Lament for a Nation

Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism

George Grant
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 188
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.cttq474c
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  • Book Info
    Lament for a Nation
    Book Description:

    Perhaps we should rejoice in the disappearance of Canada. We leave the narrow provincialism and our backwoods culture; we enter the excitement of the United States where all great things are being done. Who would compare the science, the art, the politics, the entertainment of our petty world to the overflowing achievements of New York, Chicago, San Francisco? George Grant, Lament for a Nation Canadians have relatively few binding national myths, but one of the most pervasive and enduring is the conviction that the country is doomed. In 1965 George Grant passionately defended Canadian identity by asking fundamental questions about the meaning and future of Canada's political existence. In Lament for a Nation he argued that Canada - immense and underpopulated, defined by a shared border, history, and culture with the United States, and torn by conflicting loyalties to Britain, Quebec, and America - had ceased to exist as a sovereign state. Nonetheless, Lament for a Nation became the seminal work in Canadian political thought and Grant became known as the father of Canadian nationalism. The fortieth anniversary edition introduces Lament for a Nation to a new generation. A major introduction by Andrew Potter explores Grant's arguments in the context of changes in ethnic diversity, free trade, globalization, post-modernism, and 9/11. Potter discusses the shifting uses of the terms "liberal" and "conservative" and closes with a look at the current state of Canadian nationalism. This edition also includes a biographical sketch of Grant, recommended further reading, and, for the first time, an index. George Grant's Lament for a Nation remains essential reading for anyone interested in questions of Canadian identity, sovereignty, and national unity.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8216-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction to the 40th Anniversary Edition
    (pp. ix-lxviii)
    ANDREW POTTER

    A political philosopher who spent his most productive years teaching in a department of religion, George Grant is probably best known today as the father of English-speaking Canadian nationalism. He earned this reputation, somewhat curiously, thanks toLament for a Nation,which declared that Canada had ceased to exist as a sovereign country. First published in 1965,Lament for a Nationremains George Grant’s most enduring and most important work. It is the sun under which a generation of Canadian nationalists warm themselves, but it also casts the long dark shadows in which they must operate.

    For anyone interested in the ongoing...

  4. Introduction to the Carleton Library Series Edition
    (pp. lxix-lxxvi)
    GEORGE GRANT

    THE CARLETON LIBRARY HAS KINDLY suggested the reissuing of this book – ‘kindly’ because it is a book written out of particular events, and one therefore in which any general truths arise in the context of circumstances eight years old. It is a disadvantage these days for any general thesis to be tied to past events, because eight years seems more than a generation. Our memories are killed in the flickering images of the media, and the seeming intensity of events. There is weakened in us the simplest form of that activity of re-collection which Plato knew to be the chief...

  5. Foreword to the Carleton Library Edition
    (pp. lxxvii-2)
    PETER C. EMBERLEY

    IN HIS 1970 INTRODUCTION toLament for a Nation,Professor George Grant modestly expressed doubt whether his study had an enduring importance beyond the particular circumstances occasioning its appearance. He questioned whether his appeal to the distinctiveness of our political heritage would strike a responsive chord in a generation witnessing other historical events and participating in new social experiences. Yet, Grant’s modesty aside, one should urge readers to renew their acquaintance with his passionate defense of our Canadian identity, if for no other reason than that we are still, and perhaps to an even greater extent, subject to widespread homogenizing, continentalist...

  6. Chapter One
    (pp. 3-7)

    NEVER HAS SUCH A TORRENT of abuse been poured on any Canadian figure as that during the years from 1960 to 1965. Never have the wealthy and the clever been so united as they were in their joint attack on Mr. John Diefenbaker. It has made life pleasant for the literate classes to know that they were on the winning side. Emancipated journalists were encouraged to express their dislike of the small-town Protestant politician, and they knew they would be well paid by the powerful for their efforts. Suburban matrons and professors knew that there was an open season on...

  7. Chapter Two
    (pp. 8-25)

    HOW DID DIEFENBAKER CONCEIVE CANADA? Why did the men who run the country come to dislike and then fear his conception? The answers demonstrate much about Canada and its collapse.

    Most journalists account for Diefenbaker’s failure by the foibles of his personality. Influenced byTimemagazine, politics is served up as gossip, and the more titillating the better. The jaded public wants to be amused; journalists have to eat well. Reducing issues to personalities is useful to the ruling class. The “news” now functions to legitimize power, not to convey information. The politics of personalities helps the legitimizers to divert...

  8. Chapter Three
    (pp. 26-36)

    THE DEFENCE CRISIS of 1962 and 1963 revealed the depth of Diefenbaker’s nationalism. Except for these events, one might interpret him as a romantic demagogue yearning for recognition. But his actions during the Defence Crisis make it clear that his nationalism was a deeply held principle for which he would fight with great courage and would sacrifice political advantage. Nothing in Diefenbaker’s ministry was as noble as his leaving of it. The old war-horse would not budge from his principle: The government of the United States should not be allowed to force the Canadian government to a particular defence policy....

  9. Chapter Four
    (pp. 37-51)

    IN THE LIGHT OF DIEFENBAKER, I would like to turn to the Canadian establishment and its political instrument, the Liberal party. There are three arguments for nationalism that could justify the Liberals. First, the Liberals are the realistic defenders of this country, piloting us through the shoals of foreign control and internal dissension that might shipwreck Canada. Second, in the twentieth century it is inevitable that Canada should be swallowed up; since 1940 this should have been obvious to any political analyst. Liberal leadership has recognized this and has taught the masses to accept it smoothly. Third, Canada’s disappearance is...

  10. Chapter Five
    (pp. 52-66)

    THE CONFUSED STRIVINGS of politicians, businessmen, and civil servants cannot alone account for Canada’s collapse. This stems from the very character of the modern era.¹⁵ The aspirations of progress have made Canada redundant. The universal and homogeneous state is the pinnacle of political striving. “Universal” implies a world-wide state, which would eliminate the curse of war among nations; “homogeneous” means that all men would be equal, and war among classes would be eliminated. The masses and the philosophers have both agreed that this universal and egalitarian society is the goal of historical striving. It gives content to the rhetoric of...

  11. Chapter Six
    (pp. 67-85)

    THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF CONSERVATISM in our era is the impossibility of Canada. As Canadians we attempted a ridiculous task in trying to build a conservative nation in the age of progress, on a continent we share with the most dynamic nation on earth. The current of modern history was against us.

    A society only articulates itself as a nation through some common intention among its people. The constitutional arrangements of 1791, and the wider arrangements of the next century, were only possible because of a widespread determination not to become part of the great Republic. Among both the French and...

  12. Chapter Seven
    (pp. 86-96)

    PERHAPS WE SHOULD REJOICE in the disappearance of Canada. We leave the narrow provincialism and our backwoods culture; we enter the excitement of the United States where all the great things are being done. Who would compare the science, the art, the politics, the entertainment of our petty world to the overflowing achievements of New York, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco? Think of William Faulkner and then think of Morley Callaghan. Think of the Kennedys and the Rockefellers and then think of Pearson and E.P. Taylor. This is the profoundest argument for the Liberals. They governed so as to break...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 97-101)
    SHEILA GRANT

    GEORGE GRANT ALWAYS CLAIMED thatLament for a Nationhad been misunderstood. At first it was taken by the New Left as a call to nationalism. Since then, the less optimistic political implications have been well documented. This postscript will concentrate on chapter 7, the final chapter. This chapter has been almost entirely ignored. The New Left did not understand it and simply overlooked it. Reviewers during the last thirty years seem to have had the same reaction. Those few who have mentioned it have seen it as further evidence of Grant’s “implacable pessimism” and obscurity.

    After the extreme clarity...