The Decline of Deference: Canadian Value Change in Cross-National Perspective


369 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55111-031-8
DDC 971.064





Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science at Sir
Wilfred Grenfell College, The Memorial University of Newfoundland.


Conflicts over the Constitution, the free-trade agreements, and the
issues raised by the women’s and the environmental movements have
challenged Canadians to think about their basic values. Using the World
Values Surveys conducted in 1981 and 1990, Neil Nevitte, a professor of
political science at the University of Toronto, provides evidence that
the value changes that have occurred in Canada are part of a general
transformation of political, economic, and social values occurring in
all of the advanced Western industrial countries. To explain these
changes, Nevitte focuses on Ronald Inglehart’s theory that recent
generations, having been raised in a climate of security, are more
likely than were earlier generations to have “postmaterialist”

Out of changing values in a variety of specific areas, Nevitte extracts
a central theme—that citizens are becoming less deferential to
authority, as exhibited in such attitudes as an increased willingness to
engage in political protests, support for more egalitarian relationships
between parents and children, and a desire for greater participation in
workplace decisionmaking. An important subtheme is that the conventional
wisdom that Canadians are more deferential to authority than Americans
is not generally supported at the level of individual attitudes. As
well, Nevitte challenges theories of the “Americanization” of
Canadian culture by pointing out that Canadians are more likely to be
leaders than followers in the value changes that he examines. A second
subtheme, concerning the differences among the major cultural groupings
within Canada, is less thoroughly developed. Nevitte finds that while
the political values of anglophones and francophones generally became
more dissimilar in the 1980s, their economic values became more similar.
Interestingly, the values of “new” Canadians as a group tend to fall
somewhere between the values of the anglophone and francophone groups,
with their social values not differing significantly from those of the
two “founding peoples.”

Despite the complexities of some of the analyses, Nevitte provides
clear explanations and numerous figures to illustrate the large quantity
of data presented. The Decline of Deference is essential reading for
those who wish to understand the changing values of Canadians.


Nevitte, Neil., “The Decline of Deference: Canadian Value Change in Cross-National Perspective,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,