l can report that l found my sojourn at Queen’s both stimulating and informative. It had been nearly twenty-five years since l graduated from McGill, where I took a degree in African Studies. l felt like l had come full circle with the period at Queen’s because l was examining some of the same issues that l learned about at McGill. My time at Queen’s involved research for a book (current working title “Canada in the Age of Altruism”) on what l have come to call the “development enterprise.” The development enterprise has been called the first really intentional act of global history, an unprecedented effort to engineer a world without hunger and disease. Since 1951 hundreds of billions of dollars in aid have been spent, hundreds of thousands of volunteers have embarked from Canada and other “developed” lands. Most were people who wanted to make a difference.
This book will tell the story of Canada’s postwar journey across the world stage, as it relates to the needs of the 1.3 billion people who live in poverty’s shadow. The story will emphasize the changing ways in which we have understood development — and how Canadians have confronted a world broken by un-shared bread, a world that, according to UNICEF, spends more on playing golf than on social programs for children. The tonic of self- interest has been added to altruism: Climate change and ozone depletion ignore borders, affecting us all. Footloose factories migrate south.
Many Canadians worried about global inequity have tried to do something about all of this, addressing what Michael Ignatieff calls “the needs of strangers.” l will use such people as prisms through which issues of development are reflected. This conventional journalistic device will allow me to take policy issues and changing concepts and popularize them by telling people’s stories.
l had this approach at the back of my mind when l started the Michener study-leave at Queen’s. It was just that, a time for study and conversation with academics who have been following these issues throughout their careers. Although l did not pursue a convention course of study (i.e. taking specific courses) l read widely in political science, economic, geography, sociology and development studies, going through dozens of volumes, many of which still sit on my self thanks to the university’s generosity in extending my Associate status at the Stauffer Library beyond the period covered by the Michener Fellowship.
l developed a particular interest in what bas come to be called “globalization,” and my book will attempt to place this phenomenon in historical context as well as explaining its implications for the Third World as well as for those Canadians who have implicated themselves in the development enterprise. l found several books to be particularly instructive, including Bill Greider’s One World, Ready or Not and Globalization in Question by English theorists Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson. Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes was also very helpful.
Hirst and Thompson argue that globalization is an essentially political phenomenon in that, once the notion of an ungovernable world economy is accepted as gospel – as it is in many business and political circles — a paralysis of “radical reforming national strategies” results. New forms of regulation or governance come to be seen as impossible in the face of “the judgement and sanction of international markets.” Against this background, attempts by independent nation states to chart their own courses to development become problematic.
l have also read widely on the notion of development itself. l hope that my book will offer the reader some insights into the way the idea of development has evolved from its 19th century origins to Walt Rostow’s famous stages of Economic Growth and on to today’s controversies over the development puzzle: Can a country like China “develop” along high-consumption Canadian lines, in ways that waste energy, without destroying the global environment? How can the environmental limits to conventional growth-as-development be reconciled with the very real needs of poor people in poor countries? Can we talk about development in the South without rethinking our own development model and its heavy ecological foot-print?
Another are a of interest has been Canada’s own development assistance program. l was able to do some background reading on the rise (and fall) of Ottawa’s official aid budgets, starting with Keith Spicer’s Samaritan State and moving up to date with a final draft version of David Morrison’s Aid at Ebb Tide, to be published next year by Wilfred Laurier University Press. In the course of my research l have had useful discussions with Prof. Cranford Pratt, whose ‘Canadian Development Assistance policies: An Appraisal‘ is, until the Morrison volume appears, the principal recent work in the field.
While at Queen’s l had fruitful discussions with Prof. Robert Shenton, whose book Doctrines of Development was published during my study-leave. l was also able to help this African history specialist with his current research on development by suggesting Canadian angles, specifically a look at the roads-to-resources and ARDA projects of Diefenbaker idea man Alvin Hamilton.
From my base in the Geography Department l was able to provide assistance to graduate students in Geography, History and Political Studies. This sort of interchange is the essence of academic life, and l found it stimulating in a way that my usual stay-at-home freelance métier seldom is. l consulted with profs George Lovell, Barry Riddell and Bob stock in Geography. Prof. Bruce Berman in Political Studies was also helpful. l participated regularly in the Seminar on National and International Development, and used my research to make a presentation at the Seminar this past spring. l monitored an Industrial Relations Centre graduate course on globalization and industrial relations. l lectured in an undergraduate Geography course. l also attended a very useful November, 1996 colloquium/conference that was held at Queen’s in honour of Professor Colin Leys, an eminent political scientist and theorist whose work on Kenya l had first read some twenty years ago.
l found the opportunity afforded by the Michener study-leave particularly valuable because the books that l write have one foot in the trade market and one in the college market. The Fellowship will prove particularly helpful with the latter aspect of this project. l now feel that l have enough of a theoretical understanding of issues of development that l can approach the interview phase (now just underway) with confidence. My interviewing is wide-ranging.
Aside from the academics whom l have approached during my study-leave, l have begun to speak to activists in non-governmental organizations tram World Vision to Inter Pares. l have also developed an extensive network of contacts with Canadians who have spent time as volunteers and cooperants in the South over the past forty years. l have conducted an initial interview with Marcel Massé, former volunteer in Senegal, twice president of CIDA, veteran of the IMF and the World Bank and now cabinet minister. M. Massé has assured me of his cooperation with further interviews. This phase of my research will also take me to Canadian workplaces, where l will interview workers who volunteer with labour-sponsored international development funds.
l have so far not been able to secure funding to travel abroad to research this project. It is not the sort of dramatic, newsworthy area that prompts trade publishers to offer large advances – not that the writing of Canadian non-fiction books on such subjects is ever terribly lucrative.
Without the Michener Fellowship, l have no doubt that l would not have come as far as l already have. l would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the Foundation for its generous support. l have every confidence that my book will be completed within the next twelve to fourteen months (again, freelance work slows one down) and that l shall be able once again to express my gratitude in the acknowledgements.
October 23, 1997