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382 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Ian Angus. A Border Wit/tin: Natio11al Identity, Cultural Plurality, and Wilderness MeGill-Queen's University Press. x, 268. $55.00 cloth, $19.95 paper 'All thought,' Ian Angus states, 'is derived from and articulates a provenance .' In Angus'scase, this general principle frames both the strengths and the weaknesses of his book. Written from within what he calls an 'immanent critique' of the intellectual tradition of English-Canadian leftnationalist discourse, Angus argues for a new emergent formulation of English-Canadian social and national identity. The era of Canadian leftnationalism , linked to a Red Tory national conservatism, has come to an end. The period of 'permeable Fordism,' when the nation state dominated identity issues, has been replaced by globalization, free trade agreements, and new social movements. Angus seeks the emergent national identity in continuity with the work of Innis and Grant, but looks to cultural plurality and new ecological consciousness as terrain on which to base a new philosophical reflection of Canadian space. What the book sketches out is an English-Canadian identity in which particularity becomes a path to the universal, and in which the form, rather than the content, of Canadian thematics is what is distinctively Canadian. Angus finds this EnglishCanadian identity in a new respect for intemal boundaries, for the 'border within,' by means of which the 'otherness' of cultural and ecological diversity becomes the basis for self-identity. This emergent identity is opposed to Cartesian views of reason, to technological attitudes of 'usefulness ,' to the closures of European civilization, and to the exploitative domination of nature. The strength of this book is its philosophical orientation, which seems mostly, if not exclusively, indebted to Heideggerian phenomenology. Thus Angus's thoughtful evaluation of Irmis and Grant (chapters 3-4) subjects Innis's shift from dependency economics to communication theory and Grant's developing ideas on technology to a phenomenological'step back' in which their contributions and limitations are revealed. Both Innis and Grant, Angus argues, provide a useful critique of colonization and empire, industrial technology and'the universalizing and homogenizing dynamics of civilization.' Both value the local and the particular as a basis for moral reason. At the same time, both Innis and Grant ultimately fail to challenge the philosophical nncierpinnings ofmodem industrial-technologicalsociety for they limit themselves to an anti-modernist 'strategy of contairunent,' a lament for the separation of the human will from nature, rather than go on to develop an alternative 'post-industrial ecological ethics based on an ontology of participation' and a concept of moral reason 'which does not separate inner from outer experience.' The rest of Angus's book attempts to develop this alternative ethics in the same phenomenological vein, with a deconstructive analysis of English-Canadian philosophy- 'Maintaining HUMANITIES 383 the Border'- an argument for the social ideal of multiculturalism (with a critique of Charles Taylor), and a presentation (with a critique of Marx's concept of the 'concrete') on behalf of an English-Canadian 'ecological relation to the world.' On the whole, Angus's argument is clear and thought-provoking and the book should be of interest in many different fields of Canadian studies. Nevertheless, some readers may find that the exclusive concentration on the philosophical dimensions of Canadian identity becomes a source of weakness in the book. In spite of a political positioning which privileges (philosophically) social realities, many of Angus's analyses 'bracket' the details of these realities in favour of abstract argumentation, and highly metaphorical language- the 'Same/ the 'Other,' the birth of Self,' etc. In a similar way, the abstract philosophical orientation masks some challenging positional questions that could be posed to Angus. Why, in an argument that puts cultural diversity so centrally, does Angus spend so little time examining the actual diversity of 'English Canada,' why does he rely so completely on British-Canadian intellectual sources (as if minority perspectives did not exist), and why do the historical and ongoing realities of English-Canadian inequality, racism, domination, and so forth figure so minimally in his analysis? Angus might reply that he has resolved these at the philosophical level, but the presence of three highly polemical political appendices at the end of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 382-383
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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