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Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values Hardcover – May 13 2003

2.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (AHC); Canadian First edition (May 5 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143014226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143014225
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 2.4 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #216,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Long before 9-11, Americans were changing. Their values were becoming more socially conservative, their waistlines were getting rounder, and they were more deferential to authority figures. Meanwhile, an opposite trend took root north of the border. Canadians were becoming more tolerant, open to risk, and questioning of the institutions that governed them. How is it that traditionally individualistic Americans have suddenly switched places with order-loving Canadians? Michael Adams, president of the Environics polling firm, tries to answer this question and probe the diverging values of Americans and Canadians in his book Fire and Ice.

Adams acknowledges his thesis is rather iconoclastic. Some commentators have suggested that Canadians have become simply Americans in parkas. But after 14,413 interviews over 10 years, Adams surprised even himself with his results: Canadians and Americans are not only becoming more dissimilar, they are also reversing roles, and the diverging trends have only increased since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Adams tested Canadians and Americans on over 100 values. He found that a growing number of Americans believes that "the father of the family must be master in his own home" (49 percent in 2000, up from 44 percent in 1996 and 42 percent in 1992). In Canada, fewer people agree that father knows best (18 percent in 2000, down from 26 percent in 1992). Canadians are increasingly bigger risk-takers, too. In 2000, 42 percent of Canadians and 54 percent of Americans said they did not like changing their habits. More Americans believe men are naturally superior to women, and fully 44 percent of Americans said they relate best to people who do not show emotions (compared to 30 percent of Canadians). Adams's book is heavy on statistics and light on explanations behind the trends, but it gives revealing insights into the world's only superpower and its neighbour to the north. --Alex Roslin

About the Author

Michael Adams is the president of the Environics group of research and communications consulting companies that includes Environics Research, Environics West, CROP, Research House, Environics International, Environics Communications and Environics/Lipkin. These companies have offices in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, New York and Washington. Outside the field of research consulting, Mr. Adams has a variety of other interests, including a partnership in a Napa Valley winery. He is the author of Better Happy than Rich?: Canadians, Money and the Meaning of Life and the national bestseller Sex in the Snow: Canadian Social Values at the End of the Millennium. He and his partner, Donna Dasko, vice president of Environics, have two children.

Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
After living in Boston for ten months, I returned to my island home in BC and found this book in my local library. I read it in two days, and now I'm going to get it. It confirmed what I experienced as a Canadian in the States. The States comes across as more diverse than Canada, and in many ways far more conservative. For example, on the question around patriarchy, whether the man should be the head of the household, New England, the most liberal region in the United States, was more conservative than Alberta, Canada's most conservative region. So much for convergence, eh? Also, the growing ease with which Americans accept violence corresponds with what I found.
One reviewer criticised Adams methodology, but if it is so bad, then why is Environics still in business? The reviewer pointed us to David Frum for a detailed critique, but Frum is the former Bush speech writer who gave us the phrase "axis of evil." Adams may have sometimes asked different questions, but this is less comparing apples and oranges than comparing mackintoshs and spartans; the questions are dealing with the same underlying values. This is hot stuff, so don't be surprised if those who have a stake in the myth of converging values will try to attack and spin it as much as possible. And, in any case, have those arguing for the convergence offered anything near as detailed an argument as what Adams has presented?
Anyone who spends any time bouncing back and forth across the border will find their intuitions confirmed by Adams' book. More importantly, it will tell them why, and it will show them some things they missed, but which, after being pointed out, seem obvious.
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