Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Assimilation à la Française

RBR asked about the difference between integration and assimilation. I think it is important to explore this question in the French context. It is one of the major differences between the French system and our own. And let me open by saying that I respect the French because they have a valid world view that is often discarded as being, "just too French". But that is very unfair. Needless to say, they are facing some serious issues when it comes to defining the fundamental values of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Notice that fraternity, that idea of national solidarity, is a founding value for the French. For a brief, broad historical overview, see below .

Integration is the American model. It is the melting pot, salad bowl, model. You can be Whatever-American. You don't sacrifice what you are to become American. Becoming American just enriches that which you are. We talk about multiculturalism and identity, so much so that we claim our diversity as our identity. This is tied to our idea of self-determination and independence. We aren't about fraternity. And in practice, we see equality in terms of justice or treating similarly situated people similarly. We are less Cartesian and more pragmatic in our approach. So we don't think that dogmatic equality is possible. The French do. This doesn't make us better or any less discriminatory than the French. Let's not ignore the huge role that race plays in the US and the deep divisions it creates. But we have a pretty fluid notion of what "American" means. It means you buy into the value system; you agree to the social contract. If you do that, you are in. Your language, your social position, your background are less important.

The French, however, have a strong national identity and a sense of patriotism that can rival that of Americans. They don't have such a fluid attitude about who they are and they aren't keen on acquiring one. In France there is no such thing as Whatever-French. The French notion of equality means sameness. You are accepted to the degree that 1) you look French and 2) the degree to which you act French. This simplifies things a lot because you can nullify differences. You don't have to create policy to deal with the non-French or visible minorities.

You have this attitude because if you are French, you have a pretty good way of life and a pretty long history of either outsiders or societal rifts undoing it. Consider that France has been through countless wars, dictatorship, 2 empires, military occupation, civil war, and 5 Republics. There was a time when the French would wake up in the morning surprised if they had the same government as the day before. The Fifth Republic nearly fell in the last elections. Their salvation (and sometimes their undoing) has always come by being unified against outsiders and having strong leadership.

In America, we ask where you are from so as to learn something interesting. In France you are asked about your family origins, and if they are acceptable, you are in. In America, minorities can and do control a great deal of our politics- whether they be ideological or racial minorities. In France, elites run the show, an idea left over from before 1789.

All of that said, I think the French have valid concerns about how you establish equality and how you maintain a secular state. Being dogmtaic about it ensures that the rights of the whole and the greatest number are protected. And I think this may be wrapped up in some notion of an ideal sized population that can be provided for. We are a nation of minorties wrapped into a sinlge contract. The French are a nation of a majority that is fracturing into minorities.

Many of the concerns I hear in California about immigrants are the same ones I hear in France. They draw away important resources; they refuse to live our way they don't respect our customs, etc. These are concerns based on fear and insecurity. So poverty, exclusion, lack of education are blamed on the immigrant for failing to assimilate rather than on society for failing to allow him entry.

Historical Background

Lets start with decolonization. The French have long maintained a system similar to that of the commonwealth called TOM / DOM.This system allows people from former colonies to enter into France with favorable immigration and visa terms. This was useful for France on two fronts. First, it helped meet labor needs created by the devastation of WWII. Secondly, it kept the world populated with French citizens. But for this to work, total assimilation (Frenchification) had to take place. So no special allowances for foreignness. This was easy, so long as the immigrants came from other European countries. To accomodate these immigrants, "projects" were built in the suburbs of large citys. These quickly turned into over crowded slums that spearated the immigrants from the French and made both assimilation and integration impossible.

With the fall of Algeria in 1962, France began to see the arrival of Muslims. The baby boom, the liberation of woman, and growing economic prosperity ended the need for immigrant labor and increased resentment toward Muslims who suddenly wanted to build mosques in French villages.

So to halt immigration, Pasqua Laws, named after former Interior Minister, Charles Pasqua were enacted in 1993. Under these laws, many legal immigrants found themselves suddenly illegal. And those who had been living in France for several years, and thus were entitled to legal papers, were suddenly faced with deportation. These laws were aimed at a "zero immigration" policy and were supported by the likes of Chirac. At the same time, Le Pen began to gain favor, especially in the South. The Pasqua Laws worked. Between 1991 and 1995, legal immigration was cut in half. By 1996, however, the problems started. In a few cases, refugees and asylum seekers barricaded themselves into churches to avoid deportation and to protest Pasqua Laws. The French Constitutional Court had declared certain provisions of these laws as illegal. And slowly, the tide turned and the laws were loosened or dropped. Immigration started to rise.

Today, the French do not keep statistics on the number or nationality of its immigrants. It does distinguish in its statistics between those born in France, naturalized citizens, and foreigners in general. This category contains children under 18 who were born in France.


Anonymous said...

Great background US West. Thanks.

I think France blew a great chance to address these problems in in 1968. The country was in near rebellion anyway, why not address the growing immigration issue then. (BTW: That is about when the United States started to take civil rights for racial minorities seriously)

But the Pasqua laws (thanks again for the great background) was only a stop gap move. Worse it seems to have been like putting a bandaid on a wound with a "F...You!" written on the bandaid.

I can see how the problem would be "Fraternity," but I wonder how much of that is really unique to France and that's what worries me most. The idea that Fraternity means being French (acting, sounding, with a French name etc), sounds a lot like run of the mill nationalism that we see in Germany and the rest of Europe.

Ultimately I think this is a policy problem. Had the French (and other European) governments passed laws 30 years ago to help these people get jobs and avoid descrimination etc, we wouldn't be here now. The United State passed such laws and still has a long way to go. I shudder to think what Europe is about to confront. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with RBR about 1968. 1968 was primarily bourgeois youth playing at working-class revolt, plus longstanding socialist political agitation deferred since WWII, the Gaullist rising, and Algerian war. It was a white-on-white power play. I recommend the cute movie "May Fools" (in French) with its 'slice of life' take on 1968. In 1968, immigration had nothing to do with it.

Notably, the Left Bank and the Sorbonne are very quiet right now. All white Frenchmen of every class are sitting at home hoping the government will take care of these "scum" as Sarkozy put it. RBR is right that this is a very American cleavage, which the French are not prepared for emotionally or politically.

To put it in very Californian terms: 1968 was Berkeley. This is Watts.  

// posted by LTG

The Law Talking Guy said...

In retrospect, I realize that RBR was not suggesting that 1968 was "about" immigration/civil rights. But they were not on the table in France at all, as they were in the USA, so I think the suggestion that France "blew a chance" is not apropos.

In the USA, a fragile liberal consensus in favor of both civil rights, nationalism, and the cold war, that seemed to be motivating the Kennedy administration splintered in the mid 1960s over the war in Vietnam, the youth counterculture, violent movements (nation of Islam, black panthers, etc.), race riots nationwide.

The fascinating thing is that the image of the 1960s as a failed revolution could not, in my opinion, be further from the truth. The 1960s were the birth fo real liberal democracy in the USA based on equality for all persons, including women and Indians. It was a revolution that even Reagan did little to question in the 1980s. The Gingrich "revolution" of 1994 was really about a debate over the size and role of government, not about terminating civil liberties.

This president, GWB, is the one who is so dangerous because he would undo that revolution, i.e., undo liberal democracy itself.

Anonymous said...

I agree that America has no standard, you can be an american, jewish american, black american, etc. On the other hand they still have issues with racism. The integration model is not perfect you still are an '' '' American and not simply an American, but still compared to the french model you guys are a blessing.

I am from french Canada so I know the language, I'l tell you some interesting facts about France and french language application.

First let me correct you, you should say : à la française because it is feminine so it takes the E, français being masculine. Anyway.

I want to focus on the term Fraternity. Fraternité comes from the word Frère which means brother. I am against nationalism at start, but in this case we have a flagrant open-mindnessless situation here. Fraternity simply means, between brothers.

France is so multicultural, but Paris' suburbs are some of the most important ghettos right now. They are not living together, they are completely separated from each other's world; they don't have the same vision of the world they live in.

In addition, the racism goes further than into complex microsocial relations, it even gets into the application of the law, authority and control. This is the main issue right now.
The immigrant youth is perceiving the authorities as tool of agression, it is just like in civil war cases, where the victims are attacking Red Cross members because they see them as oppressors, as Invaders.

In the French suburbs' chaos, people are destroying everything which isn't theirs, they have nothing left to lose. They even consider the firemen as invaders, danger and control. The situation is just out of control and I just can't figure how it is going to end.

Using extreme forces (aka Army) may shut down the chaos but not for long, because there is an unsolved situation in French which has been left aside for more than a decade.

It is acceptance, mutual assistance and comprehension which is going to solve the situation. , not fraternity, unidimensional thinking and racist comments from Inner politics minister.

Personnally I think that the ghetto kids should get in Paris and fix the shit out of the Bourgeois. 

// posted by Heicktopiertz

Anonymous said...

I agree with Heicktopiertz that a government crack down will only be temporary solution. The real problem demands a long term solution on policy, social and economic fronts.

I disagree with Heicktopiertz's advocacy of violence against "Bourgeois." That will only provoke more violence and given the percentages of the population of French middle classes and immigrants and their decendents, I doubt the "Bourgois" will get the worst of it as Heicktopiertze seems to hope. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Paris burns. The more I read about the situation in France, the more I think of the first Intifada in Israel. Then someone sent me this article from the New York Post . I never realized just how segregated France is. And TAHERI brings up a good point about the civil service reforms of the 1990s. France did away with mandatory military service. I had forgotten about that. The military was the one place where French of Arab dissent and French of European dissent mixed.

Another friend of mine pointed out that to get a university degree in France, students must do a 6 month apprenticeship. And in fact, French of Arab dissent or immigrants have a difficult time getting these apprenticeship.. So many are unable to complete their education. It is yet another barrier to entry into the society. Just some new thoughts to consider.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine just told me that the unemployment rate for French college graduates is about 5% but for French college graduates with Arabic sounding names the figure is 27%. So even if they do get past all the apprentice requirements and graduate from college they can't get jobs! Job applications also routinely require photo ID and even have overt questions about demographic background even though France has no affirmative action policies that might be cause for such questions. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Raised By Republicans said...

How do you say "Jim Crow" in French?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think the unemployment among youth is much higher than 5%. France has had problems with youth unemployment for years. And yes, France like many European countries requires photos with resumes. And they ask personal questions, such as family background, number of children you have, if you are married, etc. They see it as getting to know you as a person. But indeed, it does color one's vision when the final hiring decision is made.

France does not have affirmative action policies because they are, in the French view, unequal. However, that is going to change. They started a limited affirmative action policy at Sciences Po (the second most prestigious university after ENA) in Paris a few years ago and it is bearing fruit. As I said, France has not had a "civil rights" movement. It has swept race and ethnicity issues under the carpet. Among the proposals now being put forward by the Interior Minister, Sarkozy, is an affirmative action plan. The French are very aware of these policies in the US and I have to wonder if part of the resistance to them is just that- the French don't want to be exactly like the US. They are deeply embarrassed that their warts are exposed to the world, especially after they were shocked at the response to and racism displayed during Katrina. As much as I love the French, I do feel a bit like the cat that ate the canary.

What will have to happen in France is what happened here, and is still happening here. The mentality will have to change, pure and simple.


// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Jim crow = Jim / Jean Corbeau

In addition, fixing the bourgeois status with violence is not a proper solution. It almost discredited my post. I retire those words.

Bring the popcorn, it is just starting. Baguette, vin, fromage si vous préférez!


// posted by Heicktopiertz

Anonymous said...

Cute, Heicktopiertz. Jean Corbeau. FOr those readers who may be familiar with Jim Crow laws, what RBR was referring to were Jim Crow   a set of laws that were established after the Civil War to insure racial segregation country. These laws basically ended any gains in civil rights that blacks had accomplished as a result of the Civil War.

Actually, the riots in France should provide a good opportunity for us to discuss race in this country. I recently watched a documentary on Frontline that discussed the difference in views of the OJ Simpson case between blacks and whites in this country. I left the show thinking that we definitely need to have a more open dialogue between blacks and whites in this country!

// posted by USWest

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