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Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada, and the Myth of Converging Values [Paperback]

Michael Adams
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 14 2009 014317035X 978-0143170358 Reprint

Drawing upon a decade of polling both sides of the border, Michael Adams reveals that Canada and the United States are not coming together, but are diverging in significant ways. Contrary to popular belief, Fire and Ice provides fascinating evidence that the cultural divergence between our country and the United States will continue for years to come.


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About the Author

Michael Adams is president of the Environics group of marketing research and communications consulting companies with offices in the United States and Canada. He has written three bestselling books, including Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, which won the prestigious 2004 Donner Prize for the best book on public policy in Canada.


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FRENCH THINKER AND POLITICIAN Alexis de Tocqueville wrote the above-quoted words in 1831, but over 170 years later, they still register the crucial tension of American life: the great national struggle between personal independence and moral order. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

2.6 out of 5 stars
2.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating April 30 2004
Format:Paperback
What do you get when the co-founder of a political polling company steps back, looks at the numbers, and decides to write a book? You get a fascinating and sometimes counter-intuitive look at the evolution of current "American Values". Mr. Adams' premise is that even before 9/11, Americans were moving further away from a society of Idealism and Fulfillment, and towards Exclusion and Survival.
This is not a ponderous volume of statistics, but a quirky, quick read, that leaves one with a lot to think about.
This book was obviously aimed at the Canadian reader, and I hope he releases a updated version for the American audience when the 2004 figures have been compiled. But you can just skip over some of the Canada-specific references, and the long suffering pose of submission but inherent superiority to the U.S.. It IS enlightening to see the U.S. through Canadian eyes.
There are some interesting insights to George W's presidency, the debate over same sex marriages, and a discussion of the regional differences in the U.S., and implications for the future.
I was surprised to learn that Canada has more in common with New England than New England has in common with the Deep South. And that the cultural trends among young people are very divergent from the 60+ crowd, and not always in the direction I expected.
Not a perfect book. But worth reading.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining and insightful read June 2 2004
By Psyche
Format:Paperback
Adams clearly states in the introduction that this is a book intended for a Canadian audience, however he does 'hope it may be of interest to Americans who may be intrigued by a glimpse of a country so seemingly near and yet with their mental postures far from their own' and adds that 'Europeans, Australians and even the Queen's subjects in Tony Blair's Britain who are ambivalent about American influence on their societies might also find some useful lessons in the Canada-U.S. nexus' (pg 15). As he says 'Canadians may like Americans, speak the same language, and consume more their fast food and popular culture, but we embrace a different hierarchy of values. Moreover, the differences, as I have attempted to show, are increasing rather than decreasing with economic integration' (pg 142).
Fire and Ice came from years of research into the ideals and values held by Canadians from 1983 to 2000, Adam states that he was 'impressed with just how much Canadians' social values seemed to be diverging from those of Americans. (After all, we are frequently made to feel we have become nothing more than unarmed Americans with health insurance.)' (pg xii) - and this is even before September 11th.
He notes being particularly interested in finding out 'why an initially "conservative" society like Canada has ended up producing an autonomous, inner-directed, flexible, tolerant, socially liberal, and spiritually eclectic people while an intentionally "liberal" society like the United States has ended up producing a people who are, relatively speaking, materialistic, outer-directed, intolerant, socially conservative, and deferential to traditional institutional authority. Why do these two societies seem to prove the law of unintended consequences?' (pg 10).
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Little More Snow Melt Needed May 13 2004
Format:Paperback
I bought this book because I am an American who just moved to Canada and you can not go into a book shop without having this book prominently displayed. It is everywhere so I figured "when in Rome" and picked up a copy. The book is the detail of the authors studies of the American and Canadian cultures and if they are becoming more similar or growing apart. The author lets the reader know up front two very important things, first that the book is meant for a Canadian audience and secondly that the author is a full time professional sociological researcher.
For the first important point, that the book is meant for a Canadian audience, if you are a thin skinned American then I would not suggest you reading this book. It is not that the author takes any nasty cheap shots at Americans. It is just that he does not sugar coat the differences when they are more negative toward the American side. I could not argue with any of his comments, it was just that he was exposing some of the rather unsightly bits about the US and at times that can be uncomfortable for an American.
The second point I felt was important was that the author is not an author by trade, but basically a researcher. This meant that this book was one of the most difficult to read and unnecessarily dense books I have read in a long time. If the author could have said a sentence in five words he used 25 and used a fair number a words that the common reader has never heard of. If you buy the book keep going through the painful first chapter, the road gets better after about 40 pages but the book is never a walk in the park.
With these criticisms aside I did find parts of the book interesting. It would be good for an American to read these types of books to detail out the differences between the two countries and maybe to show them that all things American are not always the best. It is just that this book is so unfriendly to the reader that I do not think this is the vehicle for wide appeal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars We are not the same Sept. 23 2009
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book a lot. It quantified in numerous ways the subtle but important differences in the values and beliefs of people from two countries who are often seen as "the same" from those abroad. Pulling on social and historical references, Adams paints an effective picture of why we are the way we are. This is a great book for any student of the social sciences, and especially for anyone interested in marketing and understanding why American creative sometimes just doesn't fly with a Canadian audience. Of course, it seems the only people who really care to define themselves as being different from the others ones are Canadian, so many Americans will likely fail to identify with the purpose of even writing the book in the first place. I teach marketing courses at the undergrad and graduate level. I have encouraged my students, particularly foreign students, to read this book, if they want to understand the subtle differences between the two countries and to be able to use those insights in their marketing efforts.
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