Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Laurence C. Thorsen


This thesis attempts to discuss a unique political phenomenon in North America - successful Canadian socialism. The first part discusses a workable definition of ideology and a theoretical approach to the explanation of legitimate ideological diversity. The second part of the paper explains the socio-economic and political milieu of Western Canadian society in the early twentieth century and the evolution of a consequent Anglophone socialist movement in response to this environment. The third part discusses concurrent Francophone political phenomena.

Ideology is defined as an amalgamation of commonly agreed upon principles designed to promote a particular communal or national interest. Gad Horowitz' application of Louis Hartz' theory of ideological diversity in 'new' societies founded through European colonization is subsequently discussed. This theory posits socialism to be the dialectical outcome of a conflict between British toryism and nineteenth-century liberalism. Due to the background of Canadian immigration, Canada maintained a unique tory strain which shared the common element of collectivism with socialist ideology. This theorizes the acceptance of socialist thought in the midst of North American liberalism.

Having discussed the theoretical aspects of ideological diversity, this thesis describes the principal socialist movement in early twentieth-century Canada which espoused the principles of the "social gospel". The paper traces the electoral success of the movement turned political party, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, between the general election years of 1935 and 1962. While the party was never successful in forming the national government, many of its social welfare policies were adopted by the liberal centre out of political necessity.

In the last chapter, a brief overview of the historical cultural, economic and political factors contributing to modern Quebec nationalist sentiment is presented along with an outline of the most significant nationalist movements in the province's twentieth-century political history. A comparison is drawn between the evolution of socialist ideology in Anglophone Canada and nationalist socialist ideology in Francophone Canada.

In summation, Hartz' theory of ideological diversity does not argue the dialectical inevitability of socialism. It does, however, theorize the existence of this ideology in regards to the degree to which it is accepted. In this respect, the electoral success of socialist political parties is less important than the success of collectivist social movements. The principles of these movements have indeed had a significant impact on Canadian public policy making.