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Misrecognized materialists : social movements in Canadian constitutional politics, 1938-1992 James, Matt

Abstract

Although Ronald Inglehart's New Politics theory has attracted criticism, its influential distinction between materialist and postmaterialist values tends to go unquestioned. The influence of this distinction is particularly apparent when analysts interpret the "new" social movement emphasis on esteem and belonging as a "postmaterialist" departure from a traditional, or "materialist" focus on security. This way of understanding contemporary feminist and ethnocultural-minority movements is misleading because it rests on a onedimensional view of esteem and belonging. By treating esteem and belonging as expressive, which is to say as purely aesthetic or psychological goods, New Politics obscures the instrumental significance of esteem and belonging for movements that represent traditionally, marginalized constituencies. This work undertakes a qualitative study of the participation of national socialmovement organizations, "old" and "new," in Canadian constitutional politics. The analysis is based on these actors' presentations to parliamentary hearings and royal commissions on major constitution-related issues between the years 1938 and 1992. Above all, the study illustrates what New Politics theory neglects: the instrumental role of social esteem and civic belonging as bases of voice and self-defence. I argue that attending to this role can help analysts to understand better the postwar politics of recognition. The work develops this argument in three major ways. First, I demonstrate the instrumental importance of esteem and belonging for the mid-century traditional left. Second, I show that problems of misrecognition and disesteem presented feminists and ethnocultural minorities with severe difficulties in garnering a meaningful hearing for their security needs. Third, I analyze the discursive ways in which postwar "new" movement participants came to pursue forms of respect that had proved elusive in the past. The work's overall conclusion is this: the material nature of the politics of recognition is demonstrated by the extent to which increased esteem and belonging for traditionally disrespected groups has been paralleled by an expanded menu of recognized security concerns. The study's major message follows from this conclusion: because struggles over esteem and belonging have crucial material stakes, they should not be contrasted a priori with struggles that may appear to target questions of security more directly.

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