Social Criticism

The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and Other Essays

This re-examination of Stephen Leacock's thought in the years before 1921 presents to the modern reader some of the best of his early writings on imperialism, education and culture, religion and morality, feminism, prohibition, and social justice. Leacock is primarily remembered as the genial jester whose sunshine humour put Mariposa on the map. Scant attention has been paid to Leacock the social scientist and public intellectual perceptively commenting on the important issues of his day -- a major figure in Canadian intellectual history.

This volume gathers his writings on a range of subjects including imperialism, education and culture, religion and morality, feminism, prohibition, and the "unsolved riddle of social justice." Beginning with his 1907 speech, "Greater Canada: An Appeal", which passionately potrayed his vision of "imperialism" as a spiritual mission rather than a political agenda, Leacock's essays express his intense antipathy to the avid materialism of Canadian society, the divergence between great wealth and abject poverty, the changes caused by industrialism and the breakdown of social cohesion, religion, learning, the traditional role of women, and the idea that people exist for some purpose other than to produce and consume. They provide fresh insight into his humour as well -- for Leacock the humorist and Leacock the social scientist were the same man.

The first edition of this book, published in 1973, has been widely used in university courses. It was reiussed in 1996 with an additional 3000 words of introduction and updated bibliography.

Besides some 50 pages of introduction, the book contains the following writings by Leacock:

Greater Canada: an appeal (1907)

Literature and Education in America (1909)

The Apology of a Professor: an essay on modern learning (1910)

The Devil and the Deep Sea: a discussion of modern morality (1910)

The Woman Question (1915)

The Tyranny of Prohibition (1919)

The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice (1920)