Staples, Markets, and Cultural Change: Selected Essays

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, Jun 14, 1995 - Business & Economics - 506 pages
At the start of his career Innis set out to explain the significance of price rigidities in the cultural, social, and political institutions of new countries; by the end of his intellectual journey he had become one of the most influential critics of modernity. The essays in this collection address a variety of themes, including the rise of industrialism and the expansion of international markets, staples trades, critical factors in Canadian development, metropolitanism and nationality, the problems of adjustment, the political economy of communications, the economics of cultural change, and Innis's conception of the role of the intellectual as citizen. Innis succeeded as few others have in providing an astute and comprehensive account of the economic and social forces shaping modernity. His abiding interest in the contradictory and unintended consequences of markets in general - the dominant structure of modern economic activity - gave rise to the rich legacy of his prodigious output.
 

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Contents

Acknowledgments
xi
Celebrating Innis The Man the Legacy and Our Future
xiii
STAPLE TRADES THE RISE OF INDUSTRIALISM AND THE ENLARGEMENT OF EMPIRE
1
RESOURCES AND REGIONALISM THE ORIGINS OF MODERN CANADA
121
METROPOLITANISM NATIONALITY AND THE CRISIS OF INDUSTRIALISM
209
POLITICAL CULTURE THE BIAS OF COMMUNICATION AND ECONOMIC CHANGE
295
THE INTELLECTUAL AS CITIZEN
427
Index
487
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About the author (1995)

A lifelong student of political economy, Harold Innis became an internationally prominent social scientist and chief architect of the staples interpretation of Canadian history. An undergraduate student at McMaster University at the opening of World War I, Innis volunteered for military service. While in France, he was seriously wounded. What Innis experienced during the war contradicted popular beliefs at home that the Canadian identity was a pale reflection of British imperialism and deepened his nationalist outlook. After doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, Innis joined the faculty of the University of Toronto. Rejecting the thesis of American historian Frederick Jackson Turner as a key to Canada's history, during the 1920s and 1930s he articulated the framework for a new Laurentian---St. Lawrence River-based---interpretation. At any given period, Innis argued, the pattern of Canadian economic development was based on the physical characteristics of a particular staple and the methods by which it was extracted and carried to distant markets. Innis first outlined his ideas in The Fur Trade in Canada (1930). Beginning with an extended discussion of the unique characteristics of the beaver, he then elaborates upon the importance of indigenous people's harvesting and processing techniques, the fur traders' business methods, and the critical river transportation routes that fostered a distinctive pattern of development in Canada over three centuries. In the last chapter, Innis suggests ways that other staples, such as timber, wheat and minerals, modified the patterns originally established during the fur trade. Innis devoted the remainder of his life to fleshing out these ideas, and toward the end he began to explore the biases embedded in staples-driven communications systems. Some of his ideas were taken up and extended by Marshall McLuhan. The Laurentian paradigm dominated Canadian history and social science from the 1930s to the early 1970s. Its influence is still reflected in the work of Canadian scholars most skeptical about America's cold war leadership. In its pursuit of less nationalistic themes in Canadian history, the present generation has not so much revised Innis's work as ignored it.

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