Summer 2011

In Defense of North America

George Grant

"The very substance of our existing that has made us the leaders in technique, stands as a barrier to any thinking that might be able to comprehend technique from beyond its own dynamism."


Canadian philosopher George Grant (1918–1988), one of the twentieth century’s most thoughtful critics of North American culture, summarized his thought once in the words that “we are not our own.”2 Toward the end of his life, when he knew he was dying, he amplified the meaning of these words, acknowledging that such language “was not easy for moderns”:

Christianity [is at its] center concerned with grace—if that word is given its literal meaning. Grace simply means that the great things of our existing are given us, not made by us and finally not to be understood as arbitrary accidents. Our making takes place within an ultimate givenness. However difficult it is for all of us to affirm that life is a gift, it is an assertion primal to Christianity. Through the vicissitudes of life—the tragedies, the outrages, the passions, the disciplines and madnesses of everyday existence—to be a Christian is the attempt to learn the substance of that assertion.3

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1. From Technology and Empire: Perspectives on North America in The Collected Works of George Grant, vol. 3: 1960–1969, ed. Arthur Davis and Henry Roper (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 480–503. Published with permission.

2. “Conversation: Intellectual Background,” in George Grant in Process: Essays and Conversations, ed. Larry Schmidt (Toronto: Anansi, 1978), 62–63.

3. George Grant, “Two Theological Languages,” Addendum [1988], in Collected Works of George Grant, vol. 2: 1951–1959, ed. Arthur Davis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 60.