Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2001), 32, (1), 129–148.


129 Book Reviews Political Science, History, and Sociology DORAN, CHARLES F. Why Canadian Unity Matters and Why Ameri­ cans Care: Democratic Pluralism at Risk. Toronto: U Toronto P, 2001. Pp. 300. Once again, Charles Doran has written an ambitious book concerning the importance of Canadian politics and its implications for the United States. His primary goal in this work is to explain the dangers that Quebec sepa­ ratism poses to democratic pluralism across the world. His secondary goal is to examine the various scenarios that could result from the Quebec sepa­ ratist movement. Ideologically, Doran strongly favors democratic pluralism, in which diverse groups maintain their cultures while participating in a single state. This is obviously a difficult and important process. As Doran points out, there are worldwide about 8000 movements advocating cultural distinctiveness, although relatively few of them turn to violence. Separatist movements, Doran argues, could drastically damage current successful accommodation. Attacking the approaches of contemporary liberals, communitarians, primordialists, sociobiologists, and others, he argues that separatism is a polit­ ical project formulated by self-interested political entrepreneurs who manage to gain a local following by emphasizing the need to favor members of the narrowly defined in-group. He gives no heed to claims that separa­ tion may be necessary to protect a language or culture from slipping below the threshold of sustainability. Instead, he argues that invidious compar­ isons then reduce civility to the point where secession is seen as the only possible response. The main body of the book addresses a series of interrelated questions about Quebec separatism. The question of the likelihood of Quebec seces­ sion is addressed through historical sociology of responses to Quebec nationalism. He notes the difficulty posed by the tension between ethnic and civic nationalism, and analyzes the myriad factors that could affect secessionism. The question "Will Quebec Secede?" is left unanswered, since Doran notes that the Quebec nationalists have not stated bottom line condi­ tions, and proponents of a united Canada do not seem willing to accommo­ date Quebec demands. He simply argues that the difficulties of such relations could force Quebecers to play the secession card. Doran then turns his attention to the potential of a Canada without Quebec. The prognosis is not good. What is left of Canada would face sev­ eral problems that have been discussed by a number of scholars: the Atlantic Provinces would be isolated; transfer payments would likely be ter­ minated; Ontario would be the hegemonic province; Western alienation would probably skyrocket; and North-South pressure would increase. Clearly, it is in the interest of both Canada and the United States to maintain a unified country.

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