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Charles Taylor, recognition and agrarian identity in Western Canada Banack, Clark


The purpose of this study is to highlight the manner by which current financial challenges facing small-scale fanning operations throughout rural Western Canada represent a significant threat to a distinct cultural community and thus requires an immediate response from both levels of government designed to stem this threat and preserve this community. The theoretical framework of this study is provided by the philosophy of Charles Taylor. Specifically, I focus on his work regarding the intrinsic nature of the community in relation to the individual and the subsequent commitment to preserve local or cultural communities in the face of market driven policies within the public sphere. This commitment is founded upon Taylor's specific argument regarding the ontology of the human subject, an argument which makes clear the foundational role the cultural community plays with regard to the identity formation of the individual. Furthermore, it is this foundational role played by the cultural community which often requires recognition from the larger, national community in order to maintain the allegiance of the individual. This is an assertion that clearly has implications for a pluralistic society such as Canada and is often referred to by those, like Taylor, who argue for the need to recognize the distinct cultural communities which make-up Canada, such as the Quebecois, the First Nations and more recently, the various immigrant groups which are dispersed throughout this country. It is through this angle, this commitment to recognize local cultural communities, that I engage Taylor's work and introduce a collective identity not often mentioned within Canadian "recognition" discourse, that of the rural agricultural West. It is my contention that there does exist a distinct agrarian collective identity in Western Canada, and further, such a community is facing economic challenges which are threatening its persistence, perhaps even existence. Not only does the contemporary decline of small-scale rural agriculture represent a significant threat to the foundational community of agrarian individuals, it also highlights the need for this group to be "recognized" in a way that promotes a strengthened attachment to Canada as a whole.

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