalism,= is lucid, thoughtful, and helpful. That Babe=s long treatment of McLuhan is less so B it will be most useful to those not already familiar with the large outlines of his thought B may be equally due to the limitations of space and to the problems inherent in any attempt to...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 151-152
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.