Who Is Afraid of the State?: Canada in a World of Multiple Centres of Power


430 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-8388-9
DDC 320.971




Edited by Gordon Smith and Daniel Wolfish
Reviewed by David E. Smith

David E. Smith is a professor of political Studies at the University of
Saskatchewan. He is the author of Building a Province: A History of
Saskatchewan in Documents, The Invisible Crown, and Republican Option in
Canada, Past and Present.


This is the first publication in The Trends Project series, a
collaborative effort of the Policy Research Secretariat and the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Future volumes will include,
among others, works on aging, value change, and the environment. In Who
Is Afraid of the State?, 10 authors have produced seven papers; the
editors have jointly written the introduction and conclusion.

The observation that multiple centres of power exist in the world is
not new. Nor is the fact itself; even back in the days of old-fashioned
imperialism, there was London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Toyko. What is
perplexing about the modern world is its apparent “decentredness”;
national governments are becoming no more than what one author here
describes as “mere mailboxes.” The old, theistic state, once at the
centre of the citizen’s universe, is as much the author of change as
its object, devolving responsibility to individuals on the one hand,
privatizing state power on the other. On all sides, international,
nongovernmental, and multinational organizations proliferate. Is the
state fated to disappear; or might it profit from these new networks of
interdependence? These questions and their answers are momentous.

Smith and Wolfish have succeeded in keeping a tight rein on their
authors and a sharp focus on their subject—that is, the state, the
international system and “multiple centres of power.” Some of the
chapters suffer from duplication; some of the authors are too dependent
on their secondary sources; and, in the end, the answer to the question
whether the state is endangered is left frustratingly ambivalent.
Nonetheless, the scope of the investigation is original and the quality
of the argument superior. This book is an important contribution to a
growing debate.


“Who Is Afraid of the State?: Canada in a World of Multiple Centres of Power,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7720.