Margaret Thatcher transformed British political life forever. So did Ronald Reagan in the United States. Now Canada has experienced a similar, dramatic shift to a new kind of politics, which author Donald Gutstein terms Harperism. Among its key tenets:
These and other essential elements of Harperism flow from neo-liberal economic theories propounded by the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek and his U.S. disciples. They inspired Thatcherism and Reaganism. Stephen Harper has taken this neo-liberalism much further in many key areas. As Donald Gutstein shows, Harper has successfully used a strategy of incremental change coupled with denial of the underlying neo-liberal analysis that explains these hard-to-understand measures.
The success of Harperism is no accident. Donald Gutstein documents the links between the politicians, think tanks, journalists, academics, and researchers who nurture and promote each other's neo-liberal ideas. They do so using funds provided by ultra-rich U.S. donors, by Canadian billionaires like Peter Munk, and by many big corporations--all of whom stand to gain from the ideas and policies the Harperites develop and push.
This book casts new light on the last ten years of Canadian politics. It documents the challenges that Harperism--with or without Stephen Harper--will continue to offer to the many Canadians who do not share this pro-market world view.
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.
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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.”
"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."
"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."
"Donald Gutstein does a powerful job of analyzing the ideology and practice of Harperism as it rolls steadily across the institutions of our country, undermining regulations, firing researchers, intimidating NGOs, and demonizing labour unions, environmentalists, and Native leaders."
"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.”
"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."
"An immensely powerful and insightful probe of Stephen Harper's impact on Canada. While the mainstream media allows Harper to portray himself as a moderate, Donald Gutstein skillfully traces the deep links between Harper and the right-wing world of corporate-funded think tanks. A great book for anyone looking to cast an informed vote in the 2015 election."
"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."
"A Best Book of 2014"