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Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada Paperback – September 3, 2014
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"What causes dramatic changes in political culture? Historic events, powerful leaders or breakthroughs in science and technology form the basis on many. But in the age of globalization, the internet and information overload, there are also more subtle and incremental ways to effect change. Harperism connects the dots by drawing a line between the free market philosophy espoused by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and the global phenomenon of conservative think tanks. Gutstein argues that the dotted line leads all the way to the change in political culture that encouraged nearly 40 percent of Canadians to vote for the most conservative prime minister in Canadian history." (Beth Haddon, Literary Review of Canada)
"Harperism has been published months ahead of what is quite possibly the most important federal election ever... [It is essential reading. Understanding its central thesis is important to every voter, including the mistaken 30+% who think they are supporting conservatism, not liberalism. And it should be mandatory reading for anyone planning to not cast their precious ballot. It offers scary motivation, indeed, for all Canadians to get to the polls this fall." (Bruce Mason, Common Ground)
"Gutstein argues that right wing think-tanks and their allies are made more influential by a mainstream media echo chamber. He says an examination of the 2013 Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies database shows that research from right wing sources like the Fraser Institute appears more often than papers released by left and progressive think-tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The tax-and-service-cutting gospel promoted by bodies like the Fraser Institute seems to have the compelling power of constant repetition and this may be one of the reasons, as this book suggests, that Harper and his colleagues have been as successful as they have been at changing the face of Canada."
(Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun)
"A Best Book of 2014" (The Hill Times)
"Harperism is the best explanation yet for what's happening in Ottawa and demonstrates why the Harper revolution will be difficult to unravel even if the Conservatives lose the next election." (The Georgia Straight, Best Books of 2014)
"While it may sometimes seem the Harper government's policies are an ad hoc mixture of right-wing populism, poll-driven opportunism and economic austerity (with a dash of nationalism and military swagger thrown in), a new book by Donald Gustein argues that Conservative policy development is more calculated than that, and heavily influenced by the work of think tanks." (Frank Bayerl, The Monitor (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives))
"Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, in 1947 seems far removed from Ottawa, Canada, 2014, and yet Gutstein methodically makes the links between the neoliberal, neo-conservative agenda and the current government's handling of a number of high profile issues." (Amira Elghawaby, rabble.ca)
"Engaging...Gutstein's most important observation for the future is that other countries that have endured comparable regimes the U.K. under Thatcher; the U.S. under Regan and Bush, Sr. did not see neoliberal policies reversed by the centrist administration that followed."
(Dan Rowe, Quill & Quire)
"Do all of the examples contained in Gutstein's book make the case for something we can name Harperism? There's a revolving door of individuals who all pass through think tanks, media, and government that have supported Harper's policies and the Conservative Party itself. The case for Harperism is strong."
(Gerard Di Triolo, Briarpatch Magazine)
"This book sheds new light on Harper's symbiotic relationships with the network of conservative think tanks that created the environment that moved his ideas from the fringes to the mainstream and continue to validate his agenda."
(Bruce Campbell, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) 2014-09-01)
About the Author
DONALD GUTSTEIN has written four books on the links between large corporations, politics, and the media. His previous book, Not A Conspiracy Theory, is a history of the Fraser Institute and other think tanks. Gutstein writes for The Tyee, Georgia Straight, and rabble.ca. He is an adjunct professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and co-director of NewsWatch Canada, a media-monitoring project in the school. He lives in Vancouver.
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The book begins with a thesis; Canada, a country with deep communal traditions (universal healthcare, welfare, minimum wages, etc.), is being transformed into a market-driven society, ripe for privatization. The shift is detailed through eight chapters, each focusing on an aspect required to implement the postulated transformation - (i) the ideology's origin in the economic works of Friedrich Hayek & Milton Friedman, (ii) ideological dissemination into the public sphere, (iii) areas of resistance to be overcome/undermined (a chapter each on unionized/collective bargaining, collective property rights of First Nations, ecological & environmental concerns, independent scientific research and income inequality), and (iv) the use of national patriotism coupled with the appropriation of cherished national symbols. The conclusion Gutstein (author and university professor on policy, politics, journalism and propaganda) comes to is articulated above but merits repeating; governments are shifting towards servicing the needs of markets and economies and not the elements that drive them; the voting public whose interests they are supposed to represent.
Almost every book of this nature is subjected to one of two criticisms (or both) - (a) this is nothing beyond a conspiracy theory and (b) were it to be true, no course of action is being posited to resolve the problem. The first argument is juvenile and cannot stand subjection to rudimentary logic: an unlikely or unconventional theory has been posited; since the proposition is unlikely or unconventional, the theory is false. The obvious assumption that would need to be in place for this argument to hold, is some variant of the claim that "all unlikely or unconventional theories are false". Human history is full of contrarian examples that discredit this assertion - the theory of gravity, the earth's spherical shape, rotation around the sun, etc. - all unlikely ideas for their time, all undeniably true (if you take issue with the truth-claim of the examples listed, this is not the book for you. But books, one imagines, rank low on your list of problems if you believe the world is flat). Good investigative journalism is the pursuit of factual evidence; it is the microscope and the telescope of our social reality - looking at ignored details, helping us understand the larger picture along the way. With over 700 references, from varied sources (national and international publications, peer-reviewed journals, books, competing editorial view points, conference documentation, scientific findings, etc.) Gutstein would have to be a conjurer of magical proportions to have fabricated the sheer volume of information required to support his conclusion. The tremendous amount of backing he is able to find for his assertions, allows us to place his theory in the realm of the highly probable rather than the improbable.
What makes "Harperism" a pertinent book is that it not only exposes the underpinnings of a system - many books on ideology and political systems accomplish this feat. Gutstein's work sets itself apart from others on the topic by providing concrete, actionable steps on how things could be changed (e.g. what are the signaling factors that a system is moving into the life-support stage of its existence). I do not wish to "ruin" the text for anyone by disclosing what the proposed agenda looks like; that being said, I encourage readers to pay special attention to the final section (sub-headed "Conclusion"), as this is where the nucleus of a program, one geared towards pertinent change, can be found. This is an important and relevant book, one that will appeal not only to political activists but to all Canadians interested in making an informed choice in the 2015 federal elections.
In short, I want people to read "Harperism" and to take active interest in social, political and economic issues; I want people to understand that "what" you think is secondary to "how" you think about a topic; I want us all to vote based not on archaic partisan loyalties ("I always vote Liberal/Conservative/Green/NDP!") but with the objective of bending equality's arc towards the betterment of our families, societies and fellow humans.