‘we will become the people you imagine we are, just watch'
December 3, 2005 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Joblessness is a major motivating force of these riots, which is why the politicians and the press turn endlessly around the question of job creation in the banlieues. [...] An injection of vigorous enterprise, a big deregulating kick, and racial discrimination would evaporate in the tremendous, creative release of market forces. No race riots in an untrammelled market economy: that’s what Sarkozy really means. It’s an ingenious, high-pressure sales pitch for the ‘Anglo-Saxon model’ – indeed, it’s bordering on blackmail. Jeremy Harding in the London Review of Books goes among the arsonists in Paris and offers some insights on the economic factors and political consequences of the riots.
posted by funambulist (6 comments total)
The article seems to say that creating jobs etc and ridding France of a lot of its socialistic welfare statism will make things much better for those who had recently rioted. But that is the program of Sarkozy, a right of center guy, and that the article writer in this Left of Center journal poo poos this approach as simply trying to turn France away from what it has been into a model more nearly resembling free market capitalism--where there are scant little health plans; not much in the way of day care; little union protection etc etc. The writer objects and though not coming up with his own solution he belittles the one proposed. Fair enough: but what then must be done?
posted by Postroad at 7:47 AM on December 3, 2005

racial discrimination would evaporate in the tremendous, creative release of market forces

posted by meehawl at 7:48 AM on December 3, 2005

Fair enough: but what then must be done?

I'm not that versed in french politics, but wasn't much of this due to intentional governmental policies that put these people at an economic and social disadvantage?

What about the muslim segregation problem that's occuring across Europe -- this two-way street, where muslim communities do not wish to integrate, and the local's don't want them to anyway?

And doesn't France have a long history of revolution?
posted by WetherMan at 7:59 AM on December 3, 2005

Postroad: the way I read it, I didn't take that "bordering on blackmail" conclusion as a political objection to the Sarkozy idea, it sounds more like it's pointing out the irony that the riots ended up doing Sarkozy a favour (something pointed out in other parts of the article too). That as a politician he can use the question of unemployment in the banlieues to support that "ingenious sales pitch".

I don't get so much of a political statement of the author's position from the article, it's more of a sumup of the French political debate about the riots.

Besides, Harding himself says the ‘social policy’ which Sarkozy can claim, quite rightly, hasn’t worked, so I'm not sure you're that correct in seeing the author as so radically opposed to the idea of changing that, I don't think it's that clear (and not that important, as it's not his views which are the point here). It's more like he's pointing out it's the French who are - the need to effect a more rapid and thorough transition to the all-in neo-liberal market economy that so disturbs the French...
posted by funambulist at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2005

The problem is more fundamental. It is based in their legal system, the code Napoleon, which has become a long-term nightmare.

Several features are alien to the Common Law countries such as Britain and the US. Principals we consider essential to our economies. One of the most fundamental:

In Common Law: "That which is not prohibited by law is, by definition, legal."

In Napoleonic Law: "That which is not expressly permitted by law is by definition, illegal."

This single concept destroys creativity, initiative, enterprise and entrepreneurship. And their entire criminal and civil codes are built around concepts like this.

For all the French talk about liberty, equality and fraternity, they foolishly train their leaders and bureaucrats to be elitist--not of the people, but above the people. Disconnected from the people much like the noble classes before them.

Until the code Napoleon is recognized as the villain, there will be no real change, no improvement in their situation. Just a slow, pessimistic decline.
posted by kablam at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2005

Well, perhaps this was a bad idea, I just thought the LRB piece was very interesting for what it actually contained, including those exchanges with some of the rioters.
posted by funambulist at 5:08 AM on December 4, 2005

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