Authors: Christopher Cochrane and Andrea M.L. Perrella
Published December 2012 in Canadian Journal of Political Science.
Abstract: This article contests the concepts of “region” and “regionalism” in Canadian political science. There is widespread agreement among observers of politics in Canada that the country is divided in politically consequential ways along regional lines. There is little agreement, however, about what causes these regional divisions or, indeed, about where the lines of regional division should be drawn. As a result, rival explanations for regional differences in Canada are commonly tested against different evidence arising from different definitions of region. This article argues that “region” should be conceptualized in generalizable terms as the physical space that surrounds an individual, and that “regionalism” should be conceptualized as an affective attachment to the people, places and institutions within a geographic area. Regionalism, from this perspective, is a concept that plays an important role in driving regional differences in opinion differences rather than simply describing these differences. The article applies this argument to a study of regional differences in Canadian opinions about government involvement in the economy. The empirical analysis points to the need for the development of concepts that can be generalized across explanations and levels of analysis. Even on the single issue analyzed here, regional differences appeared to have different causes in different regions, and these different causes seemed to operate at different levels of analysis.