Eroding a Way of Life
University of Regina Press / 23 April 2024

Eroding a Way of Life: Neoliberalism and the Family Farmby Murray KnuttilaPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$39.95 ISBN 9780889779457 I admit I had to look up the definition of neoliberalism before cracking into this book. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explained it in a way I could almost understand: “The philosophical view that a society’s political and economic institutions should be robustly liberal and capitalist, but supplemented by a constitutionally limited democracy and a modest welfare state.” In terms of reform policies, we are talking about eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, and lowering trade barriers. With that in mind, I dove into Eroding a Way of Life.  This book looks at the history and trajectory of farms in Western Canada and specifically Saskatchewan. Once that is established, we see how that intertwines with national and international political economy. Social class is an essential component in these chapters as it is a vital factor at play when understanding the transformation of rural Saskatchewan.  Knuttila begins with a look at merchant capitalism from the 1500s through to the Industrial Revolution. We move onto industrial capitalism, the period from the 1770s to the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Then we delve into conditions…

From Left to Right
University of Regina Press / 26 January 2023

From Left to Rightby Dale EislerPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Madonna Hamel$34.95 (pb)ISBN 9780889778641 In his book From Left to Right: Saskatchewan’s Political and Economic Transformation, Dale Eisler helps us take a clear-eyed look at the province as the world economy shifted from post-industrial to global and the province’s population moved from farms to cities. Case in point: In 1971, 47% of Saskatchewan’s population lived on farms. By 2016 the the number was down to 16%. Eisler begins by attempting to define “populism” because , he says “the role of prairie populism is key to understanding the province’s values, economy and culture as a whole.” “For populism to ignite,” he writes, “two things are needed: something or someone to focus their anger and alienation on, and somebody who articulates their emotions in compelling and emotional language.” In engaging language Eisler describes the many faces of “populism” and how, over the decades, its meaning has changed to embrace both liberal and conservative voices. He is also quick to point to papa Trudeau’s cavalier disregard of the prairies when he asked, in 1969, “Why should I sell your wheat?” The off-handed comment aimed at a people who were losing their…

Frenemy Nations
University of Regina Press / 18 December 2019

Frenemy Nations: Love and Hate Between Neighbo(u)ring StatesBy Mary SoderstromPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Michelle Shaw$27.95 ISBN 9780889776722 In the summer of 1968, Mary Soderstrom and her husband loaded up their Volkswagen Beetle and immigrated to Canada from the United States. “We were young, we were disgusted with the [Vietnam] war, and we were hopeful that we’d find something different across the border,” she says. “But to be honest, we didn’t expect things to be too different. After all, weren’t Canada and the United States very much alike?” The contrast between their new home and their old led to a long running reflection that continued to intrigue her over the years.…How could two places that are similar in so many ways be so disparate in others? In Fremeny Nations, Soderstrom looks at a range of geographical “odd couples” that she has encountered over the years. In addition to the United States and Canada, the book also examines the two Vietnams, Algeria and Tunisia, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Brazil and the rest of South America, Burundi and Rwanda, Scotland and Ireland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Vermont and New Hampshire and, intriguingly, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The book explores these…

Back to Blakeney
University of Regina Press / 8 October 2019

Back to Blakeney: Revitalizing the Democratic Stateedited by David McGrane, John D. Whyte, Roy Romanow, and Russell IsingerPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$34.95 ISBN 9780889776418 Back to Blakeney: Revitalizing the Democratic State is the political biography of Allan Blakeney, a political giant who served as Saskatchewan’s tenth premier from 1971 to 1982. This 342-page volume stems directly from a 2015 conference held at the University of Saskatchewan in which fifteen academic essayists discussed and evaluated Blakeney’s legacy to the democratic state in Canada. It’s wholly appropriate that academics discuss Blakeney as he himself was an academic, achieving early distinction as a Rhodes scholar. As the subtitle suggests, this study harks back to Saskatchewan in the 1970s, a difficult but in some ways a better time. It was better because Blakeney stuck to his principles in trying times. The editors applaud Blakeney’s “openness to other views” and “his ability to extend courtesy in debate” – rare phenomena in today’s politics. In paying tribute to Blakeney’s many achievements, this scholarly study reveals a certain slant in perception; the editors acknowledge that Blakeney was a personal friend of theirs. One of the essayists and editors is Roy Romanow, a former…

Clearing the Plains, New Edition
University of Regina Press / 20 August 2019

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Lifeby James DaschukPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Ben Charles$27.95 ISBN 978088776227 Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life, written by James Daschuk and published by University of Regina Press, can be best described as a heart wrenching but enlightening review of the systematic destruction of Indigenous peoples and culture in the prairies via the purposeful introduction of disease, starvation, and health disparities by both the Canadian government and private companies. This 2019 New Edition and winner of the Aboriginal History Prize, Cleo Prize, Governor General’s History and ironically the Sir John A. McDonald Prize, was originally published in 2013 and since then has obviously been praised by critics and readers alike. In fact, this reviewer truly believes that every Saskatchewanian should have a copy of this book on their shelves. James Daschuk, a PhD in history and a current associate professor with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, showcases his unprecedented capacity for research and provides the reader with fascinating (albeit sickening) review of the history of Indigenous health both pre and post-contact. During initial contact, while the…

Organized Violence

Organized Violence: Capitalist Warfare in Latin AmericaEdited by Dawn Paley and Simon Granovsky-LarsenPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780889776104 What an eye-opening book! The amount of research required to end up with Organized Violence is staggering. Besides Paley and Granovsky-Larsen, 15 additional experts contributed to this meaty tome. The result is a well-rounded, masterful exposé on the violence in Latin America. But it is so much more than that; it’s an in-depth catalogue of human rights, social justice, and global capitalism mixed with violence.  Organized Violence is so packed that it isn’t easy to give a true glimpse into the book in a brief review. The subject matter is multi-faceted, with more layers than are apparent at the outset. Add the emergence and growth of capitalism into the equation and you have a subject that is extremely complex. The war on drugs, an abundance of poverty, and people living in constant terror complicate it even further. I was simultaneously horrified and humbled at how little I know of what is going on in other parts of the world. Take Honduras for example. One of the predominant cultures in that area – the Garifuna people –…

Outlier: Life, Law, and Politics in the West
Benchmark Press / 7 February 2017

Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West by Garrett Wilson Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-1-927352-28-1 In his hard-hitting autobiography, Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West, retired lawyer and author Garrett Wilson doesn’t pull any punches. He tells it as he sees it, exposing scandalous government corruption at both provincial and federal levels. His chapter on Hazen Argue and his wife Jean, for instance, exposes outrageous abuses in the Canadian Senate. The Outlier title may be somewhat misleading as it implies Wilson is on the outside looking in while momentous decisions are being made. But Wilson is not merely an eyewitness to history; he‘s at its very nerve centre and plays a role in making that history. When the Ku Klux Klan tries to intimidate Wilson’s father in the 1920s by burning a cross just outside their village, Wilson may sense he’s in for a rough life. He develops a severe kidney infection and his older brother Kevin is killed in World War II. While studying law at the University of Saskatchewan, Wilson becomes editor of The Sheaf, the student newspaper, winning three trophies, including one for best editorials. He begins to…

Disengaged: Fixed Date, Democracy, and Understanding the 2011 Manitoba Election
University of Regina Press / 21 October 2015

Disengaged? Fixed Date, Democracy and Understanding the 2011 Manitoba Election By Andrea D. Rounce and Jared J. Wesley Published by University of Regina Press Review by Allison Kydd $39.95 ISBN 9780889773554 A book written primarily by academics for academics may not initially jump off the shelf. Then there are the realities of publishing date-sensitive material; contributors’ reasonable comments and assumptions can be out of date by time of publication. Yet Disengaged?, a disassembling of a particular election, identifies important issues and has implications beyond the province of Manitoba in 2011. It also made fascinating reading while the country was in the midst of the 2015 federal election campaign. As suggested by the title, Andrea Rounce, Jared Wesley and nine other contributors focus on voter engagement, as democracy depends on an engaged electorate. Insights about voter participation are also relevant outside Manitoba, and political science professor Wesley compares Manitoba voter trends with federal rates and those of other provinces. He also provides some historical background. Unfortunately, some comments are out of date. For instance, Wesley makes no mention of “the orange sweep” and election of New Democratic poster girl Rachel Notley in Alberta. Neither do speculations about the significance of a…