Canada's history of intense constitutional debate is often depicted as a source of national embarrassment - a diversion from more sensible endeavours. Misrecognized Materialists tells a different story. Beginning with the Rowell-Sirois hearings of the Great Depression and concluding with the national unity wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Matt James details how groups representing marginalized constituencies - women, working-class people, and ethnocultural minorities - were able to use the Canadian constitutional arena to pursue traditionally neglected aspirations and concerns. With concrete illustrations and case studies, James questions the common tendency to interpret recognition struggles as departures from traditional "materialist" priorities such as economic security and personal safety. Ultimately, he argues that such materialist priorities were and are, in fact, at the heart of the fight for recognition for many marginalized groups.
A book with provocative implications for students and scholars of social movements and identity politics, Misrecognized Materialists offers a fresh and important perspective on Canada's constitutional struggles over civic symbolism and identity.
Matt James is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria.
Acknowledgments Acronyms 1 Constitutional Politics and the Politics of Respect: An Introduction 2 Searching for a Forum: Social Movements at the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations 3 Wartime: Social Esteem and Social Citizenship in the Reconstruction Debates 4 The Postwar Identity Emphasis: Rights, Universalism, and Virtue 5 Charter Politics as Materialist Politics 6 From Meech Lake to Charlottetown: Symbolic Power and Visions of Political Community 7 Conclusion: Misrecognized Materialists in Canadian Constitutional Politics Notes Bibliography Index