Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Against Capital: The Political Economy of Aboriginal Resistance in Canada

Document type Thesis
Author Simmons, Deborah Lee
Degree Ph.D., Social and Political Thought
Publisher York University; Toronto
Date 1995
Pages 402


This thesis evolved out of an attempt to analyze aboriginal agency and resistance in the aftermath of the Mohawk conflict at Oka, Quebec, which took place in the summer of 1990. However, the existing political economy literature on aboriginal oppression founded in the "staple theory" outlined by Harold Adams Innis does not account for the historical significance of aboriginal resistance in Canada. The thesis undertakes a critique of the inherent assumptions in staple theory--its anthropologism, its fetish of the commodity form, and its geographical determinism--which effectively reduce aboriginal peoples to the position of passive victims in contemporary capitalist society. An alternative historiography is then proposed which considers Canadian economic and political development as the outcome of struggle. The agency of aboriginal peoples is understood in terms of their specific and changing historical position as producers, from the early fur trade to the forging of a capitalist economy and post-colonial state. If the rise of commodity wheat production is the key to the transition to capitalism in Canada, it follows that the aboriginal struggle to retain their land rights was an important obstacle to such development. The aboriginal struggle for land continues to be an obstacle to capitalist expansion; in the current context of economic integration under the North American Free Trade Agreement, such resistance has international implications. In the current climate of scapegoating and cutbacks which accompany the restructuring process, aboriginal aspirations for land and self-determination also coincide with the aims of other social movements to oppose such attacks. In fact, aboriginal self-determination is central to the broader project for social change in Canada.