Nations, Cities and Organizations
The Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei series on Economics, the Environment and Sustainable Development
Edited by Maddy Janssens, Myriam Bechtoldt, Arie de Ruijter, Dino Pinello, Giovanni Prarolo and Vanja M.K. Stenius
Chapter 4: The Republic Against Republicanism: The French Debate on Cultural Diversity (1983–2005)
Olivier Rousseau and S. Romi Mukherjee 4.1 INTRODUCTION Is it possible to pursue the republican ideal of both societal and political cohesion in a context marked by the plurality of cultures? This fundamental question has, of course, been the point of departure for much political theory, sociology, and philosophy, and has been explicitly engaged in recent AngloSaxon literature. But still, its challenges are far from being confined to the United Kingdom or the United States. Moreover, the solutions that thinkers in these nations have offered have not always proved applicable everywhere and remain, in many ways, context-specific. Therefore, this chapter intends to re-pose the question of cohesion and plurality and demonstrate how the French debate on diversity offers yet another paradigm for thinking through pressing questions of diversity. It examines the multiplicity of intellectual and social responses it elicited throughout one of the most marked periods of dissonance between the republicanist ideology and difference – 1983–2005. Before entering into the interstices of the debate, it seems necessary to elaborate its larger political context. From 1983 to 2005, France’s confrontation with cultural diversity was primarily engendered through the intermediary of its own Arabo-Muslim minorities. The intensity of controversies raised by events like the March of the Beurs (1983), the hijab affairs of 1989 and 2003 and, more subtly, the suburban civil unrests of autumn 2005, considered by certain local intellectuals as the work of young Muslim Arabs, had almost nothing to do with the less passionate debates that also emerged at...
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