Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2010


Published in Great Plains Research 20.1 (Spring 2010): 147-48.


Copyright 2010 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


Seymour Martin Lipset, rather famously associated with the concept of “American Exceptionalism” and renowned as one of the leading practitioners of political sociology in the United States, was better known in Canada for works that seemed to make little, if any, impression upon U.S. readers. First and foremost was his landmark study of the social democratic Co-operative Commonwealth Federation’s (CCF) rise to political power in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan—Agrarian Socialism. It is the stuff of legend in Canadian academic circles how a young PhD student—a Jewish leftist from New York no less—came to Saskatchewan in the mid 1940s both to study a successful socialist movement in one part of North America and, in so doing, discover why his own country was the only western industrialized society that had never produced a serious socialist movement. This 1950 publication—often referred to as the seminal work on political sociology in Saskatchewan and one of the most important works on the development of third parties in Canada—was then supplanted for a later generation of readers by Lipset’s equally famous (in Canada, that is) 1968 revision of Agrarian Socialism, by which time his youthful socialism had been replaced with a far more pragmatic world view. And then, 40 years later, as if to prove he had never stopped caring about Canada and the inherent value of comparative analysis, Lipset published his somewhat controversial (again, controversial primarily in Canadian academic circles) Continental Divide: The Values and Institutions of the United States and Canada.