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Social Science Essays

Social Criticism

The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and Other Essays

by (author) Stephen Leacock

edited by Alan Bowker

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1973
Essays, General, Economic Conditions
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    Publish Date
    Dec 1973
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Stephen Leacock, long celebrated as Canada's foremost humorist and social satirist, has received little recognition for his considerable accomplishments as a serious thinker and social critic. In fact, Leacock was a professor of political economy, and more than half of his writings addressed the pressing issues of his day. This volume represents the neglected aspect of Leacock's career, gathering together his writings on a range of subjects, including imperialism, education and culture, religion and morality, feminism, prohibition, and social justice.
The collection begins with 'Greater Canada: an appeal,' which dates from 1907, when Leacock was a popular lecturer advancing the cause of imperialism. Bowker points out that, for Leacock, imperialism was more a spiritual mission than a political agenda, representing the opportunity to unite Canadians, to inspire allegiance to a lofty tradition, and thereby to combat the threat of materialism, urbanism, fragmentation, and continentalism. These themes resurface in subsequent essays, culminating in The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, which was published in 1920. Carefully selected, and prefaced with an updated introduction to Leacock's life and work, these essays contribute to our understanding of Leacock and illuminate his role as a major figure in Canadian intellectual history.

About the authors

Award-winning Canadian humorist and writer Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) was the author of more than 50 literary works, and between 1915 and 1925 was the most popular humorist in the English-speaking world. Leacock’s fictional works include classics like Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich, and Literary Lapses. In addition to his humor writings, Leacock was an accomplished political theorist, publishing such works as Elements of Political Science and My Discovery of the West: A Discussion of East and West in Canada, for which he won the Governor General's Award for writing in 1937. Leacock’s life continues to be commemorated through the awarding of the Leacock Medal for Humour and with an annual literary festival in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario.

Stephen Leacock's profile page

Alan Bowker has a Ph.D. in Canadian history. He has served for over 30 years in Canada's foreign service, including a position as High Commissioner to Guyana. He is the editor of a collection of Leacock essays, On the Front Line of Life and Social Criticism: The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and Other Essays. He lives in Ottawa.

Alan Bowker's profile page

Editorial Reviews

'Stephen Leacock is enjoying a new vogue among Canadian historians, as he is being recognized as a pivotal figure in British-Canadian intellectual history. Alan Bowker has collected in this volume essays by Leacock on imperialism, education, prohibition, feminism, and the morality of social Darwinism, as well as a short book, all appearing between 1907 and 1920. ...
This carefully-chosen selection is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on Canadian social and political thought.'

The Canadian Historical Review

Other titles by Stephen Leacock

Other titles by Alan Bowker