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Canadian Review of American Sn1dies/ Revue canadiermed'etu.desarnericnmes Volume 27, Number J, 1997, pp. 175-190 Institutional Complementarity and Canadian Identity H. T. Wilson 175 No small country can depend for its existence on the loyalty of its capitalists. (Grant 1985, 69) Introduction In defending the idea and practice of institutional complementarity with the United States, I do not wish to appear to share the U.S. preoccupation with identity, destiny, and mission which has been a hallmark of U.S. politics and history at least since its inception. 1 I am interested instead in ferreting out an explanation for Canada's persistence and institutional uniqueness which is far less moralistic and far more positive than the large majority of claims and counterclaims on the subject put forward over the past century or more. Amerkans and Europeans, as well as many or most Canadians, are all too willing to rest content with a characterization of Canad,l and its provinces which locates its institutions and practices at some point midway between the British (or French) and the Americans. Yet even the most cursory glance at our nineteenth-L~entury history would demonstrate that virtually no one, least of all Lord Durham, would ever have taken such a claim seriously as any- 176 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadtenne d'etudes americames thing more than two greater powers defining a smaller power by what it lacks from their perspective-and for good reason (Great Britain 1839). My understanding and appreciation of these institutional developments, and the various events and processes which have given expression to them, began in the late 1960s with the work of H. G.J. Aitken who was concerned with "defensive expansionism" (Aitken 1979). Aitken drew attention to the very different ways that Canadians and Americans had settled their respective western territories, noting that Canadian settlement patterns had often been in reaction to those of the United States. At about the same time, I encountered the work of R.T. Naylor, first "The Rise and Fall of the Third Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence" (1972), then his two volume History o( CtmadianBusiness(1975). Naylor distinguished Canadian merchant-cumfinance capitalism from American merchant-cum-manufacturing capitalism in a way which highlighted evolving complementarity. A most interesting feature of this distinction was the fact that it was the United States, following on Jefferson's victory in the election of 1801 and thereafter, which changed fundamentally its economy away from the one it had shared with Canada. A few years later, in 1974, I read Herschel Hardin's A Nation Unaware (1974), a brilliant analysis of Canada as an entrepreneurial and innovative political and economic culture, albeit one based on one or another type of public rather than private enterprise in virtually all of its key sectors (Hardin 1974. See also Hardin 1989; 1991). In each of these cases, I was compelled to reflect upon the fact that Canadian autonomy, such as it was (and to some extent still is), was based to a far greater extent than I had been aware of on the presence of and support for a number of key institutional practices across a wide range of collective activities which were not just different from their American counterparts but complenientt"J.tY to them. Whether we were comparing and contrasting : patterns of settlement; the role of police (Sewell 1985); forms and types of capitalism; a parliamentary rather than a presidential form of representative democracy (D'Aquino, Doern, and Blair 1983; Weller 1985; Hockin 1979); public versus private enterprise as a technique of accumulation , distribution, organization, and management; key sector initiatives by governments in general; regional, multicultural, and binational identity; elite accommodation (Presthus 1973; 1974); federal and confederal struc- H. T. W!ilson I 177 tures (Smiley 1991); the role of convention vis ll vis law (Heard 1991); cultural policy and its relation to Canadian identity; metro urbanization and the city-state dimension of the Canadian economy, society, and political system ; or our non-exclusive view of citizenship, the thing which stood out most clearly for me was institutional complementarity. Institutional complementarity constitutes a middle way, as it were, between institutional imitation and a preference...


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