The Canadian passive revolution, 1840-1950 Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • ‘Passive revolution’, understood here as a specific moment of global capitalism, provides an indispensable key to Canadian history, especially that unfolding from the 1840s (when seigneurs, Tories, agrarian radicals and democrats were forcibly unified through a top-down, British-orchestrated administrative revolution) to the 1940s (when plutocrats, Liberals and Conservatives, trade unionists and social democrats were forcibly unified through the imposition of a top-down, Ottawa-orchestrated Fordist compromise). The ‘long Confederation’ of Canada, from 1841 to 1949, was in Marxist terms a social revolution, entailing the subordination of non-capitalist and proto-capitalist formations, through which northern North America was liberalised; yet this ‘active’ achievement of a liberal order was also ‘passive’ insofar as it constituted a strengthening of Britain’s imperial power; subdued, transformed and incorporated subaltern movements; and culminated in a new socioeconomic order that integrated Canadian producers into continental and global circuits of capital while denying them any de facto sovereignty over ‘their’ state.

publication date

  • October 2010