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The Vertical Mosaic - The Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada (1965)

The Vertical Mosaic - The Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada (1965)

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Dr. John Porter
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History, Canadian, Non Fiction

Preface from The Vertical Mosaic THIS BOOK is an attempt to examine the hitherto unexplored subjects of social class and power in Canadian society. However, because no one volume can present a total picture of a modern society, or even of some aspect of that society, there is much that is left unsaid in this study, and many fascinating paths that remain for later investigations. I have tried to suggest some of those which time and resources did not permit me to take.The class and power structure of a modern society arouses a great deal of interest. For example, there is the ethical consideration that class differences appear to contradict those values of a democratic society which emphasize equality. Another reason for the interest is psychological: people have ambivalent feelings about power; that is, men of power are respected, idolized, and often endowed with magical qualities, but as well they are viewed with suspicion, as conspirators against the public good. In the middle of the twentieth century there is also the more practical concern that only the ablest people get into top positions, for, at a time marked by keen international competition, no society can rely on a system of privilege as the basis of recruitment to the higher occupational levels. A system of privilege exists where higher occupational levels are preserved, or tend to be preserved, for particular social groups. Where privilege does exist it may be traced to differences in educational opportunity. Consequently, most modern industrial societies have introduced policies to democratize their educational systems, and so help to bring about more equality of opportunity and at the same time to increase the amount of trained ability that is available. At the level of institutional leadership, that is, of elite groups, it is even more crucial that there be no impediments to people of ability getting to the top. Class can be one such obstacle because it seriously impedes the development of skills in persons having initial talent.Those attracted to the subject of power by the "inside dope" that is often found in newspapers and popular magazines will be disappointed with this study. I have included little information that is not readily available to any other researcher. The benefit that I have received from discussions with powerful men is not that I can tell secrets about them, for that has not been my intent, but rather that I have become better oriented to the structures within which these men work.My academic colleagues may be disappointed that I have not presented extensive case studies of particular decisions which elites have made. Valuable and necessary to the understanding of power as such studies might be, my interest has been to look at the institutional context within which decisions are made and to learn something of the type of men who make them. However, I do refer frequently to important decisions, and in the last chapter I try to show how elites co-operate or come into conflict in reaching them.There are many places in this analysis of class and power where I have regretted the inadequacy of the data to give fuller support to the qualified assertions which I have made. Data rarely come in just the form we should like to receive them. Where appropriate I have drawn attention to the tentativeness of the conclusions which must stand as hypotheses for further testing in future investigations. Furthermore, data can be interpreted in different ways according to the theories which investigators use and the values which they hold. Throughout the book I have tried to make explicit the various theories or theoretical considerations about class and power in society which help to make sense of the evidence I have presented.Perhaps less explicit are personal values which have had an influence on the kinds of problems I have sought to analyze. I attach great importance to equality of opportunity on both ethical and practical grounds. I am aware of the criticisms which have been made of the possible development of meritocracies, but I am not convinced that recent extensions of opportunity, particularly in education, are having a detrimental effect on individuals or societies. I believe strongly, too, in the creative role of politics, and in the importance of political institutions as the means through which the major goals of the society can be achieved. Where these values have influenced my interpretation of the facts will, I think, be clear to the reader.In a society which is made up of many cultural groups there is usually some relationship between a person's membership in these groups and his class position and, consequently, his chances of reaching positions of power. Because the Canadian people are often referred to as a mosaic composed of different ethnic groups, the title, "The Vertical Mosaic," was originally given to the chapter which examines the relationship between ethnicity and social class. As the study proceeded, however, the hierarchical relationship between Canada's many cultural groups became a recurring theme in class and power. For example, it became clear that the Canadians of British origin have retained, within the elite structure of the society, the charter group status with which they started out, and that in some institutional settings the French have been admitted as a co-charter group whereas in others they have not. The title, "The Vertical Mosaic," therefore seemed to be an appropriate link between the two parts of the book.-- John Porter, Carleton University, January 1965