The notion of partnership is increasingly adopted as a sine qua non for the successful resolution of strategic problems in the field of human services. In this paper, I examine Québec's recent mental health policy and its operational definition of the concept. I then suggest some of the roots and reasons behind this province's adoption of le partenariat as the basis for policy. I suggest that it is a response to four key strategic problems: (1) the exhaustion of resources and allocation of losses; (2) the loss of faith in government and the consequent need to redefine the role of the state; (3) the loss of faith in professional knowledge and the increasingly forceful voice of alternative and “psychiatric survivor” groups; (4) the problem of overload in pluralist and competitive democracy and, related to this, the ubiquitous search for consensus and frictionless solutions. I conclude that in adopting the language of partnership, policymakers in Québec and elsewhere are being seduced by the possibilities of neocorporatist ideas applied to the management of human services.

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