Past Recipients – S.M. Lipset Best Book Awards

2019 Co-winners

Paul Saurettte and Kelly Gordon, The Changing Voice of the Anti-Abortion Movement: The Rise of the “Pro-Woman” Rhetoric in Canada and the United States, University of Toronto Press, 2015.

Richard Johnston, The Canadian Party System: An Analytic History, University of British Columbia Press, 2017.

Today, anti-abortion activism increasingly presents itself as “pro-women”: using female spokespersons, adopting medical and scientific language to claim that abortion harms women, and employing a wide range of more subtle framing and narrative rhetorical tactics that use traditionally progressive themes to present the anti-abortion position as more feminist than pro-choice feminism.

Following a succinct but comprehensive overview of the two-hundred year history of North American debate and legislation on abortion, Saurette and Gordon present the results of their systematic, five-year quantitative and qualitative discourse analysis, supplemented by extensive first-person observations, and outline the implications that flow from these findings. Their discoveries are a challenge to our current assumptions about the abortion debate today, and their conclusions will be compelling for both scholars and activists alike.

To quote the Lipset Committee: “This book is a brave and deep study with careful and thoughtful composition between Canada and the United States on the issue of abortion, with particular focus on the anti-abortion movements in both countries. The book is exceptionally well written and demonstrates the capacity of comparative research to advance our knowledge on a complex topic.


In this political science tour de force, Richard Johnston makes sense of the Canadian party system. With a keen eye for history and deft use of recently developed analytic tools, he articulates a series of propositions underpinning the system. Chief among them was domination by the centrist Liberals, stemming from their grip on Quebec, which blocked both the Conservatives and the NDP. As Johnston shows, the Conservative Party could win only with short-lived coalitions of francophobes and nationalist francophones, often built by soaking up populist tension. Moving beyond the national realm, he also takes a close look at the stunning discontinuity between federal and provincial arenas, another peculiarity of the Canadian system.

For its combination of historical breadth and data-intensive rigour, The Canadian Party System is a rare achievement. Its findings shed light on the main puzzles of the Canadian case, while contesting the received wisdom of the comparative study of parties, elections, and electoral systems elsewhere.

To quote the Lipset Committee: “This is a must-read book, a comprehensive and methodologically sophisticated treatment of political party development in Canada. The book is filled with conclusions about parties in Canada that will be industry-standard for some time to come.

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Debra Thompson, The Schematic State: Race, Transnationalism, and  the Politics of the Census, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

By examining the political development of racial classifications on the national censuses of the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, The Schematic State maps the changing nature of the census from an instrument historically used to manage and control racial populations to its contemporary purpose as an important source of statistical information, employed to monitor and rectify racial discrimination. Through a careful comparative analysis of nearly two hundred years of census taking, it demonstrates that changes in racial schemas are driven by the interactions among shifting transnational ideas about race, the ways they are tempered and translated by nationally distinct racial projects, and the configuration of political institutions involved in the design and execution of census policy. This book argues that states seek to make their populations racially legible, turning the fluid and politically contested substance of race into stable, identifiable categories to be used as the basis of law and policy.

To quote the Lipset Committee: “We were particularly impressed with the theoretical novelty of proposing the schematic state as a construct, exemplifying it with rich detail derived from archival research and interviewing, and covering three countries’ historical and contemporary use of the census with a thoughtful and fair comparative treatment.


Christopher Alcantara, Negotiating the Deal: Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements in Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013

To quote the award’s selection committee:
This work was viewed, as one committee member put it, as offering “a significant contribution in our theoretical and practical understanding of why some treaty negotiations succeed and others fail.” Moreover, the four diverse case studies of First Nations people (two from Newfoundland and Labrador and two from the Yukon Territory) are carefully done, using a variety of resource materials, including numerous interviews with those involved in the negotiating process. The use of the comparative method throughout the volume provides an important systematic dimension to the analysis as Alcantara identifies the key factors across these cases for success or failure of treaty negotiations. In all, this volume “should be essential reading for scholars and practitioners” for those seeking to understand relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Moreover, the central findings may well be applicable to other nations seeking to address land and resource claims of indigenous communities.

2016  No award.

Cover for When Citizens Decide 2015

Patrick Fournier, Henk van der Kolk, R. Kenneth Carty, Andre Blais, and Jonathon Rose for their 2011 Oxford University Press book, When Citizens Decide: Lessons from Citizen Assemblies on Electoral Reform.

This book describes and analyzes the outcomes of an unprecedented set of democratic experiments of relevance to the entire democratic world. It provides the reader with a comprehensive account of all citizen assemblies.

Grassroots Liberals2014

Royce Koop (University of Manitoba), Grassroots Liberals: Organizing for Local and National Politics, University of British Columbia Press, 2011.

Based on personal observations in cross-country ridings and interviews with grassroots activists, Grassroots Liberals reveals that Liberals are negotiating the limitations of federalism and multi-level politics, on the one hand, and distinct, geographically defined constituencies for provincial and federal politics, on the other. This insider’s view of Liberal party politics in Canada suggests that national parties can overcome the challenge of multi-level politics, strengthen their ties to provincial politics, and deepen their legitimacy by tapping the activism, energy, and support of constituency associations and local campaigns.


Stuart Soroka (University of Michigan) and Christopher Wlezein (University of Texas, Austin), Degrees of Democracy: Public Opinion and Policy, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

To quote the Committee: “This book presents a model of how public opinion both drives policy change, and adjusts to policy change across separate policy domains in United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. The comparative nature of the work yields a sophisticated synthesis of how behavioral and institutional features interact in these three different versions of representative democracy. It is among the very few genuinely comparative works on public opinion or political representation in which Canada plays a dominant role driving the analysis forward. Soroka and Wlezien have written an important book that has already had substantial impact. Driven by a big theoretical question, it is the sort of rigorous investigation of a few carefully chosen case-studies that Lipset himself might have carried out.”

2012 – (Two winners)

Janet Ajzenstat (McMaster), The Canadian Founding:                                                              John Locke and Image result for clarkson does orth xistParliament, McGill-Queens University Press, 2007.

Stephen Clarkson (University of Toronto), Does North America Exist? After NAFTA and 9/11, University of Toronto Press, 2008.


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Mildred A. Schwartz, Party Movements in the United States and Canada, Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.

Party movements can be described as political organizations that both participate in the electoral process and have social movement qualities. They appear frequently in both Canada and the United States. Many of these movements face huge organizational problems, and yet they display remarkable resilience, signaling both continuing political dissatisfactions as well as possibilities for changing political outcomes. This book demonstrates how organizational theory can be useful for understanding party movements, and also expands on the idea of continuity, contributing new ways of thinking about how organizations change and survive in the face of recurring dilemmas. This look inside party movements, at the organizational problems they face and the strategies employed to deal with them, represents a new way of accounting for their history that contrasts with perspectives focusing solely on external conditions.