Canadian finance & extractivism:
Canadian banks loaned $71 billion to extreme fuel extraction, mostly tar sands oil extraction, between 2015 & 2017.
–Mark Hudson & Katelyn Friesen. 2019. Finance, Fossil Fuels & Climate Change.
Around about the same time, we can call it the Trump Era, the CBC launched the show “Now or Never” and killed the show “This is That.” Where “This is That” gently but firmly and repeatedly lampooned the shallower seas of Canadian excesses, as they’re expressed through corporate media, “Now or Never” exudes excess, producing show after show of painfully sincere interviews with Canadians bravely, optimistically laboring to overcome adversity and odds. It’s a less-conservative brand of positive psychology, and its 30-something hosts have clearly been processed through years of psychotherapy. They’re here to demonstrate that through caring listening, we’re all going to have a good cry and everything is going to be okay, particularly as everything is backed by an upbeat soundtrack.
Goldilocks in Canada, or how Canadians learned to stop worrying and love the haul truck
Innocence the Canadian I
What’s Just Right capitalism? In the Canadian nationalist brand narrative, Once upon a time the British ran roughshod over the world, not listening to everybody. Americans fought, imprudently, to throw the British boors off. The Americans probably should not have fought, but just waited for the British to mellow, like Canadians do. For inevitably, one day out of the blue, the Twitter account of Donald Trump arose to encourage the flowering of assholery amongst Germanic Midwestern Americans, specifically, and not the better, more successful ethnics living la moralism liberal at the coasts (Southerners are simply conceived as black victims and not discussed).
There is a strong, fabulously-idealist Canadian belief that by circulating a Canadian-brand counter discourse of positive psychological caring, and politesse, as exemplified in “Now or Never,” civility can be restored. But Canadians are aware of their numerical disadvantage and anxious that such upstanding Canadian modeling may not be enough to counteract Trump Twitter account’s magical capacity to transform people in the U.S. and around the world into ruined orcs. Canadians, like neoliberals everywhere, suggest that in addition to Canadian socio-psychological management expertise, social media should be regulated, or outlawed, so that the corporate communications professionals who once successfully monopoly-managed mass thought on behalf of the capitalist class may be restored to their rightful place in the celestial order. Canadians, extractive rentier capitalism managers to the Anglo-American empire, believe that affective management can heroically save capitalist civilization. Where have you gone, Maynard Keynes? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Coo-coo-ca-chew.
[This summary of the Canadian ideology was brought to you, via me, by Canadian mansplainers on the XMas holiday party tour circuit. Did you know that if you patiently listen to a full grown man monologue about his work for half an hour or more at a party, he might get around to inquiring what you do eventually, whereupon he will listen for 2 minutes before launching into what he has learned about how the world works from listening to proper corporate communications in the broadcast media? I know that the mansplaining is being presented as an opportunity for me to affirm our (his) shared nationalist identity, but I lost the will to confirm that I too have a radio that receives CBC comms.]
We’re all impressed by Canadian Virtue
The Canadian imagination is self-congratulatory and idealist–willfully political-economy-blind, emerging from and camouflaging Canada’s function as the remote manager of mining in the global Anglo-American empire. While Canada has the normal, excessive Anglo-American load of junk jobs, these are foisted upon the disrupted populations that are relocated to Canada when the Anglo-American empire bombs out their homes. For older waves of settlers, Canada offers economic opportunities managing extractivism, including managing disrupted populations. That sub-specialty imparts a managerial social work guard labour habitus. It is what Canadians use to imagine and sell themselves as having figured civilized capitalism all out.
Americans love it, because stuck American settlers love the idea that capitalism is somewhere truly felt as something other than the belligerent, unfulfilling, inegalitarian, contradictory, carceral casino shitstorm that they experience in the belly of the beast. So Americans feel tenderly toward the Canadians. The fact that Canadians secure moral cohesion by obsessively sharing jackass affirmations reducing Americans to a ruined orc race doesn’t bother Americans, who are confident that the Anglicized people stationed up there in good old Canada will continue to diligently execute their job, digging up oil and other minerals, generally directing a flow of carbon slaves, and upon that, a more important pipeline of rents to Wall Street and the City of London… All the while of course managing young women to, at the margins, grab the “Now” and serve up donated meals, afterschool care, and photovoice trauma processing as an ad hoc symbolic substitute for any viable social reproduction of the massively-fucked indigenous and immigrant populations within the core capitalist country.
Canada’s ubiquitous hymn to itself: All the comms to all the problems, All the liberal moral exclusion, All the sublimely-oblivious sanctimoniousness.
And it seems that Americans’ measured confidence in that flow from Canada is well placed. Perhaps Americans’ imperturbable confidence in Canadians can even serve as a model of rational civility.
What if you couldn’t control the capitalists…er, “Americans”…with professional middle-class messaging?
Foucauldians explain why we can’t have nice things
My hypothesis is that the liberal idea that there is a ruined orc race of Germanic Midwesterners occupying Flyover US, who are ruining everything, is resonant in Canada for related (liberalism) but slightly different reasons than why it’s resonant in the Meritorious part of the US.
Foucault makes tons of sense to Canadians, because Foucault’s socio-philosophical project was to show that social construction is not macro or micro, but meso, accomplished by a mob of state workers and other illegitimate, crude, working-class aristocrat-pretenders, whose paid work can only construct unfreedom–not because they are working within a macro-constructing capitalist context, but because any organized attempt to commandeer the state and extend sovereign agency to the naturally subordinate (democracy) only creates an illegitimate, perverted power, and suffering. For liberal Canadians, this is a perfect anti-socialist framework for explaining a) why we need to accept capitalist sovereignty, b) why reforms need to target and regulate state workers, devolve working class state supports to private charity and PPPs, and c) why indigenous people in Canada have a hard time.
When liberal Canadians try to imagine what is wrong with Americans, they rely on Loyalist beliefs and they extend the liberal Foucauldian imagination to the US, where they imagine hinterlands Germans in the amorphous role of the meso social-construction mob, fucking up everything.
Proceduralist policing: The fine art of Canadian integration
Power is demonstrated, social, economic and political incorporation is managed, and scarce quality, developmental work is allocated by imposing asymmetrically upon people peripheral in Canadian networks a substantively-irrational system of step-wise rules of service and payment requirements. Only through a protracted, even depleting process of remitting reproductive service and payments, policed by a centrally-networked gatekeeper, may the newcomer access cooperation, credit, and the quality labour market. National and local social, economic and political network centrality is the defining condition of credit and cooperation, and all other qualifications and demonstrated capacities are systematically denied.
Example 1: A mature student has a 20-year old undergraduate degree in the Humanities from an Ivy League school, a JD, and professional, international (Commonwealth) experience as a litigator. Due to personal interests, she wants to be an academic criminologist researcher and she wants to immigrate to Canada. In addition to her extensive formal education and proven scholarly abilities, she has Anglo Empire (Commonwealth) cultural capital. Her professors recognize her as an “excellent student.” But she is female and ethnically ambiguous.
In Canada, her considerable qualifications are denied as material, she is required to undertake an undergraduate degree in criminology, a semi-vo-tech field with no bar to entry. She performs at a graduate level in these courses. She is prohibited and re-routed from building upon her substantial scholarly skills base, practicing graduate-level research or taking graduate-level courses. The only possible function of this re-routing is to preserve such experience and networking opportunities for far less-qualified birth-Canadians.
In this way, Canada ensures that it never need devote sufficient resources to social reproduction. It can skimp on early-years family supports, housing, health, and education. Safe behind proceduralist policing, Birth-Canadians can coast on their family networks while the newcomers who Canada imports must flip burgers, tend to the babas, and pay Canada to retake welcome-to-university courses.
This waste of human capacity is a normal example of Canadian proceduralist policing, seen prominently to function in the mismatch between requirements for immigration and immigrant relegation to the large liberal junk job labour market (Esping Anderson 1990: 207). It is reminiscent of the gendered labour misallocation in Canadian STEM. Such anti-immigrant, discretionary but also institutional gate-keeping is reinforced by a nationalist culture rooted in colonial Anglocentrism. Regardless of pro-immigration policy and a business-led pro-immigration culture, proceduralist policing on behalf of nativist-biased skills and contribution misallocation contributes to the perpetuation of structural racism and imperial colonialism.
Canada’s is a version of meritocratic culture where boundaries (borders) are enforced at the micro-level, along regional and national social networks and along national status, via recognition refusal, proceduralism, and a deprioritization of substantive rationality. Nativist qualifications recognition and nativist labour management permit Canada’s exploitation of high levels of reproductive labour undertaken in sending countries–Canada’s labour market reproduction. As well, nativist-chauvanism feeds overqualified immigrants to the perpetuation of a high load of marginal businesses and junk jobs (a value-circulating brake on productivity). Politically, this pro immigrant-exploitation nativist coalition may be the structural foundation for widespread conservative-liberal political consensus in Canada.
In nativist Canada, the use of imported social reproduction to suppress productivity innovations and social reproduction infrastructure development (beyond elder medical care), results in low cultural capital and low cultural-capital requirements for natives across education and decent work. This may be associated with Canada’s global economic niche, managing extractivism.
In contrast to the US, suppressed cultural-capital Canadian natives retain collective coordination capacity, are not isolated and funneled to the same extent into military, policing, and surveillance organization and work. This means that in the US, the same use of imported social reproduction results politically in more fascist politics. In Canada, imported social reproduction results in a conservative-liberal coalition to keep immigrants vulnerable and the immigration tap flowing.
So conservative-liberal v. fascist politics. This is a far more objective way to explain political difference and political stability/change today than middle-mind conservative-liberal political science’s piss-poor “populism” critique, which asserts that conservative liberalism = democracy and civility, decreeing in unblushing partisanship and raging empirical invalidity that all anti-democratic and incivil actions are confined to the repertoires of rival political frameworks.
Moreover, while the political marketing of the critique of populism prohibits credible specification of the mechanism between regime stability and transformation, relying simply on crass dehumanization of the domestic dispossessed and mystification of the imported dispossessed, the political-economic framework by contrast has the virtue of distinguishing mechanisms of political stabilization and destabilization. Political stabilization hypothesis: boundary management via enculturated, proceduralist educational and labour market discrimination. Political destabilization hypothesis: Militarized boundary policing. Stabilization and destablization would be engineered around economic accumulation requirements.
Dean, D. 2013. “75% of the World’s Mining Companies are Based in Canada.” Vice.
Desai, R. 2017. Canadian Capitalism & Imperialism.