Arms to Communications: Idealist and Pragmatist Strains

Marco Adria (University of Alberta)

Abstract: As information and communications technologies (ICTs) become an increasingly important part of the Canadian social, cultural, and economic fabric, the question of how such technologies interact with national autonomy and with the nationalist impulse emerges once again. This article considers a critical moment of another era in which technology's relationship to nationalism became a matter of public and intellectual discourse. The missile crisis of 1962 in Canada highlighted the conflicting prospects for importing foreign technology while maintaining national autonomy. George Grant and Ramsay Cook took opposing views in this debate. The Grant-Cook dialectic is proposed as a means by which a contemporary approach may be developed to the relationship between the widespread use of ICTs and the potential for nationalism in Canada.

Résumé : À mesure que les technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC) jouent un rôle de plus en plus important dans les domaines social, culturel et économique au Canada, la question de la manière dont ces technologies interagissent avec l'autonomie nationale et l'impulsion nationaliste émerge à nouveau. Cet article considère un moment critique d'une autre époque pendant laquelle le rapport de la technologie au nationalisme est devenu un sujet de débat public et intellectuel. Au Canada, la crise des missiles de 1962 a mis en relief les objectifs contradictoires d'importer des technologies étrangères tout en maintenant l'autonomie nationale. George Grant et Ramsay Cook ont pris des positions opposées dans ce débat. La dialectique Grant-Cook est proposée comme moyen de développer une approche contemporaine pour étudier le rapport entre l'usage très répandu des TIC et le potentiel du nationalisme canadien.

New questions about technology's expanding reach in Canada

The advent of new media and the Internet provides a fresh opportunity to explore the relationship between Canadian nationhood, as expressed in cultural activities, and the information and communications technologies (ICTs) by which those activities are developed and diffused. The urgency for a public discussion on this relationship is reflected in the emerging issue of the relative autonomy of the Canadian nation-state. A common North American currency and an open border with the U.S. have been discussed after September 11 as a means of both maintaining the border of a common continental space and expanding the benefits of NAFTA. As these matters are discussed, the question arises as to the degree to which the Canadian state can act independently and the measures that may be justified in extending or restricting that independence.

The Canadian state has been active in the adoption of technology. The federal government's Community Access Program (CAP) is one of the many current efforts in Canada to, in the program's words, "make Canadians the most Internet-connected people in the world" (Canada, 2003). CAP has supported some 10,000 public access computer terminals, mainly by providing one-time funding to libraries and schools to purchase equipment. As a consequence of the program, it is now possible to gain access to the Internet in many public places in Canada. The federal government also recently published the report of the National Broadband Task Force (Canada, 2002). The report called for a national strategy to ensure that broadband (the "big pipe" of Internet access) services will be available in a consistent manner to all Canadians through the connection of public learning institutions, public health care facilities, public libraries, and other designated public access points. The provincial governments have developed their own similar programs. In Alberta, the SuperNet is to be developed by an alliance of public and private organizations, and it will extend broadband services to rural and remote areas of the province.

While the social, cultural, and economic implications of the widespread and intensive use of ICTs in the home and workplace are only vaguely understood (Ciborra, 1996; Dutton, 1996, 1999), the broadest significance of these technologies lies in their ambiguous meanings. ICTs hold the promise of new conceptions of community and a more democratized public sphere (De Kerckhove, 1997; Etzioni & Etzioni, 1999; Poster, 1999) while simultaneously enacting a substantive basis for centralized social control (Beniger, 1986). Technology, particularly communications technology, provides a rich entrée into inquiries about national autonomy and its expression in cultural identity and the political expression of nationalism (Gagne, 1976; Kroker, 1984; Nelles & Rotstein, 1973). Technology reflects at once the nationalist concerns of culture and of capital (Charland, 1986). In broadcasting and communications enterprises, technology is a carrier of cultural information in the form of television shows, radio broadcasts, and so on. It is also a structuring influence in regional, national, and international economies, creating and changing patterns of trade and development in its wake (Mosco, 1979, 1996; Smythe, 1981). As Innis (1951) has noted, culture and power exist historically in a mutual relationship of development:

The capacity to concentrate on intense cultural activity during a short period of time and to mobilize intellectual resources over a vast territory assumes to an important extent the development of armed force to a high state of efficiency. (p. 133)

The establishment of broadband networks in Canada must therefore be viewed in its historical and social context. Without such a context, it will be difficult to understand the full significance, opportunity, and challenge that these networks represent for Canadian life.

The missile crisis as a defining moment

An event of another era in which technology and nationalism became a matter of public and intellectual discourse was the Canadian missile crisis, or defence crisis as it has also been called, of 1962. The incidents of that year highlighted the relationship between the act of importing foreign technology and the social, cultural, and economic goals of an autonomous Canadian nation, especially because Canada's autonomy has often been defined in contrast to that of the U.S. (Hodgins, 1973). In that historical moment, the interests associated with technology, along with its consequences and alternative choices, were exposed with some clarity. The events of 1962 are relevant for a consideration of contemporary events because the missile crisis represents an episode of awakening, a point in Canadian history in which technology became a subject of public discussion in a way that it had not been previously. Canadian philosophers of technology in the decades following would expand the discursive space opened by these events. McLuhan (1964), Kroker (1984), Charland (1986), Powe (1993), and Mosco (1996) were to establish their critiques of communications technologies in the recognition, born of the missile crisis, that technology had developed in Canada in a historical context that had been shaped by the country's economic and military dependency.

Furthermore, until 1962 technology's influence on Canadians' experience had not been discussed by politicians or academics as a matter of public policy or as an issue requiring a consideration of the public interest. The only comparable public discussions of the relationship between technology and the national interest had been the two Royal Commissions in the 1950s. These had addressed in part the emerging role of broadcasting in the development of national identity. The Fowler Commission of 1951 on broadcasting and the Massey-Lévesque Commission of 1951 on national development and the arts were to have significant effects on public policy, leading particularly to the creation of the CBC, the CRTC, and the Canada Council. However, these studies did not stir the public imagination and a level of public concern comparable to that ensuing from the missile crisis. The missile crisis ultimately engaged the U.S. president's defence policy and has been generally regarded as contributing to a Canadian prime minister's electoral defeat. As a public event, it was a significant theme in two best-selling books in Canada - Peter C. Newman's Renegade in Power and George Grant's Lament for a Nation: The Death of Canadian Nationalism.

The views of two social and political critics of the time may be examined in an effort to develop a fertile context for a more contemporary consideration of technology and Canadian nationalism. Responding to the events of the missile crisis, George Grant condemned technology because it carried the risk of increasing cultural homogeneity. His evaluation of technology was that it was disruptive of human efforts to understand and actualize the revelations of philosophy and religion. Ramsay Cook (1970), on the other hand, claimed that the expansion and importation of technology could be justified according to the goal of achieving equality in society by advancing through stages of industrialism. For Cook, technology was defined by the potential it represented for incremental improvements in living conditions and by its social resilience, in that it cannot be indefinitely restrained without political repression. It is argued here that although Cook's view has substantially guided Canadian policy and even individual attitudes concerning technology adoption, there are significant questions raised by the missile crisis that remain unexamined. These questions concern the limits that Canadians ought to place on their autonomy and the extent to which the adoption of foreign technology is likely to continue to dissolve national cultures and particularly Canadian culture.

In the 1960s, Grant and Cook developed sophisticated perspectives on Canadian nationalism. Their diverging views of the relationship of nationalism to the importation of technology have relevance for Canada in an age in which ICTs are crowding personal, corporate, and national agendas. A reconsideration of Grant's idealistic orientation to technology and Cook's pragmatic orientation provides a dialectic that can illuminate the meaning and possible effects of imported technologies for Canadians at the beginning of the millennium. Although Grant and Cook did not debate these issues directly, their opposing perspectives provide a conceptual tool for presenting and exploring richly divergent ideas and their potential application to contemporary concerns.

In raising again the dormant issues raised by Grant and Cook concerning nationalism's relationship to the importation of technology to Canada, it should be noted that the contemporary situation differs from that of the 1960s in important ways. First, the interactions of technology with people's lives are likely to be more immediate and encompassing today than they were in 1962. The missile crisis carried importance for all Canadians, but only in an indirect way. Although most Canadians would be influenced by the events surrounding the crisis, the vast majority of Canadians would not participate in these events. Today, ICTs are becoming an increasingly direct part of many Canadians' experience at home and at work. The state is involved in encouraging this lived experience. The federal government, along with other institutions, such as public libraries and learning institutions, has set the priority of equalizing access to these technologies by, for example, helping to establish Internet stations in public places.

Second, while in 1962 the importation of technology was for the stated purpose of enhancing national defence and security, it is now an explicit part of the effort to render Canadian citizens as fully competitive and participative international actors. In the past two decades, the changing nature of competition and a rapidly increasing level of globalization have fashioned productivity into what has been called a "creative force" of global competitiveness (Smothers, 1990). ICTs are embedded in this drive for increases in productivity. Entwined with the effort to improve national productivity through the use of technology are new organizational forms that are created for the purpose of speeding up production or rationalizing previously looser labour arrangements. Canadian culture will be fatefully influenced by these technologies. The present historical moment, in which Canadians are beginning to use these technologies intensively and frequently, would be appropriate for the consideration of some likely social outcomes.

In practice, George Grant's argument about the relationship between technology and nationalism - which was that Canadian autonomy was at risk in the adoption of technology - is all but forgotten. Canadians have become skilled developers of technology intended not only for domestic use but, more importantly for its structuring effects, for sale to an international market. They develop pharmaceuticals on the Prairies, create office software in the nation's capital, and establish call centres in the Maritimes. What has not yet faded is the question of what limits should be placed on Canada's autonomy and to what extent the adoption of (mainly U.S.) technology is likely to continue to dissolve national cultures and in particular a distinctive Canadian culture (Dorland, 1996). Contemporary discussion of the appropriate uses and applications of technologies, especially ICTs, tends to set aside questions of national identity. Grant's call for a critical approach to technology, while failing to account for technology's socially progressive uses, holds promise for assessing how and why Canadians should approach the issue of the adoption of new technologies.

George Grant, the missile crisis and the historical reading of technology

Mel Hurtig, Dennis Lee, and others who publicly promoted Canadian nationalism during the 1960s and 1970s were to point to George Grant's work - and especially his book Lament for a Nation, published in 1965 - as a starting point for their growing recognition of the need for political action to support Canadian autonomy and cultural development. Grant's ideas were derived almost exclusively from Christian theology and the philosophy of Plato. Grant did not want to give up the ancient philosophical belief that values and truth were, even if subject to scrutiny and debate, essentially revealed in history. He wanted to explore that "revelation" while at the same time recognizing that history was a daily accomplishment and that the horizon of social development was constantly changing and ultimately unknowable (Grant, 1969).

Grant was born in Toronto in 1918, attending Upper Canada College as a youth and then studying at Queen's University and later Oxford University, completing a D.Phil. in theology in 1950. His working life was spent mainly as a university teacher at McMaster and Dalhousie Universities, although he had worked as a young man on the London docks in Bermondsey during the Battle of Britain, on a farm in Buckinghamshire, and as the national secretary of the Canadian Association for Adult Education (Davis, 1996).

It was while teaching at McMaster University that Grant initiated a public discussion of fundamental questions about Canadian identity and the Canadian nation-state. The event that gave rise to this discussion took place in 1962 and concerned, not culture, but the most sophisticated and powerful applications of technology: nuclear arms. What became known as the missile crisis in Canada spotlighted the relationship between the promise of an autonomous Canadian nation and the potential threat of the importation of foreign technology. Lament for a Nation was written as a response to this historical event, which figures prominently in its pages.

Beginning in 1961, the Canadian federal government under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had authorized the installation of land-based anti-aircraft weapons, called Bomarc missiles, at sites in Ontario and Québec (Newman, 1973). Canada was participating in a joint program of defence, a plan that provided for the arming and, under certain circumstances, the use of nuclear weapons. The Bomarcs would eventually be armed with nuclear warheads, a final and necessary step if the missiles were ever to be used.

The Canadian deployment of Bomarc missiles was driven by the U.S. military buildup - and in particular, a dramatically expanding missile-production program - that had begun after World War II but reached its apex of activity during the early 1960s. The launch of the Sputnik satellite by the USSR in October 1957 had symbolic importance for its demonstration of the technological achievement of the USSR. It raised U.S. fears that the "missile gap," the difference in both the number of and the pace of development of missiles between the two countries, represented first-strike capability for the USSR, to which the U.S. could not effectively respond. Although some analysts dispute that a missile gap existed (see, for example, Ball, 1980), the issue nonetheless became a factor in the 1960 presidential election in the U.S. and led to Senator John F. Kennedy committing to an increase in military expenditures that would emphasize a speed-up in the production and deployment of ballistic missiles. During the election campaign Kennedy

projected the theme that the United States had suffered an unnecessary slowing of progress under Eisenhower. . . . He spoke positively and without equivocation as early as January 23, 1960, when he said that the United States had become "second in space - second in missiles." (Ball, 1980, p. 16)

After the U.S. election a momentum developed for missile production and deployment, which extended to the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

After entering office, the Kennedy Administration undertook the largest and fastest peacetime military buildup in the history of the United States. The results were striking. Although the "missile gap" had apparently been a significant factor in the 1960 election, by late 1961 members of the Kennedy Administration had publicly announced that it no longer existed. (Beard, 1976, p. 213)

The Cuban Missile Crisis in which Canada became caught up followed a fundamental reorganization of administrative and technical control of the U.S. military. By the end of 1960, the U.S. had redeveloped its revised nuclear-war strategies, which now emphasized redesigning the powerful Minuteman missiles as well as refitting the command and control system (Ball, 1980, p. 194). Some basic figures illustrate the massive scale of the increases in missile program activities that characterized the time. Ten years earlier, in 1951, the U.S. had spent only $500,000 annually on intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles (IR/ICBMs). By 1961, the annual amount was $3.424 billion. Total spending on missiles of all kinds, including aircraft-launched missiles, had increased exponentially during this period, but IR/ICBMs occupied an increasingly dominant part of that spending. Spending on these as a proportion of total missile programs during the decade increased from .06% to 50%. The IR/ICBM portion of missile spending had therefore increased by some 800 times during the decade (Beard, 1976, p. 206).

On October 22, 1962, in response to a perceived buildup of Soviet weapons in Cuba, President Kennedy requested that Canadian defence forces be put in a state of heightened readiness. Permission to station American jets in Canada and to move nuclear warheads to Newfoundland from Maine was part of the request. The prime minister balked. Peter C. Newman, a journalist and prominent analyst of the Diefenbaker years, writes that the day after the request was made by the American president,

[c]abinet met . . . with most of the ministers feeling that endorsement of the American move would be nothing more than a formality. But the mood around the Privy Council table changed when [External Affairs Secretary] Howard Green delivered what was the most impassioned appeal of his political life. He pleaded that reconsideration be given to the idea of blindly following the United States lead. . . . "If we go along with the Americans now," he said, "we'll be their vassals forever." (Newman, 1973, p. 337)

On October 24, 1962, Kennedy demanded that Cuba remove its missiles and imposed a blockade. At about 1 p.m. that day, the Canadian units of NORAD had assumed, 42 hours after being asked to do so, the state of readiness requested by the U.S. The delay became a source of bitter political criticism and the eventual defeat of Diefenbaker at the polls the following year. On January 24, 1963, Diefenbaker spoke in Parliament about the "preponderant" power of the U.S. in the world, implying that the Canadian military position could at times be different than the one specified by the U.S. On February 25, 1963, Diefenbaker dissolved Parliament. During his speech in Parliament that day, George Grant notes that Diefenbaker "made clear that the one thing he would not stomach was the United States government determining Canadian defence policy" (Grant, 1965, p. 30). In the ensuing federal election, he was defeated by Lester Pearson, who promised to take a more co-operative attitude with the U.S. on defence issues.

The reasons behind Diefenbaker's hesitation to deploy the Bomarcs have been disputed over the years. Some observers - Newman was one - reduced the event to a mere symptom of Diefenbaker's personal tendency to dither. Grant, by contrast, felt the act was part of the prime minister's larger determination to maintain Canada's sovereignty and national autonomy. However, no one disputes the significance of the Canadian government's decision to refuse to agree immediately and without meaningful reflection to U.S.-led military action. The nuclear warheads had become symbols of technology in an event whose meanings became entwined with the question of Canadian self-determination.

In Lament for a Nation, Grant argued that with the defeat of Diefenbaker's government in 1963, Canadian nationalism was now finished. If an autonomous Canada had once been possible, the events of 1962 and 1963 sealed Canadian nationalism's defeat. Referring to the missile crisis, Grant stated that

[Diefenbaker's] nationalism occasioned the strongest stand against satellite status that any Canadian government ever attempted. He maintained his stand even when the full power of the Canadian ruling class, the American government, and the military were brought against him. . . . Diefenbaker saw his destiny as revivifying the Canadian nation. (1965, p. 12)

Grant's view was that the missile crisis proved that Diefenbaker's nationalism was sincere, that the only explanation for Diefenbaker to have occasioned the crisis was that he was convinced of its symbolic and substantive importance in relation to Canadian national autonomy.

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. . . . The government of the United States should not be allowed to force the Canadian government to a particular defense policy. His determination to stand on that belief finally convinced the ruling class that he was more than a nuisance, that he must be removed. (Grant, 1965, p. 25)

What was the relationship between the missile crisis and Grant's developing conception of technology? Although the theme was not developed directly in Lament for a Nation, the French philosopher Jacques Ellul's conception of technology figured prominently in Grant's later work (1969, 1986) and existed in a nascent form in Lament for a Nation. Ellul (1967) defined technology as a set of social practices. He used the term technique to distinguish this totalizing aspect of technology. He argued that technique had a deterministic character and that it had escaped the power of people to influence its direction. In comparing science and technique, Ellul stated that technique was "autonomous and recognizes as barriers only the temporary limits of its action" (p. 142). Ellul used the example of fish in the depths of the ocean to illustrate the distinction. He suggested that "science" would seek to observe a school of fish, compare new evidence with old, photograph, and thereby seek to understand it better. Technique, by contrast, "captures them, hauls them up to see if they are edible - but before they arrive on deck they burst" (p. 142). For Ellul, technology would eventually remove from human life any mystery or risk.

Technique advocates the entire remaking of life and its framework, because they have been badly made. Since heredity is full of chance, technique proposes to suppress it so as to engender the kind of men necessary for its ideal of service. The creation of the ideal man will soon be a simple technical operation. It is no longer necessary to rely on the chances of the family or on the personal vigor which is called virtue. Applied biogenetics is an obvious point at which technique desacralizes, but we must not forget psychoanalysis, which holds that dreams, visions, and the psychic life in general are nothing more than objects. (Ellul, 1967, pp. 142-43)

In Lament for a Nation, Grant set the stage for the fertile idea he would develop further in his later work - that technology could not be viewed as an instrument of a particular society. It was a phenomenon that must be regarded in terms of its cumulative effects across societies. In this way, his evaluation contrasted with the Innisian view of the social uses of technology, which was that a society's primary technology represented an imbalance of power within the society and in relation to other societies. For Innis (1951), technological biases were the blind spots that conceivably held the key to understanding particular societies and empires. Members of a society in which writing was the primary technology were oblivious to important aspects of seeing and experiencing the world. Members of societies in which orality held sway would be oblivious in ways that were categorically different from perceptions associated with a culture in which writing was dominant.

For Ellul/Grant, on the other hand, technology had a totalizing influence on all cultures generally, changing the trajectory of human evolution and the physical environment. From this perspective, technology would eventually dissolve any cultural distinctiveness that Canada could claim, leaving a homogenous, technologically driven but morally hollow society in North America and eventually the world. In his later writings, Grant frequently reminded his readers that important questions raised by technology were only dimly understood. The case of Canada's autonomy was an extension of an ancient dialogue about how people ought to live (Grant, 1969). Technology had escaped from the restraints of philosophy and religion by means of a new society in North America whose exploits were motivated by the tenets of Calvinist Christianity.

The Protestant work ethic described by sociologist Max Weber was characterized by the belief in earthly striving for material success and wealth, which could be considered a sign of providential blessing (Weber, 1930). For Grant, a philosopher with a deep knowledge of theology, Christianity and the ancient Greek philosophers had together established a moral code for society that had been severed from the experience of North America in the effort to create a society of equals and in order to tame or master nature. In Grant's account, technology was viewed by both Marxists and liberals as the means by which a society of equal citizens could be created. Technology was the "dominant morality," he explained, and as a result, most people could not evaluate its effects critically. A moral haze had settled on North America, and its source was the smokestack of state capitalism.

Leisure is only possible with the division of labour. But the division of labour without modern mastery resulted in inequality - particularly the grossest inequality in leisure. The noblest expectation of the age of progress was to overcome that limitation by building a society in which all men would come to have leisure through the mastery that science would make possible. (Grant, 1969, p. 129)

For Grant, the expansion of the U.S. political and military influence in the world was enabled and driven by the expansion and elaboration of technology. Canadian nationalism was not to be feared, because it carried the promise of a reversal of empire and a return to the hope for a society in which contemplation of the good would be made possible. Grant the philosopher was not specifically concerned with the historically demonstrable dangers of nationalism. History was the mode in which the contemplative achievements of Athens and Jerusalem were revealed. History had to be viewed in much broader terms than were considered by the proponents of one military policy or another.

With the publication of Lament for a Nation, some claimed that Grant was mourning the death of conservatism in Canada - conservatism as a social force or perhaps (in its large C sense) as a political party. Grant denied this, and it should be remembered that in 1960, on the eve of the missile crisis, he contributed "An Ethic of Community" to Social Purpose for Canada, a book published in concert with the founding of the New Democratic Party. His political leanings were tied less to particular political ideologies than to his philosophical ideals. Grant felt that the embrace of technology implied a disregard for the moral frame within which human action must be assessed.

[T]he truth of natural law is that man lives within an order which he did not make and to which he must subordinate his actions; the truth of the history-making spirit is that man is free to build a society which eliminates the evils of the world. Both these assertions seem true. The difficulty is to understand how they both can be brought together. (Grant, 1960, pp. 89-90)

Defence, technology, and corporate expansionism: For Grant, these were interlaced components that dissolved local cultures. Canada's culture, which was always under threat as a consequence, first by British imperialism and then by the U.S., could not withstand the levelling effects of technology. Grant believed that, over time, the adoption of foreign technology would degrade Canada's autonomy. His views on technology formed a central part of his mature scholarly work. His Technology and Empire, published a few years after Lament for a Nation, argued that imperialism and conquest were conjoined with the instrumental uses of technology (Grant, 1969). He became increasingly persuaded by the Ellulian conception of technology less as a complement of hardware and software than as a totalizing set of social practices. Grant called for a nationalism that would delineate Canada's identity as an independent country whose view of the world would contrast with the U.S. view more than it would complement it.

Ramsay Cook, the missile crisis, and the historical reading of nationalism

Ramsay Cook, then a professor of history at York University, read Lament for a Nation and responded to the book's main claims in an article published in the August 1970 issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies. In the article, Cook explained Grant's views in part on the basis of Grant's personal background. Grant, Cook pointed out, was the grandson of Principal G.M. Grant and Sir George Parkin, "liberal Christians who identified the progress of mankind with the preservation and spread of Anglo-Saxon civilization" (Cook, 1970, p. 51). Cook correctly identified within Lament for a Nation the key concern of technology and its fundamental character, a concern that Grant would indeed expand upon in his later writing. Significantly, in the intervening half-decade since the appearance of Lament for a Nation, Grant had published Technology and Empire, which more explicitly linked the expansion of U.S. influence throughout the world with U.S. elaboration and deployment of technology internationally.

Cook noted in the article that although Grant had earlier in his life believed that technology should be used to relieve the hardships of daily life for the masses, his later work would describe technology as having a deterministic character. He described Grant's assumptions as follows: "[T]he age of technology, with its liberal ideology and its commitment to progress, was the age of the 'universal and homogeneous state.' By definition particular cultures and nations were doomed to disappear" (Cook, 1970, p. 56).

For his part, Cook felt it was reasonable to accept the risks of importing and developing technology, which could be the loss of some national autonomy, while rejecting the risks of nationalism, which could be anomie and crisis and which he felt to be much greater threats. History was a daily accomplishment of actors and groups of actors in Cook's worldview, and no essential or revealed lessons from the past could be admitted. Contingent caution as regarded technology could be advanced based on knowledge of the past. Technology was what we would decide it would be, and Canada would remain autonomous if it had the political will to do so.

For Cook the historian, nationalism as a political or social movement was something to be skeptical about, to be viewed with more scrutiny than was technology. Born in Saskatchewan in 1931, Cook was to publish on political and constitutional history in the 1970s and 1980s, on English-French relations, intellectual and artistic life, and, in the latter part of his career, exploration and European contact with Native North Americans. Technology is not a central concern in Cook's writing - at that time or since - although a consideration of the relationship of history to the environment has become increasingly apparent in recent years (Cook, 1993). As a student of Canadian federal development, Cook saw nationalism in English Canada as a threat to whatever social balance had been carefully achieved with French Canada. The question for him was not "If nationalism?" but "If nationalism, which one?" Nationalism was a set of ideas that inevitably led economic and political action, and such action might just sweep away the accomplishments of Canadian federalism. In Cook's mind, nationalism, not technology, was the concept requiring a full conceptual analysis for a view of the largest dangers. Political determination or will could have violent consequences when exercised by nationalists. Political action initiated by the state was still an important fact in the world, and something that should not be discounted in comparisons with what Cook described as the "dynamo" of technology. "[T]he Canadian nation state, a non-nationalist state, is worthy of preservation. It provides the frame in which thinking can take place, values be reassessed, and action taken" (Cook, 1970, p. 59).

Writing about the same question 25 years later, Cook had not changed his opinion. He stated that through the window of nationalism could be viewed the horrors of nineteenth-century European warfare: "History shows that . . . "ideologists" are always milder than the practical politicians who follow in their footsteps" (Cook, 1995, p. 18). For Cook, nationalism would be properly, and only, the striving for self-determination. He was later to write that self-determination was a worthy goal but one that should find its achievement in political compromises, not in the philosophical rejection of technology based on a historical view.

Nationalism is often expressed in the evangelistic rhetoric of a secular religion, offering redemption and salvation to sinners. But like other missionary religions, nationalism has never solved the problem of the backslider, how to keep the flock true to the faith. This world's temptations or necessities are too demanding, promise of a "new man" and a "new society" too ethereal. (Cook, 1995, p. 18)

Cultural diversity within Canada was for Cook a fact expressed in the political arrangements made for Québec within Confederation - and which could be contrasted with what Cook had called Grant's "Anglo-Saxon civilization." Creating a nationalist state would isolate Canada, but such isolation would in the end be impossible given Canada's cultural diversity and democratic values. A nationalist Canadian state, one isolated by a rejection or avoidance of technological advances, would not be compatible with the political balance found in Canadian federalism. This statement was significant in connection to Grant's views, because Grant's writing was later to advocate a technologically backward Canada, but one in which contemplation of the good had been maintained as a core human pursuit. Cook's notion of incremental federalism had a counterpart in incremental technological advance. In the same way that relations between the federal government and the provinces could always be changed (and were actually always in flux), so, too, changes in the uses and applications of technology were bound to occur. Technology was not a fixed entity but one that could always be made subject to human will.

On one side of the dialectic, then, technology was condemned by Grant because it carried the risk of further cultural homogeneity. With U.S. "know-how," the argument went, came U.S. "will-how." The importation of technology was not a neutral phenomenon, but one that carried with it the machinery of imperialism. Grant tended to examine technology with a more disciplined eye than he did nationalism (a historian's eye, in fact, rather than a philosopher's). Cook, on the other hand, was more interested in nationalism as a historical phenomenon, or process, than in looking at technology in the same way (Cook, 1966, 1995). Cook claimed that the expansion and importation of technology could be justified in light of the goal of achieving equality in society by advancing through stages of industrialism. For him, there was less of a need to define the conception of technology in the way that Grant had relied on Ellul to do. It was enough to comprehend that the practical application of Grant's views would lead to an industrially and culturally isolated Canada. Technology could be defined adequately as, for example, the means by which the environment could be protected.

[D]espite Grant and Ellul, the evidence suggests some small reason for accepting the view that technological change need not determine political decisions, but rather that political decisions can direct and limit technological development. The control of pollution is an obvious example of what should be done and what must be done. (Cook, 1970, p. 59)

Grant's radical conservatism had as its object a halt to the expansion of technology. Its main social effect was to spur an explicit Canadian nationalism, which was taken up by cultural and economic nationalists in the 1960s and 1970s. Jill Vickers has described these ideas as a package that "linked anti-modernism, anti-Americanism, technological determinism and an almost unthinking reliance on the state" (Vickers, 1994, p. 366). Just as Cook argued in 1970 that pollution of the environment provided an urgent example of an instance in which technology had a positive role to play, Vickers argued some 25 years later that the status of women had benefited from the application of technology and could benefit further. In any case, technology was not the only or even the most important influence on cultural development.

[T]he anti-modernist attribution of profound identity changes resulting in cultural homogenization to the effects of modern technology alone betrays a framework ignorant of the roles of women as they craft and transmit language and identity even in the face of massive oppression and intrusion. (Vickers, 1994, p. 366)

Technology for Cook, and for Vickers, is not a dynamo, devouring and levelling cultures, but a tool for gradually improving daily life. In this sense, the difference between Grant's idealism and Cook's pragmatism is not resolvable on its face. To return to the case of ICTs, there are undeniable benefits to individuals and groups as a consequence of the implementation of these technologies, but it must be noted as well that these benefits are distributed unevenly and that ultimate outcomes are not known in advance. Alternating within a dialectic of idealism and pragmatism regarding the widespread use of ICTs, between forms of pessimism and optimism, may be the most appropriate approach to ensuring that historical readings of both technology and nationalism are incorporated in a social, cultural, and economic process of development in Canada.

The fate of the Grant-Cook dialectic

A contemporary view of technology set within the missile crisis discourse would acknowledge the ideological nature of the technological-nationalist discourse. Ideologies are developed as individuals and groups seek broadly encompassing accounts of how their interests may be protected and advanced (Gellner, 1965). Ideology serves to support the actions of individuals and groups, especially in those instances in which the legitimacy of these actions is challenged. In this way, state action is legitimated and implicitly or explicitly approved by most members of the polity. After Mr. Diefenbaker raised the question of whether the missiles could be stationed on Canadian soil without a substantive decision in Canada on the matter, an ideological account of state action was required. The contributions of Grant and Cook helped to stir the ideological disturbance that has been analyzed here. No such ideological disturbance is associated with contemporary adoptions of technology.

It is in this sense that the social landscape is categorically different than it was in 1962. The rejection by Prime Minister Diefenbaker of nuclear warheads was met by a strong reaction, both for and against. Yet the ensuing events and their aftermath were to be followed by little public debate in the following decades. The plan by Prime Minister Trudeau in the 1980s to test cruise missiles in Canada's North was met by only mild opposition. The tests were carried out, thereby allowing for the missiles' deployment and use by the U.S. in attacks in the following decade on Iraq and the former Yugoslavia.

Since the missile crisis, Canada's participation in the use of technology for both peaceful and non-peaceful purposes (Cook's "temptations or necessities" that lead technological innovation) has increased dramatically. The historical argument against nationalism has evidently been the more influential as regards technology. Indeed, when Cook warned against a nationalist state, he was supporting what can be assumed to be the opinion of the majority of Canadians. This majority wishes the state to be largely invisible as regards the interactions of technology and nationalism. The state in Canada retains a public neutrality as regards the importation of technology. To the extent that a nationalist identity exists, it is to be based on the confederal purpose of maintaining the cultural and political variation that exists in Canada. Canadians generally hold a historical, pragmatic reading of nationalism and have largely rejected nationalism as a legitimate movement or way of thinking. The spectre of the ongoing and bloody conflicts in Eastern Europe has provided a useful moral caution against the excesses of ethnocentrism and even the mildest expressions of nationalism. The historical reading of technology advocated by Grant, on the other hand, has been neither accepted nor rejected, only set aside as potentially disruptive to political, social, and economic life in Canada.

Grant worked out his views on the basis that technology would determine social structure by stunting a nascent cultural identity. Cook argued the reverse, that social structures could and should shape the development of technology. A dialectical approach, in sympathy with the perspective of Bruno Latour (see, for example, Latour, 1996, and Strum & Latour, 1987), would allow for a synthesis of these positions. In this view, a mutual interaction of actor and actant (technology or other actors) occurs in which a technology is continually redefined and redescribed by actors. The authority of an actor is enhanced by the network of other actors for whom the actor speaks, but also by the influence of the technologies themselves. Taylor and Van Every summarize this view as follows: "It is nonhuman actors that both enable and constrain because they provide the means by which actions are amplified" (2000, p. 159).

Latour's example of the traffic speed bump is insightful here. The speed bump continues to have effect long after the actors who designed and installed it have left the site. Once a technology is established, it continues to act and influence actors and actants, regardless of whether there is further intervention by actors. The design of the technology sets the pattern for ultimate outcomes, in this case a continuous sequence of vehicles slowing their speed.

The possibility of redesign is of importance here. Diefenbaker's critics bitterly pointed out that the Bomarcs were useless without their nuclear warheads and that Diefenbaker knew this when he had initially approved their installation. By implication, the charge was that Diefenbaker disingenuously claimed that there were two decisions associated with the missile program - one to deploy, the other to arm - when in fact there was only one. The potential for redesign - with the associated question of who may redesign - should be of prime importance as new technologies are adopted in Canada. Cook's pragmatist approach implies an open potential for redesign. This potential is inherent in the incremental changes and even retrenchment that are thought to be possible at each stage of social development. It assumes that the choices for change are always available. By contrast, Ellul/Grant would argue that technology's totalizing effects are structurally obscured from view and that redesign is not always a clear choice. The consequences of technology are often socially resilient; in some cases they cannot be rescinded. It is not simply the technologies that societies must choose or not choose, but also the social outcomes with which those technologies will become historically associated.

Returning to the broadband projects that are planned and in progress in Canada, a social process must be created in which the question of redesign is addressed as a matter of priority. The events associated with the missile crisis that have been considered here constituted a strange loop. The Bomarcs were impotent without nuclear warheads, but arming them with warheads would undermine Canadian national autonomy - a condition under which they would be rendered virtually unusable as an instrument of Canadian defence policy. There was no provision for revisiting the broad outcomes of the technology or even for thinking about ways that it would be used alternatively. It is conceivable that broadband networks, too, could form well-trod pathways for the hegemonic exercise of power. Meaningful consultation on the design of the network is needed at the outset, with redesign, regarded in the broadest possible terms, to be considered as an essential feature of the system.

The access and new connections of a wired Canada are explicitly intended to lead to new forms of social integration. In encouraging wide access to the Internet and ICTs, governments seek a cohesive national economy (Canada, 1999). The pragmatic strain of thought associated with such programs is clear: Canadians are to become fuller participants in a global economy through gaining fuller access to information and communications technologies. Yet the new connections of a technologically mediated world in which Canada will participate actively are likely to be characterized by old forms of alienation. Habermas suggests it is possible that the "systemic processes" of a wired world will lead, not to a global village, but to "the fragmentation of a multiplicity of global villages unrelated to each other" (1996, p. 292, italics added). Such fragmentation may well occur within the confederal and regional framework of Canadian politics, and not only between nation-states and free-trade zones. The pragmatic pole of the dialectic is not likely to be as practical as some might assume.

Canadians might do well to return to a consideration of the chasms and cleavages of our national life that have become known to us from other historical periods of disturbance. An idealist strain of thought on the dialectic of technology and nationalism would lead us to concern ourselves with - to touch on only the most intractable cases - continued attention to Native claims for forms of sovereignty, a meaningful acknowledgment that some portion of the population will not or cannot participate in the marketplace of paid work, and a recognition of the intrinsic value of rural and folk ways of life. Giving substantive attention to areas that are likely, in the age of ICTs, to become more resistant to efforts to encourage social integration could allow the Grant-Cook dialectic to find continuing relevance. In this way, the historic, pragmatic accommodations given priority by Cook in his deliberation on the technological-nationalist question and the principle of national autonomy given primacy by Grant on the same question might be accomplished at once.


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