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New Left Review 38, March-April 2006


Sebastian Budgen on Timothy Smith, France in Crisis. Spirited critique of the imbalances of the French model—coupled with liberal proposals for a ‘Dutch miracle’ in the Hexagon.

SEBASTIAN BUDGEN

LIBERAL FRANCOPHOBIA

The riots of autumn 2005 produced a remarkable show of unity in the French political establishment. Government spokesmen conjured visions of ‘bands of hooligans’, ‘mafias’ and ‘fundamentalists’—reissuing the nineteenth-century trope of the classes dangereuses in newly ethnicized packaging—while Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy announced a state of emergency, dusting off colonial laws from 1955. The response of the Parti Socialiste, which in February 2005 had backed the passage of a law specifying that school history curricula should ‘recognize the positive role of the French presence overseas . . . especially in North Africa’, was predictably invertebrate. The pcf was pulled in contrary directions by its rank and file and its elected officials, some of whom called for the army to be brought onto the streets. A radical minority affirmed solidarity with the révoltés, but few went so far as to seek the roots of the malaise in the French social model itself.

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