Language Policy

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 95–116

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

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10993-009-9127-x

Cite this article as:
da Silva, E. & Heller, M. Lang Policy (2009) 8: 95. doi:10.1007/s10993-009-9127-x


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 minoritiesNeoliberalismGlobalizationPolitical economyFrancophone CanadaEthnographic sociolinguistics



Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada


Official languages act


Human resources and development Canada


Réseau de développement économique et d’employabilité

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of FrenchUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.CRÉFO, Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada