Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Marxist theory demands the differentiation between the appearances of social phenomena and the social reality underlying them. The introduction of old age pensions in Canada is studied from this perspective. Of importance are the Marxist concepts of commodity and value, class, and the structuralist and instrumentalist interpretations of state power. Through a class trajectory model of class definition based on objective class interest, the dependent aged are located in the working class. The economic structures inherent in the transformation from simple commodity production to a capitalist more are examined. It is seen that the stratum of dependent aged arises from these structures. The demand for pensions on the part of organized labour is analysed. Changes in he internal composition of labour demonstrate a further form of pressure which is exerted on the state. When radical elements in organized labour appear to be dominant the threat to the state increases. State action involved both coercive and conciliatory measures, the latter being the promise of pensions. Examination of the conservative wing of labour discloses that labour action may not be equated with working-class interest. The timing of the passage of pension legislation establishes that labour unrest and economic need are not always sufficient causes to result in pension legislation. Political crisis can also influence the precise timing of pension enactment. The examination of pension legislation itself demonstrates that pensions can function as measures of control over the aged as well as the working-class. Control is exerted through the existence of pensions which bind the pensioner to the state in a subsistence relationship similar to tat of the wage-earner and the capitalist, as well as through the regulations and their administration. Finally the study of pensions in Canada, particularly the evidence of lack of capitalist opposition, indicates that welfare measures must be analyzed individually. One cannot generalize from one form of welfare legislation to another.
O'Donnell, Helen Ann Nancy, "The State and Old Age Pensions: An Investigation of the 1927 Old Age Pension Act of Canada" (1979). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5553.
McMaster University Library