Overseeing Capital Accumulation in Canada
WINNER of the 2016 Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing
In The Servant State: Overseeing Capital Accumulation in Canada, McCormack and Workman explore Canada’s experience through the “age of austerity” and highlight how this experience has been shaped by the specific way capitalist development has unfolded in Canada and the role of the state in this process.
The Assault on Working People since 1970
“If you’re in my way I’m walking.” This arrogant statement by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on the occasion of his physical altercation with a protester in Hull, Quebec in the mid-1990s symbolizes the spirit of the relentless drive of capital to rewrite the historical compromise reached with working people after World War II. This early post-war compromise–sometimes referred to as the Fordist Compact–was associated with improving wages and rising living standards for working people. But in recent decades those achievements of the working class are being deliberately rolled back.
Workman surveys many features of this experience: changing public perceptions of working life, the deregulation of labour law, the decline in unionization rates, the eclipse of union militancy, the stagnation of real wages, the disproportionate absorption of women into the low-wage sphere and the dismantling of social policy. He demonstrates the unravelling of the post-war compact and its replacement with a far more ex-ploitative relationship between capital and labour. He also points to the decline of the Canadian left and its inability to counter the capitalist onslaught effectively. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be hopeful. Workman calls for a rebuilding of the left through the restoration of left culture. To do this he says that the left must “quit politics,” work to promote the collective memory of working-class achievements, create venues to listen to working people in today’s economy, reject nationalism outright and encourage the labour movement to exploit its disruptive capacity. This revitalized left will form the basis of a deepening social critique, the political lessons of which will prove to be invaluable for working people in the long run.
Atlantic Canada in the New World Order
For Atlantic Canadians the much vaunted “New World Order,” with its free-trade/privitazion mantra, has been anything but good. In fact by all accounts to date, it has brought nothing but social torment for all but the very rich and very powerful.
In this revealing new book, Thom Workman traces the impact that the new order has had on working people, the working poor, people on social assistance and the elderly. The impact of the new order on health care, education, the environment and the Atlantic Canadian economy in general has been little short of devastating. For all of us who have been continually bombarded with the “good times” ideology, this book will bring a measure of truth. Workman challenges us to release ourselves from the mystifying clutches of this new ideology. As the corporate elite forges ahead in their quest for ever-increasing profits, the masses of people who are the victims of the drive for profits must ally to struggle for an economic and political order that puts human needs ahead of corporate greed.
The Discourse of the Fiscal Crisis
Through the discourse of the fiscal crisis the proponents of the neo-liberal agenda deceive Canadians by presenting this agenda as the only rational alternative. Workman discusses the success of this appeal to common sense, analyzing how it resonates positively within the Canadian cultural context.