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414 The Canadian Historical. Review Co-operation, Conflict, and Consensus: B. C. Central and the Credit Union Movement. to 199+ IAN MACPHERSON. Vancouver: BC Central Credit Union 1995. Pp. 294, illus. $39ยท95 cloth, $29.95 paper Most readers should already be familiar with Ian MacPherson's ceuvre concerning the history of cooperatives in Canada. His latest contribution , a history of credit unions in British Columbia, is a well-produced popular history reflecting his deep scholarly and personal understanding of his subject. This book may draw particular attention outside British Columbia, given the recent entry of VanCity credit union - the nation's largest - into nationwide virtual banking. Co-operation, Conflict, and Consensus offers an opportunity to discover the roots of English Canada's (and possibly North America's) most dynamic popular banking movement, 'a unique and significant experiment in the history of co-operative enterprise' (277). Nearly twenty years ago, MacPherson produced Each for All: A History of the Co-operative Movement in English Canada, 1900-1945, which provided a foundation and a framework for the history of cooperatives outside Quebec. It has been complemented by MacPherson's regional analyses (articles on cooperatives in the Prairie and the Atlantic provinces) and by studies of various cooperative institutions, including books on the Co-operative Union of Canada and national cooperative insurance and trust companies. In his new book, MacPherson deals with the development of BC credit unions, showing how the issues in the movement related both to the internal dynamics of its growth and diversity and to external forces of change in society. Broadly speaking, he suggests this history can be grouped into three phases. First was the 'emancipatory era' from the 1930s to the 1960s, in which credit unions were a kind of crusade (indeed, were initiated by the Army of the Common Good in Burnaby) to liberate the poor from economic oppression. During this period the concept evolved of credit unions providing small loans for 'provident and productive' purposes, based on the character of the borrower, and usually provided within a tightly knit, 'closed-bond' membership group defined by workplace, ethnicity, or religion. He illustrates that there was a continual tension between this largely American understanding of credit unions and divergent, and in some respects more ambitious, local and Canadian tendencies. The second era - of entrepreneurship in the 1960s to the early 1980s - was essentially concerned with growth and the development of institutions, including the strengthening of the B.C. Central Credit Union as the leader and 'honest broker' for the movement. This period saw a distinctive change away from the closed bond towards more Book Reviews 415 open, and in some cases vastly larger, 'community' credit unions. As MacPherson observes, some of this entrepreneurship served simply to make big credit unions bigger, while other forms of entrepreneurship were socially motivated and focused on the development of new cooperative enterprises that were conceived to improve members' lives and communities. Since the 1980s, BC credit unions have also been pioneers in developing automated tellers, ethical mutual funds, pointof -sale electronic transactions, and other innovations. The most recent era, according to MacPherson, is one of 'mainstreaming ,' in which credit unions are striving to take their place as the main indigenous financial institutions in British Columbia. He observes that present trends raise the perennial questions of democracy, responsiveness to members, and commitment to communities. His prescription is that credit unions must draw on their best traditions of cooperative entrepreneurship in order to apply the credit union approach to a widening range of activities. Co-operation, Conflict, and Consensus stands out as MacPherson's best book since Each for All. It has four particular strengths. First, it is a study not just of one organization, but of an entire movement of diverse and often conflicting organizations set in the context of times, places, and social change. Second, it makes full use of region as a tool of analysis: British Columbia as a region, to be sure, but also regions within British Columbia. Although regional culture and politics have been consistent themes in MacPherson's writings, his latest book raises to prominence a new theme: gender. MacPherson highlights the important and changing roles played...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 414-415
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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