Quebec Studies

The Quebec Quiet Revolution: A Noisy Evolution

Quebec Studies (2003), 36, (1), 125–138.

Abstract

125 The Quebec Quiet Revolution: A Noisy Evolution Donald Cuccioletta and Martin Lubin Plattsburgh State University Within the last three decades historians, social scientists, and observers of Quebec have been debating the advent of modernity in Quebec society and the significance of the Quiet Revolution in this process. The question is, as Paul-André Linteau states: "Did this Quiet Revolution mark a fundamental rupture with the past or was it an accelerated phase in the evolutionary change of Quebec, already begun many years before"? (Linteau et al. 2, 73; all quotations translated by the authors1). Throughout the 1960s the Quiet Revolution took on mythological proportions, which produced a simplistic reading of Quebec history and modernity that pitted la grande noirceur of the Duplessis era against the so-called enlightenment of the Quiet Revolution. This perspective still affects the historical interpretation and imagina­ tive reconstruction of that era. For example Fernand Ouellet refutes the new so-called revisionist history of Quebec and reaffirms the revolutionary character of the event. Ouellet was responding to a growing number of spe­ cialists who since the 1970s have questioned this one-dimensional interpre­ tation and have centered the debate, "on the nature of Quebec society before 1960" (Linteau et al. 2, 74). Ronald Rudin, who maintains a position similar to that of Ouellet, goes further in his criticism of these new inter­ pretations of the Quiet Revolution, claiming that there is an underlying attempt to rehabilitate Duplessis and his era. For Jocelyn Létourneau, a noted contemporary historian, the Quiet Revolution legitimized the ascen­ sion to power of a new technocratic class in Quebec (2000b). This class cre­ ated its own unique identity and history, which came to be conflated with that of the collectivity as a whole, i.e. the francophones of Quebec. This technocratic class emerged as the new dominant elite, and, as in the past, a new elitist culture of Quebec imposed its version of modernity upon the French-speaking population of Quebec. In the introduction to his most recent book, Passer à l'avenir (2000a), Létourneau writes that the past must always and continually be scrutinized within the confines of the contemporary in order to construct a future of openness. And indeed, within the last two decades the Quiet Revolution has become the subject of open debate and controversy (Rouillard; C. Couture; Gagnon and Sara-Bournet; Paquet). Although inspired by that debate and influenced by the numerous publications stemming from it, our essay will also bring to bear a new element which we feel has so far been neglected. To present the Quiet Revolution as the collective aggiornamento of the Québécois is very reductive; doing so omits the development of Quebec society from the point of view of popular culture. It is as if nothing ever transpired relevant to the advent of modernity in Quebec society before the June 1960 election of Jean Lesage.2 We disagree with such a nar­ row point of view and we intend to show that modernity, though certainly Québec Studies, Volume 36, Fall 2003/Winter 2004

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Author details

Cuccioletta, Donald

Lubin, Martin