Canadian Disability Activism and Political Ideas: In and Between Neo-Liberalism and Social Liberalism


  • Michael J. Prince University of Victoria



Disability, Neo- Liberalism, Social Liberalism, New Social Movements, Canada


The Canadian disability movement expresses a style of activism distinguished by values and beliefs which are a form of social liberalism. Disability activism, however, is taking place within a contemporary setting in which a set of ideas and interests often called neo-liberalism prevail in political discourse and policy making. This article considers the role of neo-liberalism and its interplay with social liberalism in relation to the full citizenship goals of the Canadian disability movement. Political activism, among other things, is a discursive production; an expression of ideas and information as well as a performance of power. Disability activism, in the Canadian context, is a form of social liberalism that emphasizes individual self-development and also community and the rights of numerous politically salient social groups. In many respects, social liberalism is a counter-discourse to the dominant discourse of neo-liberalism; in other ways, they are mutually reinforcing systems of ideas; and, at all times, they connect together in a larger historical and institutional context of particular societies.

Author Biography

Michael J. Prince, University of Victoria

Dr. Prince teaches policy and organizational analysis in public administration and social policy. Current research interests include: trends in social policy over the past 25 years and the next generations; federal-provincial relations; aboriginal governance; and policy making in disability politics and policy issues. He is currently Co-Principal Researcher with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) on a five year community-university alliance project entitled "Disability Poverty, Enabling Citizenship."  His most recent book is Absent Citizens: Disability Politics and Policy in Canada.

For more information on Dr. Prince please visit:

How to Cite

Prince, M. J. (2012). Canadian Disability Activism and Political Ideas: In and Between Neo-Liberalism and Social Liberalism. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 1(1), 1–34.