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Book Review – Desiring Canada by James F. Cosgrave and Patricia Cormack

An earlier statement made famous by Pierre Trudeau in the late sixties owing to his attribution that there is no precise location a performative contradiction appears to be for the establishment in the bedroom of nations. It is a reflection of the paradox of liberal democratic state that focuses on a form of leadership that signifies that the state will never be absent from any aspect within its population. The statement from the then Canadian prime minister does imply that there was much to his meaning to attract public interest, nor does it imply that the state of Canada continues interfere with the lives of Canadians in order to control but rather there exists more than that as Cormack and Cosgrave claim. In Desiring Canada, the two authors present an argument that portrays more of the assertions of Trudeau than removal of the state to indicate a developed relation that exists between the state and its citizen’s pleasures (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013). To these authors, the relationship between the state as well as its citizens aims at cultivating the citizen’s pleasures as opposed to regulating their pleasures. The book is based on a sophisticated and detailed analysis as well as close observation of everyday life of the Canadian citizens ensuring the authors present a work that portrays how the state supports the passion of it citizens as opposed to quelling such passions. The paper therefore examines the book, Desiring Canada main strong points that portray the actions behind the authors’ indication of the Canadian state bi-political mandate of supporting the desires of its citizens as opposed to quelling such passions.

Desiring Canada presents how popular cultural activities within the nation are made part of the nation building enterprise. Cormack and Cosgrave offer a view that portrays the state like all other forms of products in a country that characterizes the consumer society. That approach entails the need for a country to market itself as well as its services to the public it serves. The requirement, however, proves a different aspect that the state is not used to and also an element that fails to suit the state considering its role within the public and running a nation. To accomplish such a requirement, the state ensures forming a partnership with those operating in the private sector while also handling to corporations the much-required responsibility that provides rallying the public towards supporting national ideals. The approach by the state, therefore, implies privatization of national identity to ensure control of citizen’s desires. To Cormack and Cosgrave, such an attainment is evidenced by the Tim Hortons that has ensured creating an attachment with the Canadian civilians in every aspect of the country. For example, Tim remains a designated place where politicians with divergent views and those that vehemently oppose each other meet to press the flesh as well as stage their photo opportunities since they know that the citizens attribute the business with primary street values (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013). Consequently, the company also ensures presentation of coffee shops in areas where they ensure immigrant Canadians discover the customs that the new approach within their country takes. The company also ensures provision of support through attachment and support of the national game through sponsoring youth hockey as well as providing other support in various hockey promotions. The most significant achievement is that Tim has not only captured the Canadian public through its sale of coffee and creating a form of national culture for the coffee, but also ensured it remains the Canadian coffee shop for the Canadian military. Upon the opening of Time coffee shop at Afghanistan to serve the Canadian soldiers serving in the battlefield, Cormack and Cosgrave notes the comments of the military General, Rick Hillier who was the chief of defense during that time as an indication of the superb relationship existing between the two Canadian institutions. These remarks portray the significant respect of Tim coffee shops awarded from the state that the business is seen more of an institution as opposed to a profit making institute. Tim Hortons therefore does not only reflect the values of Canadians, but rather developed into a place essential for developing as well as creating national identity.

Book Review – Desiring Canada by James F. Cosgrave and Patricia Cormack

Through presenting all their work on three interrelated aspects that touches on pleasure, identity as well as the state, Cormack and Cosgrave successfully interrelates these three aspects to form a triangular framework. The authors attribute three presumptions in support of these three frameworks with supporting evidence within the country and outside that touches on the Canadian citizens abroad. From the authors’ presumptions, desire is portrayed as a social as well as socially constructed concept as opposed to a small artifact that comprises of individual personality. These desires are presented through the CBC, hockey, comedy, as well as the drive thru coffee all over the country and that provides a connection for all the citizens. But as presented, the desires of Canadians present a complex relationship for both the Canadian identity as well as the state needs (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013). The other perspective portrays desiring Canada to amount to a observation of the Canadian state like any other democratic nation as one that aims at becoming the desired object throughout all its populations minds and hearts. There exists dire need for liberal democracies to ensure their actions remain appealing to the imaginations of the public irrespective whether that occurs during elections preparations. The Canadian state requires its citizens desires an indication that it focuses on ensuring that the public needs represent a Canadian form of being. Cormack and Cosgrave attribute nationalism as the only goal towards achieving such an objective through ensuring that it serves as the primary objective. Cormack and Cosgrave present a multi-sided approach towards ensuring nationalism in different aspects employed by the Canadian government. First approach towards enhancing nationalism is emphasized through provision of a state-mandated as well as institutionalized culture in the industrial level through patents formations that aim at luring the public to the industry to ensure a feeling of the patents as objects of identification and desire. A major example in chapter one relates to the CBC slogan that implies “Canada Lives Here”. Consequently, on chapter two, another aspect of nationalism is evident where sentimental nationalism is evoked through provision of bad coffee, donuts as well as advertisings. Other examples that portray nationalism as the means to an end of achieving the desires of the Canadian state are explored by Cormack and Cosgrave in other chapters. For example, in chapter three, hockey is a national sport that has led to the institutionalization of a national ritual that encompasses sacrificial “domestic violence”. In describing what Desiring Canada means, the final feature Cormack and Cosgrave stress relates to the element of ensuring that people with a passion for desire are cultivated. The statement entails formation of national identity while ensuring there occurs a celebrated and perpetuated crisis, a complete lack enhancing creation of pleasure for wanting. The expressions from the authors here signify that in a situation where there lacks a desire to celebrate what is evidenced in Canada, the Canadian citizens will continue to celebrate for that lack. These desires are explained through the approach portrayed by the citizens as indicated by the citizens’ enjoyment of CBC bureaucracy through a form of resistance while also being countered by low-brow of anti-knowledgeable feeling portrayed by the consumer publics that consume Tim Hortons Coffee or provide tax payment through VLT (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013).

Cormack and Cosgrave present a well-balanced piece of work that either through ridicule or support of activities that seem to hold the Canadians together, ensure that the right approach of how such achievement is made. Considering the role played by hockey, as well as CBC,, it seems so central in Desiring Canada through exploring the inner perspectives attributed with such programs. The Mother Corp program, as well as its contests, plays a significant role in enhancing a derivation of a desire towards the Canadians. Such contents are portrayed by Cormack and Cosgrave as essential in ensuring CBC provides a platform that helps Canadians in finding out who they are. Owing to the slogan that states “Canada Lives Here,” the CBC radio as well as television has ensured the creation of a home base and support from the Canadian public. The contests despite looking inane in some particular situations ensure reinforcing a form of networking role as a form of authority from the perspective of national identity (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013). The concept that Canada is responsible for explaining to its citizens remains a persistent theme on the Canadian cultural landscape as Cormack and Cosgrave explains. The theme implies as a major cause of perpetuating the crisis of identity that is okay irrespective of the failure to solve issues relating to such crisis. The conversation continues all through without giving a conclusion that leads to an establishment of the CBC as the ideal center that focuses on thinking about the Canadian question. Consequently, the CBC ensures major claim to cultural importance through ensuring a link with hockey, a national sporting activity. Cormack and Cosgrave attribute the significant role of hockey in Canada as one that can only be rivaled by the actions of charismatic politicians, as well as political movements. These comparisons relate to the attribute that portrays sport as a major contributor and an activity that leads to the development of strong collective emotions as well as nationalistic fervor among the public. The authors present the importance of Hockey Night in Canada through presenting the duration that CBC has televised and put the program on radio from a time dating back to 1952 while going ahead to indicate that the Canadians worship hockey. The state is thus using hockey through the CBC to present a form of definition of the identity of Canada that takes the form of toughness, masculinity as well as nostalgic characteristics. Hockey’s game resident intellectual also presents for the audience a list of individuals that fall under the umbrella of Canadians. Irrespective of hockey fights that takes condemnation and condoning, the presentation of those fights takes a soft form as a unique manner present among Canadians aggression forms (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013). Another significant aspect that Cormack and Cosgrave focus as a major identity for Canadians relates to the business of gambling. Irrespective of the risks associated with the gambling business, the presentation is made in such a manner that the state and the Canadian public feel affiliated to their actions in the form of a unique manner.

The most pleasing aspect of the book relates to the fact that Cormack and Cosgrave have ensured a smooth run of the theoretical machinery, humming along in the background while still maintaining the daily aspects that remain the basis of attention. The authors concluding injunction indicated to “mind the gap” as opposed to “enjoy the symptom,” plays a significant role in ensuring the audience refer back to democratic engagement as a means of defining citizenship as opposed to some beliefs or particular pronouncements. In that aspect, the audience is left with an opinion to evaluate what democracy in a democratic nation entails other than the common pronouncements orchestrated by the state or other institutions to the public. Cormack and Cosgrave present such concluding aspects to ensure the audience seeks a deeper meaning of the aspect of becoming a citizen within a society an individual’s daily pleasures, as well as democratic impulses, get trapped in various societal setups. The society setups that trap individuals’ political desires, as well as pressures, relate to populism, myths that describe heroic sacrifice, product fetishism as well as fantasizing on attaining freedom through lottery. The concept discussed by Cormack and Cosgrave relating to gambling plays a significant role in portraying how collisions of doctored democracy with individual democracy arise. Gambling is seldom attributed to a Canadian identity; however, it results in starkest contradictions between a state that requires the desire of its citizens, yet it fails to recognize democratic citizenship of these citizens (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013). Cormack and Cosgrave present an argument that requires the role of the government as a regulator is better understood while taking into consideration its role as a monopolist. Through deriving such an understanding, the state, therefore, holds an obligation of providing a balance and management contradictions resulting from the finances it reaps as well as the social evils it generates.

In conclusion, Desiring Canada by Cormack and Cosgrave is a successful masterpiece of work that successfully portrays how states change and develop the desires of its citizens. Other than employing direct force to ensure the citizens abide by what the state feels is right for its own benefit as opposed to the good of the citizens, states ensure application of hidden means to ensure attainment of such agenda. Through providing a calling to the readers on reflecting on presented ambiguities as well as contradictions of a nationalistic state that values customers more as opposed to its citizens, the authors present a valid view of seeking the possibility of white-wash of the Canadian nationhood by the state (Cormack and Cosgrave, 2013). Cormack and Cosgrave exposure of how some institutes in a way ensure deriving the culture of a nation has been successful throughout the book through citing both the positives and negatives resulting from an all. Desiring Canada thus remains a pleasure for a reader who intends to understand more about democracy of individuals and a nation’s culture.


  • Cormack, P., & Cosgrave, J. F. (2013). Desiring Canada: CBC contests, hockey violence and other stately pleasures. Toronto [Ont.: University of Toronto Press.

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