A Canadian in Canberra

Political culture is a term which is used in social science and it means to have a shared set of beliefs, feelings and values about the political system that connects the citizens and the government. Canadians value peace, order and a good government. They are more of an individualist instead of collectivist which identifies how Canadians like to work. They are also respective of authority, however the status effect in organizations is very low in Canada.

Canadians are critically egalitarian and they care very much about equality, rights and freedoms. Regionalism is the diversity of geographic and economic concerns that are important in politics. This is also part of dualism because of the relationship between the two major cultures in Canada, Anglophone and francophone.

Both of these are protected by the federal law. These factors immensely shape the political culture of Canada. Democratic governments exist to serve the public which makes the public opinion important to consider. Canada is a participatory political culture which should be the case in a democratic country. The democratic country has given Canadians the charter of rights and freedoms which formed their political culture.

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The society influences the practices of public administrations through their freedom of speech. The history of a country sets the political system and culture in place. The interdependence of political culture, political system and the rule of law form our democratic system.

Political culture and democracy highlights the affect on public administration proving that citizens play an important role in governmental decision making. Productive history depends upon logical undecidability. In the case of a comparison of national political cultures, some common denominator is necessary. The significance of the American revolutionary break, under the influence of eighteenth century political ideas of natural right, and the consequent influence that this revolution has had on all new world nations, has meant that Canadian political culture has often been articulated in contrast to the pervasive individualism and a-historism of the United States.

I want to revisit this established topos in this paper with reference to the recent analysis by Michael Dorland and Maurice Charland in Law, Rhetoric and Irony in the Formation of Canadian Civil Culture that roots Canadian communitarian and diverse political culture in the role and nature of law. Second, I consider in general terms the argument by Dorland and Charland for the centrality of law to this conventional account Canadian political culture and note that at a key juncture this argument is supported by relying on an essay by Jacques Derrida on the U.

Fourth, I propose a more subtle analysis of the difference between the two political cultures through an analysis of the specific difference in the performative status of the British North America Act and the American Declaration of Independence. In conclusion, I will make a general point about what is missing in this sort of comparative analysis of Canadian and U.

As Robin Mathews has pointed out, the ideological character of the United States also exists within Canada as one element of the political culture.

Does Canada Have A Unique Political Culture? Essay

However, as I have previously argued, the specificity of a culture cannot be defined by looking for elements within it in that are irreducibly unique. Elements from outside enter into and alter that pattern without the pattern losing its specificity and distinctiveness. The communitarian emphasis has been matched by a particular manner of dealing with cultural diversity.

Thus, multicultural policies, everyday practices, and philosophical articulations tend not only to have a communitarian bias but also to assume a plurality of relevant communities. Of course, we have been reminded by novelists and empirical sociologists that the United States has never been in actual fact the melting pot that its ideology promoted. The difference can be more precisely stated in terms of the public representations of cultural diversity that form the political culture and reside in institutions. In the United States the substantive ethical commitments of communities to a way of life tend to be barred from public life and thought, whereas in Canada they rather become the content of political culture.

In the United States a supposedly a-cultural proceduralism dominates public life, whereas dynamic cultural communities are regarded as the private concern of individuals. Canadian Constitution and the Enlightenment The thesis that Canadian political culture is oriented to political representation of diverse communities is given a new twist by Michael Dorland and Maurice Charland by their focus on the role of law.

Essays Political Culture In Canada

British rule was based in a conception of a benevolent paternal sovereign who thus gives reasons for his actions and, at least to a limited extent, thereby gains the consent of the governed. That led to the practice of imperial recognition of established structures of governance that pre-existed conquest and which inaugurated the basic problem of Canada by mitigating the supremacy of English law through a limited recognition of French civil law. Thus, the well-known and significant fact that Canada was not in its inauguration, nor has since been, a revolutionary polity is supplemented by Dorland and Charland through the history of incorporation of Lower and Upper Canada into a single polity.

We are living out the late consequences of these debates today as the twentith century has entered into a contretemps with its Enlightenment origins and the then anomalous case of Canada may today have become paradigmatic.


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The particular mixture of identity and diversity in Canadian civil culture is from a comparative viewpoint the core feature of Canadian political culture around which debates and disagreements have swirled. How would one characterize the motive force of such a universalization? It looks initially like a hermeneutic judgment: limited precedent in the past, application to the present, showing of a limitation in purported universality and extension to a more satisfactory universal.

But preservation is an act of reason, although an inconspicuous one. This conclusion would accord with the Dorland-Charland analysis and also with those many other commentators who have emphasized the conservative and traditional cast of Canadian culture. It resonates with the contemporary hermeneutic rethinking of the Enlightenment.


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  6. Such a declaration, Derrida claims, necessarily contains an undecidability as to whether the act is performative or constative, whether it accomplishes independence in declaring it or whether the declaration describes an independence already underway. It is essential to the very positing or position of a right as such … I would even go so far as to say that every signature finds itself thus affected.

    Apparently, Canada is to the U. Revolution as Sovereign Performative? First, the constitution of the people and, second, the fact that signing occurs through representatives of the people.

    However, this is one of the assumptions about the constitution of a people that Derrida seeks to question. The implication, or assumption, of his argument is that a people is constituted as such only when it represents itself by choosing representatives. Criticizing this implication, or assumption, Evans points out that the people existed prior to the Declaration in the framework of a colony, including representative institutions that functioned within that framework.

    Thus, says Evans contra Derrida, it is not that there was no people prior to the signing of the Declaration. Hannah Arendt agreed with the tenor of this analysis. If there is merit in this argument, it suggests that the inherent violence of the self- founding state that Derrida specifies also cannot be accepted in the terms that he proposes. Moreover, it bodes ill for a comparison between the American Revolution and the British North America Act through the undecidability of a sovereign will—or, deconstructive self-inauguration versus hermeneutic tradition.

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    The Americans rebelled as disaffected Englishmen who, at least in their own view, were offered no other recourse and whose rights to representation because of taxation are rooted in the history of regulation of the monarchy that goes back to the Magna Carta. If there is an inherent violence in the state, it does not derive from self-foundation but from precisely this transformation or from the way in which this transformation continues the violence inherent in the Empire, that is to say, to the extent that it is not a break at all.

    The wholly self-constituted people in the future perfect refers to partial precedents based on the rights of Englishmen.

    But this begins to sound like the Canadian case in which constitution is an act within an ongoing tradition of a people—a hermeneutic judgment rather than a self-constituting performative. The Revolution of Englishmen In what, then, does the revolutionary break consist? Precisely in the judgment that the monarch has lost his benevolence and his reasons become sufficiently devoid of persuasive ability to win consent.

    That right, to be sure, is buttressed by an appeal outside of traditional authority to God and Nature. From our twenty-first century viewpoint we may say that whereas the American Revolution did present itself in eighteenth century Enlightenment terms as the constitution of society itself from a state of nature, it was, in fact, a historical judgment. The judgment that constitutes the break shifts sovereignty from the monarch to another source. What does this mean for the Canadian case, which often clarifies itself mainly through comparison to the U.

    One could, of course, investigate the difference in historical contexts that gave rise in one case to a polarization and in the other an acceptance of independence , but the theoretical issue is resolved. Thus, Canada is not to the U. Because the self-performative does not genuinely describe the enlightenment constitution, the difference is reduced to two species of hermeneutical judgment. That dependence is obscured by the fact that modern constitutions are instituted by a unique founding act, rather than accumulated through time, experience, and accommodation. But the founding act is a transformation, not an auto-institution, of identity into an independence previously denied.

    Conclusion: The Limits to Civility Did we come for nothing? We thought we were summoned, the aging head-waiters, the minor singers, the second-rate priests. Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy, If it is recognized that this break was possible because of the existence of a prior public identity, then the issue is one of transformation, not radical, unprecedented inauguration. While Canadian history perhaps shows more clearly than others the historical continuity that allows transformation, that recognition is more likely a common property of the twentieth century rethinking of the Enlightenment than a specifically Canadian theme.

    Project MUSE - Loyalist Ideology: Reflections on Political Culture in Early Upper Canada

    If the American Revolution was a historical judgment possible for Englishmen, then the key issue within the frame of international social and political theory is to investigate the constitution of autonomous political identities and the origin of state violence. All transformations occur on the ground of previously formed identities. The political problem is, thus, not self-constitution, but rather how identities already formed under imperial power can assert a right to independence. Two, the origin of the violence of the state is not to be found in the assertion of its sovereign will in self-foundation, as Derrida claims, but, one must conclude, stems from elsewhere.

    Since the performance of independence comes down to a difference between being let go and having to insist on the matter, it devolves upon the continuities and breaks established by each.

    The deferral to authority in being let go maintains a continuity of law, authority, and respect for good government. The break is thus focused exclusively on the transition to independence itself.