Original Paper

Language Policy

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 95-116

First online:

From protector to producer: the role of the State in the discursive shift from minority rights to economic development

  • Emanuel da SilvaAffiliated withDepartment of French, University of Toronto Email author 
  • , Monica HellerAffiliated withCRÉFO, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This paper explores the challenges that neoliberalism and the globalized new economy present to the politics of linguistic minority movements by ethnographically examining language policy as a discursive process, rooted in political economy. Following the post-WWII period, as most Western States restructured from welfarism to neoliberalism, there was a shift away from minority (language) rights towards economic development. In Canada, where State policy maintains a French–English “linguistic duality”, francophone regions outside Quebec became sites of discursive struggle, following the collapse of the old economy, between (1) a focus on the collective reproduction of “community” (maintaining language, culture and identity), and (2) the State’s focus on facilitating individual economic reproduction. What emerges is an attempt by the State, and certain community actors to save the traditional francophone minority collectivity by focusing on the “community economic development” of rural bastions, rather than the economic integration of individual francophones living in diverse, urban areas.


Linguistic minorities Neoliberalism Globalization Political economy Francophone Canada Ethnographic sociolinguistics