Quebec Nationalism in Crisis


155 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-7735-0381-1




Reviewed by Arthur M. Goddard

Arthur M. Goddard taught in the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.


Journalist Dominique Clift has covered politics in Quebec for some 25 years, working for the Globe and Mail, La Presse, the Toronto Star, the Montreal Star, Le Soleil, and Canadian Press. With Sheila Arnopoulous he co-authored The English Fact in Quebec, the French edition of which won the Governor General’s Award in 1979.

This book traces two antagonistic trends in recent Quebec history, both of which have aided the modernization of French society. The nationalism that has long been at the heart of Quebec’s worries about “le survivance” in North America and that, since the quiet revolution, has been nurtured by a growing and increasingly acquisitive provincial bureaucracy, is under attack. The alliance of intellectuals, educated classes, professionals, students, and organized labour that took power under Rene Levesque has found that nationalism no longer can be used as an instrument of total social mobilization.

What has developed is an anti-nationalism favouring economic pursuits and personal development at the expense of group solidarity. As the Parti Quebecois assumed power and the French language has strengthened, as evidenced by the obvious decline of the English community, a new wave of confidence swept over Quebec. As an incrcasing number of francophones have been forced to find jobs and security outside the glutted civil service, they began to think and feel like other North Americans. This group, including businessmen, women, the poor or less educated, along with the very rich, first appeared as the Creditiste movement and later, by the time of the referendum of 1980, on the side of federalist forces opposing sovereignty association. Nationalism, as seen by these people, according to Clift, is now serving the forces of conformity and even repression.

What stands out for Clift in present-day Quebec is the lack of agreement on the role and ideological content of nationalism. There is a strong tendency to consider it in absolute terms, positively or negatively, according to circumstances and interest groups. The result is a pause in Quebec politics until a new equilibrium can be found. While nationalism will continue as a framework for political thinking until a clear ideological alternative assents itself and the population becomes conscious of the need for change, its decline will continue. The re-election of the Parti Quebecois on its promise not to push sovereignty-association is simply an acknowledgment by the party of the public disinterest in nationalism. Nationalism is not dead, however, and, as in the West, individualism and business may become a supporting force in the future.

As a whole the book is provocative, stimulating, analytical, and very readable. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in the most interesting of our provinces.


Clift, Dominique, “Quebec Nationalism in Crisis,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,