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Social Science General

Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries

by (author) Gerard Bouchard & Les Editions du Boreal

translated by Howard Scott

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2017
General, Cultural, Comparative Politics
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    Jan 2017
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Myths are commonly associated with illusions or with deceptive, dangerous discourse, and are often perceived as largely the domain of premodern societies. But even in our post-industrial, technologically driven world, myths – Western or Eastern, ancient or modern, religious or scientific – are in fact powerful, pervasive forces.


In Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries, Gérard Bouchard conceptualizes myths as vessels of sacred values that transcend the division between primitive and modern. Myths represent key elements of collective imaginaries, past and present. In all societies there are values and beliefs that hold sway over most of the population. Whether they come from religion, political institutions, or other sources, they enjoy exalted status and go largely unchallenged. These myths have the power to bring societies together as well as pull them apart. Yet the study of myth has been largely neglected by sociologists and other social scientists. Bouchard navigates this uncharted territory by addressing a number of fundamental questions: What is the place of myth in contemporary societies and in the relations between the cultural and the social? How do myths take form? From what do they draw their strength? How do they respond to shifting contexts?


Myths matter, Bouchard argues, because of the energy they unleash, energy that enables a population to mobilize and rally around collective goals. At the same time myths work to alleviate collective anxiety and to meet the most pressing challenges facing a society. In this bold analysis, Bouchard challenges common assumptions and awakens us to the transcendent power of myth in our daily lives and in our shared aspirations.

About the authors

Gérard Bouchard is professor, human sciences, Université de Québec à Chicoutimi, and the author of numerous books, including Quelques arpents d'Amérique : population, économie, famille au Saguenay, 1838-1971, which won the 2000 Francois-Xavier Garneau Medal, Canadian Historical Association. He holds a Canada Research Chair and was appointed to the French Legion of Honour in 2002.

Gerard Bouchard's profile page

Howard Scott translates poetry, fiction and non-fiction, often with co-translator Phyllis Aronoff, including works by Madeleine Gagnon, Kim Doré and Madeleine Monette, as well as numerous scholarly works in the humanities. He has also published translations of poetry by Madeleine Gagnon, Michel Pleau and Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, and science fiction by Élisabeth Vonarburg. In 1997, he won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English translation for The Euguelion, by Louky Bersianik. He is a past president of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada.

Howard Scott's profile page

Les Editions du Boreal's profile page


  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award, Translation Category

Editorial Reviews

"By the early 1990s, Gérard Bouchard had become one of the few prolific authors who always deserved close reading. The wonderful translation of his latest book will further increase his reputation for rigorous thinking, wide-ranging reading, and engaging writing."

The Canadian Historical Review, vol 99 4, December 2018

"…Social Myths is an intriguing and potentially valuable analysis of cultural development."

Canadian Literature 236 2018

Other titles by Gerard Bouchard

Other titles by Les Editions du Boreal