The Intellectual Genealogy of the Antigonish Movement
Armstrong, Paul Fraser
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‘Civil society’ has been re-established in the social sciences as a central theoretical motif during the last twenty-five years – particularly within the fields of historical sociology, political philosophy, and moral theology. Yet, a deeper understanding of its conceptual history is essential to advance the present efforts to develop a better theory. In this study in historical sociology, I trace the emergence of the modern imaginary of civil society and explore two major ideologies of resistance to it. The study focusses on various inflection points in this history, which together, provide an overview of, what I view as, the critical theoretical issues. I then discuss the intellectual roots of the Antigonish Movement, and show how it drew from each of these major ideologies of resistance. In the early years of the twentieth century, the ‘Antigonish Movement’ in Nova Scotia was instituted using a Catholic counter-model of political organization, and an Anglo-French counter-model of économie sociale, to build a co-operative movement, a vision of co-operation which was subsequently widely emulated. While there has been considerable scholarly attention to various aspects of this Movement, particularly to its adult education methodology, this study contributes to a better understanding of the Movement’s intellectual origins, and may contribute to an improved understanding of the remaining intellectual problems in developing a coherent theory of civil society suitable for the present moment. In this last aim, the study would be a prolegomenon to what Adam Ferguson, the Eighteenth-Century Scottish moral philosopher, would call ‘moral science’, which he defined as “the study of what men ought to be, and of what they ought to wish, for themselves and for their country”.