The Principles of the Antigonish Movement

In 1944 Professor Harry Johnson, an economics instructor at StFX who was also involved in the work of the Extension Department, gave a lecture at Acadia University, in which he defined the six principles he claimed to be “the essence of the philosophy on which the Antigonish Movement is based.” These principles, endorsed by Dr. Coady, continue to anchor the Department’s work today.

1. The Primacy of the Individual
This principle is based on both religious and democratic teaching: religion emphasizes the dignity of human beings, created in the image and likeness of God; democracy stresses the value of the individual and the development of individual capacities as the aim of social organization.

2. Social Reform Must Come Through Education
Social progress in a democracy must come through the action of citizens; it can only come if there is an improvement in the quality of the people themselves. That improvement, in turn, can come only through education.

3. Education Must Begin With the Economic
The people are most keenly interested in addressing economic needs first. It is good technique to suit the educational effort to the most intimate interests of the individual or group. Moreover, economic reform is the most immediate necessity, because the economic problems of the world are the most pressing.

4. Education Must be Through Group Action
Group action is natural because people are social beings. Not only are people commonly organized into groups, but their problems are usually group problems. Any effective adult education program, therefore, must fit into this basic group organization of society. Moreover, group action is essential to success under modern conditions; you cannot get results in business or civic affairs without organization.

5. Effective Social Reform Involves Fundamental Changes in Social And Economic Institutions
It is necessary to face the fact that real reform will necessitate strong measures of change that may prove unpopular in certain quarters.

6. The Ultimate Objective of the Movement is a Full and Abundant Life For Everyone in the Community
Economic cooperation is the first step, but only the first, towards a society that will permit every individual to develop to the utmost limit of her/his capacities.

1. Johnson, H. G. (1944). The Antigonish Movement: A lecture to the students of Acadia University. Antigonish, NS: Extension Department, St. Francis Xavier University.