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

HUMANITIES 375 revisioning of Christian mystery through the lens of secular literature. fOppression thrives at last only on the denial of personhood'; 1 [i]f a dominant theory of personality is likely to be reflected in dominant ideas about society, as Frye says, then the reform of political culture will also entail a reform of our thinking about persons.~ 'Person,' of course, contains synecdochally in its mere lexical provenance the very topoi of his sermon. It is one of those linguistic oddities that undergoes categorical transfiguration into its logical opposite: mask has become the masquer; 'persona' is reborn as /psyche'; accident has evolved to essence; matter is made spirit. It is the transfiguring power of language in literature that fascinates Grant as an allegory of the scriptural narrative trope whereby transfiguration prefigures through symbol the resurrection, and he retells many secular stories in order to reconfigure and thereby revitalize this sacred one. One need not be persuaded by the homily in order to enjoy the preacher. (MICHAEL F.N. DIXON) P.W. Sniderman, J.F. Fletcher, P.H. Russell, and P.E. Tetlock. The Clash of Rights: Liberty, Equality and Legitimaetj in Pluralist Democracy Yale University Press 1996. xi, 292. $Js.oo cloth, $18.oo paper This volume reports the results of survey research on how Canadians view their rights and freedoms. The research focuses on the extent to which elites are a bulwark for democratic rights. The authors claim a number of important theoretical and methodological advances regarding the thesis of democratic elitism. The first theoretical advance is the differentiation of elites into political, executive, and judicial segments. Second, the authors examine orientations towards rights in their institutional contexts. For example, they show that the political party system influences the discourse of rights. Third, following from their view of discourse as the institutional production of meaning, the authors argue that rights discourse must be examined in situ and in action. While the empirical focus is on political constitutional rights following the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the authors recognize the need for sociological analysis ofhow these rights are enacted through social interactions and social institutions. Fourth, the interactions around rights discourse inevitably entail value conflicts. Conflicts are inevitable because many of the values of democratic politics clash with one another (for example, liberty and equality), and even within themselves (for example, equality itself incorporates a plurality of values that conflict). Liberal democracy is characterized by institutionalized volatility. Ironically, institutional mechanisms designed to ameliorate value conflict, such as the Charter, also induce and perpetuate it. The survey was conducted in 1986, using telephone interviews followed by mailback questionnaires. The vox pop is represented by 2084 'ordinary 376 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 citizens.' The elites are represented by 474 elected federal and provincial politicians from major political parties; 260 upper-echelon officials from government departments most concerned with the administration of justice; and 352 lawyers with ten to thirty years' experience. In an effort to capture the theoretical interest in rights conflicts in their institutional contexts, the authors introduce innovative research methods. For example, they use a 'counterargument technique' whereby respondents were asked to take a position on a matter of rights, and then were subjected to attempts to talk them out of their position with reference to countervailing arguments and competing values. 'Identity substitution' experiments were designed to glean double standards. Members of a particular group were randomly assigned either to address a rights claim affecting their own group, or to address the same rights claim affecting another group, in order to ascertain whether they were more likely to uphold a rights claim by members of their own group. There are many significant findings which make this book important, and essential reading for specialists in empirical studies of democratic theory. The authors show that political elites vary substantially among themselves on rights issues, and that they are often no different from ordinary citizens in their failure to defend democratic rights. Elite-mass differences are often eclipsed by differences in value corrunitment to basic rights that divide competing groups of partisan elites. That is, failure to stand by rights in specific cases is not so much a...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 375-377
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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.