France's Burning Issue: Understanding the Urban Riots of November 2005
17 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 18, 2008
There was nothing surprising about the French urban riots of November 2005. In a way, on a smaller scale, urban riots have been a typical occurrence in the banlieues since the eighties. Irrespective of the exact reasons that caused the riots, it has been widely been claimed - especially in the English-speaking media - that the riots represent the failure of the French republican model of integration. We believe this diagnosis to be wrong. Our view is that, on the contrary, these riots should be interpreted as the manifest evidence that most of the frustrated young men feel entirely French and that they simply want to be accepted by the Nation, and more prosaically, and to be part of a modern consumerist society. Their frustration and anger is comprehensible when faced with the unfulfilled promise of socio-economic integration. In other words, the urban riots of November 2005 paradoxically reveal on the one hand the success of the French republican model when it comes to teaching shared values and history, but on the other hand the failure of both the State, which has failed to translate into public policies the values it officially preaches, and the politico-administrative elites who are always keen to stress the benefits of "republican" principles while delivering little when it comes to opening up access to key positions of power.
Keywords: Riots, Violence, France, Suburbs, Banlieues
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