Services and Circuses: Community and the Welfare State


277 pages
ISBN 0-920057-06-3





Translated by Lorne Huston and Margaret Heap
Reviewed by Raj S. Gandhi

Raj S. Gandhi is a professor of sociology at the University of Calgary.


This English translation of Lesemann’s Du Pain et des Services directly questions the contributions of the Canadian welfare state and its organizations and services to the working class and to women as they relate to advanced market capitalism, informed by forms of class and patriarchal power. In some five chapters of his book, Lesemann points out how the Quiet Revolution turned Quebec’s entire health and welfare system on its head. Suddenly, an immense government bureaucracy took over the services traditionally administered by the Church and local voluntary societies.

This analysis points out the dangers of stripping local groups of their power, and it raises important questions about who really benefits from state welfarism. Although the author focuses on the rapid shift from clerical to government control during the 1960s in Quebec, Services and Circuses is relevant for all Canadians as the various levels of government and their technocrats become even more powerful. Though Lesemann succeeds in his critique of technocratic power, his theory of state is somewhat inconsistent in that the latter is sometimes considered to be “functional” in safeguarding economic development. Though the state services may be necessary for the physical reproduction of workers, and for the legitimation of class rule, his theory would be more complete with the detailed historical examination of a society in which the reform took place.


Lesemann, Frederic, “Services and Circuses: Community and the Welfare State,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed March 29, 2023,