Nationalist and cosmopolitan approaches to the nation: a citizen’s perspective and its electoral impact

Abstract

Whether it is about Québec independence, French language or immigration, nationalism is a crucial feature of Québec politics. The Québec 2018 election is not an exception. Scholars have developed theories about individual identity, the nation and nationhood, but we lack a citizens’ perspective. We provide the first thorough description of Quebeckers’ nationalism, which reveals a roughly normal (i.e. non-polarized) distribution of ethnic nationalism attitudes. Most importantly, we measure ethnic nationalism with a never tested measure in Québec and we show that it substantially explains vote choice in the Québec 2018 election—especially the support for the Coalition Avenir Québec. Our research builds bridges between debates in political philosophy and political science and deepens our understanding of the Québec 2018 election.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    One could argue that these positions were only taken so as to appeal to certain types of voters. While this is not impossible and does not rule out the idea that voters were primed to think in these terms, it so happened that during its first year in power the CAQ government actually reduced immigration by 20% (Ministère de l’Immigration, de la diversité et de l’inclusion 2019, p. 7) and adopted a secularism bill, among other things.

  2. 2.

    Other, more recent conceptions of “rooted cosmopolitanism” have also been suggested and try to defend that cosmopolitanism can leave some room to particularist attachments and commitments, though how much room remains a debated issue. However, common in these positions it the idea that even if we should promote some kind of particular attachments to groups or nations, they remain valuable only to the extent that they can promote cosmopolitan goals and values, i.e. can effectively promote the moral equality of all human beings globally. This purely instrumental conception of the value of nations, eloquently illustrated above by Haberma’s position, is the main point of contention between cosmopolitans, including rooted cosmopolitans, and nationalists authors, as understood below. On the question of rooted cosmopolitanism, see notably Kymlicka and Walker (2012).

  3. 3.

    Different authors also converge on this point though they present different conceptions of how best to protect individual rights and freedoms. See Arneson (2016), Beitz (1979, 1983) Benhabid (2004) and Held (2010).

  4. 4.

    On the debate between liberal nationalists and communitarians, see notably Taylor (2003), Morrice (2000) and Theobald and Dinkelman (1995). On more contemporary debates about the necessary and sufficient conditions to apply principles of justice within or without the state, see notably Abizadeh (2007), Ackerley (2018), Benhabib (2011), Caney (2008) and Nath (2015).

  5. 5.

    Be it a nation state or a regional "national" government of a regional unity such as a province, canton, state and Länder.

  6. 6.

    For a more extensive (and recent) literature review, see Goodman and Alarian (2019).

  7. 7.

    See also Wright (2011).

  8. 8.

    However, some studies have considered how particular nationalist conceptions affect individual support for multicultural policies (Goodman and Alarian 2019; Heath and Tilley 2005; Schildkraut 2010; Citrin and Sears 2004) and immigration policies (see Howard 2009; Goodman 2014, 2019; Koopmans 2010; Street 2014; Bloemraad and Wright 2014). For different group attitudes towards immigration in Canada, see Berry and Kalin (1995).

  9. 9.

    For example, the probability to consider that being born in Québec is important to be part of the nation is of 0.29 for civic nationalists and increases to 0.8 for ethnic nationalists.

  10. 10.

    We use age as a linear variable instead of generations because we find no evidence of nonlinear relationships. The same applies to education. We exclude regions for the sake of parsimony, but it is worth noting that their inclusion does not alter our findings.

  11. 11.

    The question was: “Which party did you vote for?” It is not impossible that some people vote for a particular local candidate or a preferred leader from another party, but it is not the case for the vast majority of voters (Blais and Daoust 2017; Daoust et al. 2020).

  12. 12.

    Compared to actual electoral outcomes, the PLQ and the CAQ are slightly underestimated, which is common in pre-election forecasting and does not entail major implications for statistical inferences (Durand 2013; Pinard 2005).

  13. 13.

    Of course, one potential strategy might be to argue that cosmopolitanism might be consistent with particularist attachments or commitments to groups or nations. However, this then raises the question of how distinct cosmopolitanism is from a liberal nationalist approach which tries to reconcile nationhood and universal individual rights.

  14. 14.

    Given that religion, though presumptively subject to individual control, can be considered to be an effectively immutable characteristic of individuals considering that changing one’s religion cannot, in practice, be changed without significant personal costs (where the costs are not only economic but also psychological and social). On this particular point, see Khaitan (2015).

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Cossette-Lefebvre, H., Daoust, JF. Nationalist and cosmopolitan approaches to the nation: a citizen’s perspective and its electoral impact. Fr Polit 18, 293–313 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-020-00121-x

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Keywords

  • Nationalism
  • Québec
  • Elections
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Communitarianism
  • Liberalism